05 March 2008

Handicapping McCain's Veep Field

So, now that Johnny Mac is the Republican nominee (and with the Dems locked in a battle that will take them all the way to Labor Day and their slugfest convention), let’s take a quick look at the odds and bios for the likely (and some unlikely) possibilities for Republican VP nominee.


MN Governor Tim Pawlenty
ODDS: 4:1
POSITIVES: Executive experience, acceptable to all facets of the conservative base (fiscal, social, security, immigration), battleground state, youth, attractive, long time McCain supporter
NEGATIVE: Relatively low national profile, and his last name is worth 16 Scrabble points all by itself.

COMMENTARY:Pawlenty has it all, and the profile is rising rapidly as more conservatives get to know him. If he doesn’t get the nod, he’s a top tier Presidential option in 2012. Known for strong stands on social issues, and for balancing his state’s budget out of a deficit without raising taxes. Recently praised McCain while criticizing the amnesty bill from last year. Has reportedly been groomed for the job.


ODDS: 7:1

Former PA Governor and Original Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
POSITIVES: Executive experience at state and national levels, honored military service, battleground state, known as tough on crime, strong on school choice and gay marriage.
NEGATIVES: can be too easily associated with George Bush presidency, pro-choice, mixed record prosecuting illegal immigration

SC Governor Mark Sanford

POSITIVES: Executive experience, rock star with the fiscal conservatives, prolific fundraiser with national ties, Wall Street loves him, acceptable to social conservatives, young, attractive family, 2000 McCain supporter, Eagle Scout. Recently praised McCain while criticizing amnesty (see Pawlenty above). If the rumored “hit list” turns out to be true, and Sanford actually engages in a meaningful way, then the primary wins he might accrue would hit in June, maximizing his political capital just as McCain would be cutting down the list.
NEGATIVES: Failed to back McCain in 2008, preferring to be seen as the fair-minded host of the SC primary. Made Time Magazine’s “three worst Governors” article in 2005. SC is already a red state. Needs to overhaul his speaking/communication style before he’s ready for primetime. Has strayed from conservative orthodoxy on global warming at exactly the wrong time. Might have a few skeletons kicking around Will Folks’ blog-closets, as well as a potential ports “scandal” brewing at just the wrong time. If Sanford fails to fully engage the rumored primary “hit list”, then the primary losses his political allies might accrue would hit in June, minimizing his remaining political capital just as McCain would be cutting down the list. McCain might worry that Brad Warthen would pull The State’s primary endorsement retroactively.

LA Governor Bobby Jindal
POSITIVES: Brilliant young mind, tremendous communicator, rock star with every section of the conservative movement, handsome, confirmed reformer, minority conservative, Rhodes Scholar, described by Rush Limbaugh as “the next Ronald Reagan”, assisted in the delivery of his third child. The perfect substantive antidote to Barack Obamessiah’s slick rhetorical emptiness (and Bobby could school Barry O. on the Sermon on the Mount).
NEGATIVE: He’s only 36, and he just started his first term as LA Governor (after a short but solid US House career). Might be too early. (seriously – that’s his one and only negative)

COMMENTARY: Sanford’s reputation with the national conservative movement is enough to overcome most of the negatives, but might not be enough to compete with Pawlenty’s grooming to be VP or Jindal’s star power. Still, if he doesn't get the nod, Sanford may well be considered a top tier 2012 candidate if he chooses to run.

Would be Ridge’s last ride, but his pro-choice Catholic position won’t soothe any social conservatives, though bringing battleground PA’s electoral votes would be a terrific inoculation against losing Ohio.

Oh, and mark it down, barring something truly unfortunate, Bobby Jindal will be President within the next 20 years, whether he’s the VP choice this time around or not. You heard it here. (and, I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.)


MA Governor Mitt Romney
ODDS: 10:1

POSITIVES: Presidential contender, potential frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, high name ID, business credentials, great family, handsome looks, well connected, inimitable fundraiser, took solid conservative positions in the ’08 race and stuck by them. Holds 250 convention delegates. Strong in northeastern and Midwestern battleground states.
NEGATIVES: McCain and Romney get along like cats and dogs, the recent endorsement love fest notwithstanding. McCain can’t be sure if Romney will stick to the newfound conservatism (since it was the incessant flip-floppery that cost him the nomination). National conservatives bringing Mitt’s name up now would actually prefer Sanford. Has Mitt mentioned he’s a Mormon?

MS Governor Haley Barbour
ODDS: 12:1

POSITIVES: Was the only executive (Republican or Democrat, state level or national) to exhibit any level of competence during the Katrina disaster. Solid national fundraiser with solid social conservative credentials. History as a reformer in Mississippi.
NEGATIVES: Too close with the Bushes after his stint as RNC chair. Broke promise not to raise taxes as governor, while vetoing tax cuts. Has reportedly been linked to the CCC.

AR Governor Mike Huckabee
ODDS: 50:1

POSITIVES: Just created a run for the Presidency on nothing but terrific communications skills and a reputation as a former Baptist minister. Rose to the Top Tier while only raising $9M. Social Conservative credentials mostly excellent. Made a graceful exit from the race with magnanimous words towards McCain. Holds 250 convention delegates after winning Iowa, Georgia and a few other states.
NEGATIVES: Just burned all of his political capital by staying in the race a month too long. Serious questions about ethics dating back to his governorship, most recently when he took a weekend in the Caymans to make a paid speech while campaigning for President. Total non-starter with the fiscal conservatives, severely suspect on immigration issue. Arkansas is only a battleground state because of Huckabee’s performance as Governor – he’d get clocked if Hillary’s the nominee. Does not have “the look” of a national officeholder. Some social conservative remember him as being on the wrong side of the Southern Baptist Convention split fight a few years back. Only raised $9M for his Presidential race.

Former FL Governor Jeb Bush
ODDS: 100:1

POSITIVES: The Best Bush. Better communicator than his father or brother. More competent than George. More conservative than George. More well liked than George. Almost single handedly governed Florida from being a battleground to being a red state.
NEGATIVE: His last name is Bush, and that isn’t going to get you elected for another century or so. Truly a pity, as on talent and skills, he deserves the White House more than his brother or father ever could have.

Current FL Governor Charlie Crist
ODDS: 100:1

POSITIVES: His endorsement helped swing the critical primary state of Florida for McCain at the time he needed it most. NRA rating of A+, solid on school choice issue, expanded adoption tax credits, illegal immigration, managed tort and eminent domain reforms.
NEGATIVES: Right to Die stance won’t play with pro-lifers. He’s been divorced since 1980 and has developed (fairly or unfairly) a reputation as a “player”. Some left wing blogs have even claimed he’s a closet homosexual, a charge he denied vociferously during his election campaign. Only a first term governor.

Former WI Governor Tommy Thompson
ODDS: 1,000,000:1

POSITIVES: Solid reputation as a conservative Governor and Cabinet Secretary.
NEGATIVES: Has all of the charisma of a potted plant. With no flowers. Ever. Is inexplicably younger than McCain.

Former VA Governor and RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore
ODDS: 1,000,000:1

POSITIVES: Solid reputation as a tax cutter (ran for governor on three words: No Car Tax). Also has excellent history as education reformer in VA.
NEGATIVES: Probably not VP timber. Almost made Tommy Thompson look interesting in the debates. Probably running for Senate from VA instead.


Former TN Senator Fred Thompson
ODDS: 15:1

POSITIVES: Solid communicator who built a decent national organization despite starting his run too late. Conservative credentials led to an extremely loyal following, despite lack of fundraising prowess. Friends with McCain, going back to their Senate days and his support of McCain in 2000. “Law and Order” reruns keep him on constant cable.
NEGATIVES: Best finish was his 2nd place in the WY caucus. Not a prodigious fundraiser. The “lazy” tag (unfairly, IMHO). His apparent age makes him unlikely pairing for McCain. May run for TN Governor in 2010 instead.

CA Congressman Duncan Hunter
ODDS: 50:1

POSITIVES: Solid, 26-year legislative history, including as Armed Service Chair. Supported McCain in 2000. Would bolster McCain’s immigration creds immeasurably. Vietnam Vet. Excellent Social Conservative credentials. Terrific debate presence, quick on his feet. NRA loves him. Youthful appearance. And you can’t deny the manly sound of that last name.
NEGATIVES: Was unable to build a national network. Fundraising was dismal, though not unexpected for 3rd Tier candidate. Wall Street types have complaints on China trade issue. May be better suited as Secretary of Defense or Homeland Security.

KS Senator Sam Brownback
ODDS: 1000:1

POSITIVES: Solid conservative on life and social conservative issues. Friends with McCain from the Senate.
NEGATIVES: Voted for amnesty before he voted against it. Barely defeats Tommy Thompson in the charisma category. Has actually flip-flopped on his own denominational affiliation twice in the last 5 years.

CO Congressman Tom Tancredo
ODDS: 1,000,000:1

POSITIVES: Unimpeachable immigration credentials. Solid conservative fiscal record across the spectrum.
NEGATIVES: Once called Miami a “Third World City”. Once suggested nuking Mecca. Immigration stance also against legal immigration, which would seem to eliminate him from any contention with McCain. Which is probably unfortunate. Would also make excellent Homeland Security or Education Secretary.

TX Congressman Ron Paul
ODDS: 100,000,000:1

POSITIVES: Makes McCain look younger. Brings out McCain’s sense of humor and his sharp wit. Undeniable fiscal credentials.
NEGATIVES: Too numerous to mention. If you’ve seen this, you know. And don’t get me started on his followers…



Former OK Congressman JC Watts
POSITIVES: Solid Conservative credentials. Terrific communicator. Unafraid – including when he coined the term “race-hustling poverty pimps” to describe Dem politicians. Would be an interesting choice to reach out to African-Americans if Hillary manages to steal the Dem nomination from Obama.
NEGATIVES: Has mostly disappeared from the national political scene since his retirement in 2002. House service might not be enough experience.

Former MD LT Gov Michael Steele
POSITIVES: Solid conservative credentials, great communicator. Was the national conservative “Flavor of the month” for October 2006, until he narrowly lost his challenge for the Senate seat from MD. Current GOPAC Chairman. Excellent Obama antidote or African-American outreach if Hillary.
NEGATIVES: Lack of Experience – is Lite Gov of a small state enough to rise to VP? Hard to say. Has a very bright future, and is said to also be contemplating a 2010 Senate run if the regrettable Barbara Mikulski finally retires.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice
POSITIVES: Extremely knowledgeable on foreign affairs, gifted communicator.
NEGATIVES: WAAAAAAY too close to George Bush for McCain to consider seriously. After 8 years in Cabinet level roles, might be time for a long vacation before she tries to re-enter public life. Played down any electoral ambition speculation on Russert’s Meet the Press. Pro-choice.

Former OK Congressman Steve Largent
POSITIVES: Solid conservative credentials (hear a theme playing in many of these?), solid communicator, well-loved football star in battleground state of WA.
NEGATIVES: Narrowly (and surprisingly) lost OK Gov race in 2002, and has been mostly out of sight since.

Former GA Congressman and Speaker Newt Gingrich
POSITIVES: Brilliant strategist, excellent problem solver, impeccable conservative credentials. Terrific Television presence.
NEGATIVES: Polarizing figure. Might have trouble playing the #2 slot… to anyone, much less McCain. Publicly critical of McCain during campaign. Strayed from conservative orthodoxy on global warming. Personal life is a disaster area.

SC Senator Lindsey Graham
POSITIVES: Loves himself some John McCain. Was out early and often supporting McCain and lining up others to support in SC. May be singularly most responsible for nomination outside of McCain himself. Compelling personal story, including military service.
NEGATIVES: Is the ideological successor to McCain, which is to say he helps McCain in precisely no ways. Grahmnesty, the Gang of 14, Gitmo - every weakness McCain has, picking Lindsey makes worse. If he's going to pick a South Carolinian, it's far likelier to be Sanford. Is single, and has had to fight off whispered rumors about his dating life, not unlike Charlie Crist. Has drawn multiple primary challengers, and is up for election this cycle. May still be frontrunner for Attorney General nod if McCain prevails in November.


Winghunter said...

Have you seen these yet Joshua?

How the Republican Party Committed National Suicide By JB Williams

Who Hijacked the Primaries? by Brett Winterble

The Death of Conservatism? 43 Mistakes and the GOP's Dobson's Choice

GOP Leads Astray

Joshua Gross said...


No, I hadn't. That said, I'm trying to focus on the future, not on how angry I was a month ago when Johnny Mac secured the nomination.

And I don't believe we've committed political suicide yet. I'm not happy with what happened or how, but I'll leave it to others to pick at those bones.

Anonymous said...

Why not former Sen. Phil Gramm. He advises the campaign on economic issues which obviously is his strengh and McCains weakness. He would also add some conservative bonafides. I also like his Cheney-like persona (take no crap from anyone)

Draft Haley Barbour said...

I support Governor Haley Barbour for Vice President.
Governor Haley Barbour has real experience both in and out of Washington. His vision and his ability to lead have taken Mississippi to new heights--with better jobs and higher income. His legacy of leadership and ability to unite to get things done is what conservatives need and want in Washington. It is the type of leadership that will mobilize and unite the Republican Party, and ensure true conservative values in this election.

Results are the metric by which we measure Governor Barbour. With the current rhetoric of change and the demand for new leadership, we sometimes forget that results matter more than anything else. Under his leadership, Governor Barbour has demonstrated results that matter, no matter the political landscape.

Show your support for Governor Barbour, the Republican Party, and conservative values by signing the Petition to Draft Haley for Vice President at www.DraftBarbour.com. Or visit our blog at drafthaley.blogspot.com.

Anonymous said...

Josh, Two questions:
1- Do you have that much time on your hands? If so, there are several other dozen prominent Republicans you could have included.
2- Where do you get these odds? For some of these odds, my Class A high school football team would have a reasonable chance against the Super Bowl winners.

It's amazing how Sanford keeps showing up on the short list. You've heard of the term "Inside the Beltway" but it's obvious from the negatives you cited to say nothing about the forgettable turkey he slaughtered for reelection that a new term is in order: "Outside the Palmetto State" Sanford is so pro-sanford that he'd be bored as v.p. If any discomfort remains over Hillary as co-president, with all the hypocricy of being involved in national affairs (pun not intended)then she's got nothing on the Sanfords as Jenny DOES run things. Somebody needs to send a torpedo to those columns which hype our guv as an attractive nominee. As a leader, as a persuader, as a coalescer, he has proven himself to be nothing, and would be slightly better than one of his twin pig props as the nominee.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Criticizing Huckabee’s “look”? And since when is taking a weekend off to honor a longstanding speaking commitment and accepting an honorarium a crime? If conservatives had recognized early on that Huckabee was by far the most articulate, experienced and appealing conservative in the race, we wouldn’t have a nominee that many conservatives will not support. In light of the disastrous outcome of the 2008 primaries, Huckabee “looks” very good to many of us.

Anonymous said...

Who ever wrote The VP article has obvious bias. The fact that huckabee went to the caymans has nothing to do with running for president. All the other candidates at the time were collecting paychecks from the government and mike had no personal income. He makes a living speaking ! You can't cut a man down for trying to make a living.So maybey you should fault all the others for not doing their jobs while running all over the country.Mike is the only one who ran a campaign that ever talked about true change. Tax reform and building a border within 18 months. What you need to understand is that Mike still even now has the support of the republican base. John doesn't. If John wants to win he needs to put mike on the ticket and John will see all those votes come into his camp.

cmitchz said...

Great article. A few thoughts...

Tancredo's negatives are almost all positives for me - LMAO.

JC Watts was doing cheesy informercials for junk products a few years back, I'm sure those would be dug up against him.

Huckabee is unelectable. The DNC would be playing commercials of Wayne DuMond's victims' families, 24-7.

McCain expressed during many debates what looked like a crazed hatred of Paul, who is contrary to McCain on every policy I can think of (except perhaps judges, but including even earmarks, at least in practice, since Paul slips them into bills he knows will pass).


Darian said...

LOL HELLO! First, McCain needs someone with executive expereince so all the senators are out. Second, McCain, more ethan anything, HAS TO HAVE A SOCIAL CONSERVTIVE to shore up his base. Third, McCain needs a fresh young face with energy and who represents a generational shift. Fourth, McCain needs to do something bold which will shift the momentum from Obamamania. Last, McCan needs to pick someone who can soften his iamge with women and yougner voters. Only one person meets all these criteria and she wasnt on your list. Sarah Palin the most popular governor in the country. She also will conect well with McCain because they are both mavrick reformers and her son is in the military. It would be politcal genius.