Could it be the Romney and Condi show? Speculation mounts over running mate


SPECULATION ABOUT who Mitt Romney will choose as his running mate intensified over the weekend as a buzz around the unlikely name of Condoleezza Rice proved a welcome distraction from Democratic attacks over his Bain Capital record.

Republican senator Kelly Ayotte, herself mooted as a choice, said on television that the former secretary of state to George W Bush would be an excellent choice.

“She’s very qualified. She’s excellent. She’s tested. Yes,” Ayotte told ABC’s This Week.

Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for Ronald Reagan, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Rice would inject energy into the Romney bid.

Rice has dismissed the suggestion – “Not me,” she told ABC recently – but this has failed to end the speculation. Analysts say her name recognition and the fact she has been vetted, plus her considerable foreign policy experience, work in her favour. However, Rice’s support for abortion rights would seem to be an obstacle.

Guessing Romney’s running mate has become a Washington parlour game as speculation mounts that the candidate will soon announce his choice. Running mates fall in to two broad types, says presidential historian Doug Brinkley of Rice University. The first is the “steady Eddie” who no one can say is unqualified, as exemplified by George W Bush’s seasoned deputy, Dick Cheney.

The second is the “game-changer”, represented by the maverick Sarah Palin in the 2008 election.

In the first category is Rob Portman, a senator from Ohio who reportedly attended six hours of meetings at Romney’s campaign headquarters in Boston last week. Another is Tim Pawlenty, an unassuming former Minnesota governor, who bowed out of the nomination race early and would appeal to the evangelical Christians wary of Romney’s Mormon religion.

Perhaps the most persistent subject of speculation is Florida senator Marco Rubio, who could appeal to the Hispanic electorate and help deliver his battleground home state, making him a “game-changer”.

Pat Buchanan, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination twice in the 1990s, says Romney should “roll the dice” with his running mate.

“Romney is not a risk-taker, but he needs to be,” he says. “He’s very close to Obama [in the polls] and he needs to pick a person who is going to pick up a couple of points for him in a state that matters”, pointing to Portman in Ohio or Rubio in Florida. But some analysts question how much the running mate matters.

Bill Schneider, a veteran political analyst who has monitored every presidential election since 1964, says the choice is not terribly significant.

“People don’t vote for vice-presidents and I can prove that with two words: Dan Quayle,” says Schneider, referring to former US president George HW Bush’s deputy, widely dismissed as incompetent, most notoriously spelling “potato” wrong during a school visit. Bush won anyway.

The pick can matter a great deal, as it did in 1960 when John F Kennedy chose Lyndon B Johnson, who delivered Texas.

But, as often as not, vice-presidential candidates do not even carry their home states. An example of this is former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who joined John Kerry on the ticket in 2004.

Even when Democrat Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984 – the first time a woman was on the ticket – he moved into a statistical tie with Ronald Reagan for only one day. Then he returned to second place.

However, there is one area where the choice does make an impact: for what it tells the electorate about the presidential candidate. “In [John] McCain’s case, it raised all kinds of questions about his judgment and his standards,” Schneider says, alluding to the Republican’s choice of Palin, who had trouble naming any newspapers she read.

Much of the speculation centres around the question of who would add another dimension to Romney and help him appeal to voting blocs that favour US president Barack Obama.

Romney’s wife Ann has said her husband was considering a woman. But Steve Hess, an adviser to former US presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, says the most important factor is the personal relationship between the chief executive and his

deputy. “The primary consideration is that the person should be somebody Romney is comfortable with,” says Hess.

“People say ‘if he chooses a woman, if he chooses a black, if he chooses a Catholic’, but Romney has got to understand that when he is looking across the table at his vice-president, he is looking at his own mortality.” – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited)