As fingers touch keyboard to write this post, the GOP and Mitt Romney’s campaign team are vetting possible candidates for the running mate to join Romney in the race to the White House in November. But this year’s election is unusual in a few ways. First, there is a strong absence of powerful options. Second, it is more important than ever to be reserved with a choice (after the Republican’s Sarah Palin disaster of 2008). And third, campaign rhetoric — if it can indeed be called that — by the Republicans during the primaries revealed irreversible damage to the intra-personal relationships of candidates and their supporting bases.
Normally, a vice presidential candidate comes from the group of presidential candidates during the primary season. Lots of hopefuls toss in their hats at the beginning, most knowing that they will not secure the nomination in the end, but will gain valuable exposure and possibly a route to higher office. The Republican primary contests earlier this year seemed more like a matinee circus show than a political event, with amateur leaders milking the life out of the Tea Party movement. No one in the GOP hoped that Romney would end up with the nomination, even though he was correctly labelled as the front runner the whole time.
Yet here we are now, the Republicans have their #1 man, and now they need a #2. Looking at the other candidates from the primaries, very few of them have any desirability left. Herman Cain came out about an affair. Michele Bachmann was exposed for what she really is: a legislative distraction. Rick Perry was too much like W Bush (which makes you wonder how terrible it is to be a voter in Texas). Newt Gingrich promised the world, lied to everyone’s faces, attacked the field, but ended up with the black eye himself. Ron Paul is never taken seriously by the Republican Party (and there is a Libertarian on the ballot in November already). The only one left is Rick Santorum.
Rick Santorum would be the conservative choice, but not a conservative choice. Just like Palin before him, Santorum is too much of a wildcard. His words are aflame with religious doctrine that would bring an uncomfortable spotlight onto faith in a race where Romney wants to avoid discussing Mormonism. He also has proven widely out-of-touch with the American population through his unpopular views on homosexuality and his practice of isolating his children from society. In a race where every candidate is accusing the other of being out-of-touch, it would hurt Romney to go radical.
That being said, many Republican pundits believe that Romney must choose a running mate that is to the right of him, to shore up support from the evangelicals, Tea Partiers, and social conservatives who look wearily upon his record of tolerance. This is nothing more than Republican pundits trying to satisfy themselves, and is the wrong strategy if Romney really wants to win. There is no way that Republicans to the right of Romney on the political spectrum would ever vote for Obama. Even though they might be unhappy with the Republican nominee, they will undoubtably vote for Romney. Half of the trash they spew is about getting Obama out of office, with no apparent reason (i.e. he’s black, he helps the poor, he doesn’t start wars under false pretexts, he cares about progress).
The intra-Republican attacks during the primary season revealed one thing: the GOP has lost its mind. They and their donors spent millions of dollars to paint other Republicans as hurtful, profligate, socialist, and insane, only to have to try to congeal before facing the real enemy: the Democrats. After the ads, the debates, and the statements, there is no way that Romney returns to that pool to pick his fish. So his campaign is certainly looking outwards, and looking for one thing: economic prowess.
Jobs and the economy top the list of American priorities, and Romney’s resume both helps him and harms him, depending on who you talk to. But Romney could gain a valuable boost by selecting a running mate who has proven himself (or herself, but really who are we kidding?) as a strong economic steward, a leader who has taken a state or a city and kept it from bankruptcy, default, and maybe even found some growth. The duo might look like the board room at a major corporation, but that might be just what Americans are looking for. Let’s hope for the left that Romney chooses Santorum.