Monday, August 04, 2008

Predicting the Republican Veepstakes: Tim Pawlenty

On Saturday, I wrote about the Democratic veepstakes, sort of predicting Joe Biden but hedging my bets given the recent buzz surrounding Tim Kaine. Today, I’ll tackle the Republicans. The McCain campaign has been even tighter about leaks than the Obama camp, so it’s hard to get a handle on them, but I’ll have some fun anyway. My prediction: John McCain will tap Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and even if he doesn’t, he will NOT, all horse hockey conventional wisdom aside, select former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Over a year ago, I was telling politically-minded friends that if McCain got the GOP nod, it would be a McCain-Pawlenty ticket. I predicted as much in writing back in May. Then Pawlenty’s chances seemed to dwindle as Governors Mitt Romney (fmr MA), Crist (FL), and Jindal (LA) all rose in stock. But pendulums always swing back, and in the last couple weeks we’ve seen Minnesota polls tightening, Pawlenty change his awful haircut, and Jay Leno riff about the Pawlenty buzz.

If it’s not Pawlenty, my guess is Florida Governor Charlie Crist. At first, despite rampant speculation, I didn’t think it would be Crist, since he’s single and Florida just isn’t as much a swing state as the press likes to say it is. While I still think McCain will win it with minimal effort, it turns out three out of four polls there do mildly favor Obama, and more importantly, Crist flip-flopped on his opposition to offshore drilling immediately after McCain did the same. Hmm, I thought, given how unpopular drilling is in Florida, he sure is taking a risk – maybe he wants the nod more than I thought! Additionally, he recently announced his engagement, erasing his one real liability.

A distant third choice and dark horse, I think, is Dartmouth alum (woohoo!) Rob Portman. Portman has a Bush One-like resume: former Congressman, trade ambassador, and OMB head. He comes from a swing state, Ohio, and is a good fundraiser. Unfortunately for McCain, Portman also has strong Bush ties. Some pundits say Portman would give McCain the economic gravitas he lacks, but others point out that Portman signed off on every one of Bush’s economic policies, and look where that got us. My fourth choice is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. As I wrote about in May, I think McCain really wants to pick Jindal, but since I made that post he has probably been convinced that Jindal is so young that his age, rather than balancing out McCain’s seniority, would highlight it. McCain did visit Jindal a few days ago, but I’m guessing that was a courtesy call to say you’re out, I look forward to working with you as my Attorney General or whatever.

You may have noticed that none of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, or Eric Cantor made my list. There was buzz about a fresh female Governor from a state like Alaska, but I think the recent Alaska GOP scandals, including one of her own, have probably pushed Palin out of the running. Cantor’s only claim to fame is that he’s a good fundraiser, and yet McCain is doing better on the money front than anyone initially expected, so it’ll probably take more than deep pockets to secure a spot on this ticket after all.

And Romney, oh Romney. Anyone who says McCain needs Romney to unify and excite the Republican base just doesn’t understand the electorate. I have to ask if they paid any attention whatsoever during the primaries. Economic conservatives and religious righties did not support Romney because they like him, but because they thought he was the lesser of ten evils. Let’s remember, this guy didn’t just change his positions on abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage, he changed them just as he was preparing to run for President. Adjusting to new facts is one thing, but to do so on so many issues at a politically opportune time is another. Romney only got the support that he did because people didn’t like Mike Huckabee’s economics or Fred Thompson’s work ethic. His support was part of a disenchanted, fractured base, and as an important piece in the conservative Washington Times noted this week, he does not, new positions aside, offer a path to conservatives’ hearts. What he does offer is an easy, if not entirely accurate, Democratic attack line: at a time when we need economic leadership more than ever, the Republicans have nominated a guy whose idea of a financial miracle is to get ride of jobs and fire people! If you want a good conservative, you go with Crist, Pawlenty, or Jindal. You don’t go with a gay-friendly Mormon (let’s face it, deserved it or not, that doesn’t help him). That leaves Romney with only his good looks and his money, but people see through hair gel, and as noted with Cantor, McCain doesn’t need that money anymore.

Yes, I know that Novak said it will be Romney, no ands ifs or buts. I don’t buy it. I’m sticking with Pawlenty. Anyone in DC, Idaho, or New Hampshire who cares to bet a beer or a lunch over it, just lemmee know.

On another note, it sure is a shame Mike Huckabee pushed himself out of the running embarrassing McCain in Texas and Virginia. I liked him.


Ted said...

Palin out of the running? Are you kidding? She's the McCain pick almost for sure.

And as far as the Palin 'investigation', that's already deemed as frivolous; will only HELP Palin since it's being seen as an Obama hit job (the Alaskan pol leading the charge and the investiation of Palin, State Sen Hollis French, is high on the Alaska Obama campaign, and there's already an anti-Palin conflict-of-interest bias revealed on the investigator selected. This is blowing up in the Dems' faces and merely confirms their desperation to take Palin down.)

Nathan Empsall said...

Hi, Ted. Thanks for your input.

I don't know much about the Palin investigation one way or the other. It's not something I've kept an eye on, so I'll take you at your word for the sake of this comment. This doesn't mean, however, that she is "the McCain pick almost for sure." A good pick and a likely pick are hardly the same thing. In trying to determine who the likely pick is, you have to look at a lot more than just whether or not someone deserves it. You also have to look at buzz, at meetings, at who's being vetted, etc., and the fact is that while McCain has recently met with Cantor, Jindal, Pawlenty, and a lot of these guys, I haven't heard about frequent conversations between him and Palin, and there's been no leak that she's still being vetted or is high on the list. Pawlenty, Crist, and Romney are all recieving more attention from his aides than Palin, so it's highly unlikely that she'll get the job. She's not even the most favored woman for the spot - Carly Fiorina, who I forgot to mention in this post, would seem to be in the lead. You may believe Palin would be a good candidate and you may well be right, but there's a lot more that goes into what makes someone a likely candidate than whether or not they would be a good one, even if there shouldn't be.

On another note, suggesting that Obama is involved in a smear on Palin is a very incindieary charge. Unless there's more to back it up than "this guy happens to also be involved with his campaign," it's a bit of a smear itself - especially since it was a bipartisan council that voted for the investigation. Senator Obama has bigger things on his plate to worry about than state senators in a state with tree electoral votes, or attacking popular opposition party members in a state where that party already faces several fairly legit scandals (like Ben Stevens).

Christopher said...

My top five were in Feb. 2008

#2- Fiorina
#3- Pawlenty
#4- Palin
#5- Powell

Looking now in August, I'd remove Lieberman, Palin and Powell. But I have no idea who'd I replace them with. As a former McCain supporter up until two weeks ago, the McCain I knew and loved is not who he is today. Maybe the good McCain will come back but I'm voting for Obama will saddness.

For what it's worth Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are tied for the worse two choices for a VP ever. Both are horrid, although Huckabee not personally.