The Republican vice presidential choice will be critical this year especially if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes the top spot. He has not been able to excite the conservative base, and he has made several verbal gaffes on the campaign trail. The vice presidential choice could even determine the fate of the GOP nominee, as the contender faces a president who is a master campaigner, buttressed by a multi-billion-dollar machine that will churn out his message and attempt to eviscerate Romney.
For Team Romney, the ultimate question in the general election may be whether it needs Hispanics more than an enthusiastic evangelical base in an election that, on paper, many experts believe will be extremely close. HUMAN EVENTS editors looked at the top-tier Veep candidates who could appeal to the Hispanic and evangelical vote, as well as pump some excitement into the campaign. Other Veep candidates might well be able to deliver Reagan Democrats in important Midwest and industrial states. And, as in any race, there are a few dark horse candidates who may turn out to be the “mudders” of the race who perform well in stormy and uncertain circumstances.
Chris Christie Governor of New Jersey
WHY WE CHOSE: The brash New Jersey governor has fiercely battled public sector unions and reduced the size of New Jersey’s government.
BRINGS: He would be perhaps the best attack dog a candidate could employ (something Romney needs more than Gingrich or Santorum). He articulates America’s high purpose well (see Reagan Library speech).
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: He would overshadow a Romney, as some say he did when he stumped on Romney’s behalf in Iowa. There are serious doubts he would be able to help turn a blue state in the Northeast red. Further, there are many questions about how truly conservative Christie is.
Marco Rubio Junior Senator from Florida
WHY WE CHOSE: He articulates American exceptionalism exceptionally and speaks forcefully on issues related to finances and life. He will excite Republicans in general and obviously appeal to Hispanics. He has surgically and effectively attacked Barack Obama as few other Republicans have been able to.
BRINGS: Besides appealing to the Hispanic vote, particularly Cubans in Florida, he has made a point to reach out to Hispanic communities across America. To many Republicans, Rubio would erase or neutralize most of Romney’s vulnerabilities and help Republicans start to gain a foothold among Hispanic voters for a generation.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Democrats are likely to focus on Rubio’s financial problem, which stems from Rubio having put some personal expenses on the Florida Republican Party’s credit card, which he eventually repaid. This situation conflicts somewhat with Romney’s oft-quoted assertion that people should not run for office if they need politics to pay their mortgage. But Rubio’s upside and electoral value greatly outweigh his potential liabilities.
Susana Martinez Governor of New Mexico
WHY WE CHOSE: She has been a fiscally conservative governor who also has been conservative on immigration without turning off Hispanic voters in New Mexico.
BRINGS: Hispanics of Mexican descent, who vote differently from Cubans, will be crucial in swing states like New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. Martinez, who is Mexican-American, appeals to the GOP base with her financially prudent approach and her down-home style (she enjoys going shooting and is a terrific shot, for instance. )
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: She lacks formal foreign policy experience and seasoning on a national stage, but her likable husband Chuck will be a tremendous asset on the trail.
Bob McDonnell Governor of Virginia
WHY WE CHOSE: Inherited a budget deficit in Virginia and turned it into a surplus while attracting business to help Virginia better weather the economic downturn.
BRINGS: McDonnell appeals to evangelical and independent swing voters and minorities in key areas such as Northern Virginia and in perhaps the most critical swing state in the general election: Virginia. He served in the Army, as did his daughter, adding military credentials to a ticket that may be in need of some.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: His infamous graduate thesis in which Democrats thought he was unduly harsh on women. But, notably, in the 2009 election cycle in which the thesis was an issue, McDonnell gained more votes from women than his opponent did. Also, many see McDonnell as an evangelical version of Romney and having two manager-type candidates on a ticket may be too vanilla.
Bobby Jindal Governor of Louisiana
WHY WE CHOSE: Jindal has cleaned up the notoriously nasty Louisiana political scene, which is a tremendous asset in a cycle in which there is bipartisan revulsion at crony capitalism and other aspects of “us/them” politics in America today. Jindal has also been a party builder, accelerating Republican domination in Louisiana.
BRINGS: While lacking the showmanship of a Christie, Jindal would excite many conservatives who are not sold on a Romney candidacy. He would also help Romney with swing voters, and minorities.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: He botched his response to Obama’s 2009 address to a joint session of Congress and some voters may forever see him as someone akin to the Kenneth the Page character from the television show “30 Rock.”
Also worthy of consideration
Mitch Daniels Governor of Indiana
WHY WE CHOSE: Daniels gave an impressive response on January 24 to President Obama’s State of the Union address. He has a track record of attracting a successful coalition of support in Indiana for programs such as health savings accounts. He inherited a deficit and turned it into a surplus and, just recently, signed a right-to-work bill, the first of its kind in the industrial Midwest states.
BRINGS: Daniels has been a leader in making the case that the national debt is a national security threat. He’s popular in Midwest swing states.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Some say he lacks the sizzle Romney needs. Many conservatives do not like his having called for a “truce” on social issues to win the 2010 elections and his openness to a VAT (value-added tax). Others may associate him with the Bush administration’s reckless domestic spending priorities, because he was OMB head.
Rob Portman Junior Senator from Ohio
WHY WE CHOSE: Experience in domestic and foreign affairs; known for being affable and working with others with differing views to pass programs.
BRINGS: Would help a newbie like Romney navigate Washington. He’s popular in Midwest swing states.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: He could help Romney in Ohio, but his popularity reach is fairly limited.
Paul Ryan Congressman from Wisconsin
WHY WE CHOSE: Ryan, HUMAN EVENTS’ most recent “Conservative of the Year,” is bold, wonkish, from the swing state of Wisconsin, and won a district that, on paper, does not seem favorable to Republicans. He is an outspoken advocate of entitlement reform and for free markets as the best way to expand the economic pie for all.
BRINGS: Could help Romney articulate the need for entitlement reform and help defend Romney and Republicans from Democratic demagoguing on issues such as Social Security and Medicare reform. He’s popular in industrial and Midwest swing states.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Democrats could falsely demonize Ryan and his policies as hurting the elderly, and, unfortunately, this could hurt Republicans with older adult voters.
Pat Toomey Junior Senator from Pennsylvania
WHY WE CHOSE: Toomey, a darling of fiscal conservatives who articulately defends the free market system, also happens to be from a swing state.
BRINGS: He can excite fiscal conservatives without turning off social conservatives.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Toomey’s sizzle may not reach far beyond Pennsylvania.
John Thune Junior Senator from South Dakota
WHY WE CHOSE: If Romney’s the candidate, he can help build consensus within Washington.
BRINGS: The graduate of Biola University will also help him with evangelicals without turning off swing voters. Plays well in Iowa and across the Heartland.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Reinforces Romney’s more establishment image, is a bit bland and Thune’s support of the federal bailouts may give Romney or Gingrich some messaging problems.
Scott Walker Governor of Wisconsin
WHY WE CHOSE: The governor of Wisconsin has courageously led the fight against public sector unions and entitlement reform and would galvanize conservatives.
BRINGS: Appeals to conservative activists, especially in Wisconsin.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Lack of foreign policy experience; an image with some as too polarizing a figure.
Condolezza Rice Secretary of State for President George W. Bush
WHY WE CHOSE: Though Rice would probably decline if asked, she is the dream candidate of many establishment Republicans who believe she can help balance a Romney candidacy because they think Romney will be portrayed as the “white, country club” candidate.
BRINGS: Provides foreign policy gravitas and helps among women and black voters.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: To many conservatives, Rice is a liberal establishment Republican and will not excite or galvanize
Mike Huckabee Former Governor of Arkansas
WHY WE CHOSE: An exciting and compassionate speaker who can appeal to Main Street, blue-collar voters.
BRINGS: Huckabee would excite evangelical voters and would also help soften Romney’s image as someone who does not care about the poor.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: While governor of Arkansas, Huckabee granted clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who was later shot and killed by Seattle police after Clemmons killed four police officers. Other conservatives do not trust Huckabee’s questionable fiscal conservative credentials.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers Congresswoman from Washington
WHY WE CHOSE: Her work on issues concerning energy independence and balanced budgets can thematically help Romney with these critical issues.
BRINGS: Connects with women and fiscally conservative voters.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: May be too bland to help with Romney’s liabilities.
Jim DeMint Senator from South Carolina
WHY WE CHOSE: The 2010 HUMAN EVENTS “Conservative of the Year” has been a fiscally conservative thorn in the side of the Washington establishment in an anti-establishment cycle.
BRINGS: Excites tea partiers and evangelicals. And, he and Romney have an established, friendly relationship. DeMint endorsed Romney in 2008.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: May have too many enemies within the establishment and his past support of earmarks, which opposition researchers will be sure to highlight and exploit.
Tim Scott Congressman from South Carolina
WHY WE CHOSE: Few Republicans helped themselves more during the primary season than Tim Scott. An African-American tea party conservative who appeals to evangelicals from South Carolina, Scott has demonstrated that Republicans can get support from minority communities without having to moderate on issues.
BRINGS: He can help the nominee with tea partiers and potentially blunt the enthusiasm of African Americans for Obama. Further, for Romney he would mitigate the mainstream media’s focus on the Mormon church’s exclusionary history.
POTENTIAL LIABILITIES: Lack of experience on the national stage is the obvious drawback.