Jonathan Chait games out Romney’s problems and potential v.p. solutions…
The good news for Romney is that it’s much, much earlier in the campaign cycle now than it was when McCain chose Palin. The bad news is that current events seem more likely to make the picture worse, not better. The economy seems to be genuinely recovering, and independent voters increasingly believe the worst is behind us. If that trend continues, Obama is likely to reach the status of a Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1984, or Clinton in 1996 — an incumbent who is almost certain to win. Obviously, the recovery might sputter or some other outside events could spoil Obama’s approval. But the basic picture is that Romney needs some kind of, well, game change.
Republican strategists Bill Kristol and Michael Gerson both have columns attempting to grapple with the strategic dilemma. Romney, writes Gerson “must be something more than a generic Republican.” The trouble is that he has defined himself almost precisely thus. As Massachusetts governor, he had a bunch of highly unorthodox positions — health-care reform, aggressive support for gay rights and action to arrest climate change — but has abandoned all of them. His elevator pitch is “I’m a conservative businessman.” That is as generic Republican as you can get.
Gerson homes in on Romney’s need to improve his abysmal standing among Latinos. It helps that Romney will no longer need to knife his intra-party rivals from the right by portraying them as soft on illegal immigration and endorsing “self-deportation.” Yet the deeper problem here goes beyond immigration. Latinos vote for Democrats because they hold left-of-center views. Americans in general tend to oppose “big government” in the abstract and favor it in the particular. Latinos actually favor big government in the abstract. Asked if they prefer a smaller government with fewer services or a bigger government with more services, 75 percent say they prefer bigger government – 34 percent higher than the general public.
Given that, Chait thinks Romne should move sharply to the center. Show I very much doubt he’ll do that, given how invested the Romney campaign has become in convincing conservatives that he really is the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
Meanwhile, also in NYMag, John Heilemann games out Romney’s veepstakes woes:
“Here’s his problem,” e-mails John Weaver, strategist for McCain in 2000 and 2008 and Jon Huntsman in 2012. “(1) The base doesn’t trust him or like him. (2) To fix that, he’s done everything possible on position-altering to attract them. (3) #2 hasn’t worked. (4) While attempting #2, he has alienated key general election constituencies—Hispanics, women, working-class whites. (5) So he’s in a box. Does he try to fix #2 with his pick, or pick someone who can help with one of the constituencies in #4, or someone who won’t offend the base but might deliver or help deliver a state? I personally would bet on the base’s intense antipathy (smoldering hate, actually) toward the president and try to get someone who can help in a battleground state or fix a constituency problem.”
Romney’s people seem to agree with this conclusion, which is one reason that Rick Santorum is about as likely to be asked to join the board of Planned Parenthood as to be the bottom half of Romney’s ticket. (Another is the same reason McCain didn’t put Romney on his: intense personal distaste.) Should Team Romney decide to court the base, a likelier option would be Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whose conservative bona fides are impeccable, wonkish outlook rhymes with Romney’s, and Indian lineage would make his selection a historic first—and thus potentially … well, you know.
I’m also of a mind to see Jindal, or Nikki Haley (though she says she doesn’t want it) as likely choices. Jindal in particular still has decent approval ratings in Louisiana, unlike so many Republican governors, especially the ones who won in 2010. He emerged from the Hurricane Katrina debacle more or less unscathed and because he predated it, he isn’t saddles with an association with the tea party. He flamed out as a state of the union rebutter, but that really doesn’t matter for a VP.
I don’t really buy, at least at this point, the idea of an Hispanic running mate, because to get through the door, they’d have to express opposition to immigration reform, which negates their purpose because they’d become instantly unpopular with Latinos. That conundrum is just one of many reasons Marco Rubio is not going to be the pick, no matter ow hard my fellow media people pray, beg and dream. Romney could go for a woman – or even an Hispanic woman, like New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. But she has little experience, used to be a Democrat, could turn off pro choice women (meaning most women) and has been described as Palinesque.
Besides, Romney won’t want to further alienate the base by appearing to pander to gender based political correctness or multiculturalism. He won’t want to appear to be afraid to pick a white guy.
In the end, I also doubt Romney will be willing to pull a McCain by picking someone who will overshadow him on the hustings and become the star of the ticket. He’s much more likely to play it safe.
So Tim Pawlenty, Jindal and Paul Ryan shouldn’t change their phone numbers, if you know what I mean…