An article in the Weekly Standard by Fred Barnes seemed to have jumpstarted the search for McCain’s Vice Presidential candidate around the blogosphere. Choosing a Vice President is an inevitable task for any Presidential candidate, but it presents a particularly tough challenge for presumptive nominee John McCain given his own lukewarm conservative credentials. If McCain goes with someone who is too close to his own moderate political leanings, he risks losing the conservative base of the Republican Party.
Simply not turning out the base is actually one of the rosier scenarios. Despite what liberal spinners like Alan Colmes would like to believe, the Republican primary process was not nearly as contentious as the Democrat primary is proving to be, but it still was a hard-fought campaign that had a definite winner and a field of losers with varying degrees of viability in the aftermath of their losses. During the process quite a few social conservatives were alienated. Some of them might be willing to bite onto a third party values candidate run; even if they know that it is impossible for that candidate to win. This was proven with the continued support for Mike Huckabee in the waning weeks of the race.
Despite what economic or foreign policy conservatives might say about them, there is no questioning the passion and conviction of these social conservatives. If you tuned into talk radio in the weeks before Huckabee dropped out, you know that there was a steady stream of polite but resolute calls from this branch, imploring that the hosts embrace Huckabee even though it was mathematically impossible for him to secure the nomination. These voters are a solid block when motivated, and McCain’s choice in a Vice President will decide whether they crack or carry the race for the Republican Party this time around.
Barnes seems to understand this to an extent, but he doesn’t seem to put as much stock into a third party run, possibly by a faith-powered personality like James Dobson, as I do. What we do agree on is that if McCain were to choose another steadfast pro-choice to run with him, it would be a double whammy that the social conservatives simply couldn’t take. Like the other branches of conservatives, the social crowd will hopefully be able to look past the variety of liberal positions that McCain brings with him and see the big picture. They will not be able to do this with someone blatantly pro-choice like Giuliani or Lieberman undermining the traditionalist Supreme Court nominees that McCain promises.
So ruling out someone who lurches left on social issues, we only have a few candidates to choose from. I agree with Barnes that only a high-profile persona with a decent amount of name recognition should be considered, something that narrows the field even further because it cuts down almost every mentioned governor or ex-officeholder. After this process, and through a good deal of analysis, Barnes ends up offering Mitt Romney as his singular choice for McCain’s Vice President.
I liked Mitt Romney in the primaries. I thought that by the time things got going, he was the only conservative choice left. It was more than that, though. In the face of the Messiah Obama and Hillary’s slow-to-start attack machine, Mitt Romney represented a fresh pleasant face for the Republican Party. He spoke well, he was usually light on his feet during debates, and he had a knack for expressing the positive aspects of an issue. True, a lot of his support came late and from conservatives who had been scrambling from candidate to candidate since last fall hoping to find someone who they could feel comfortable supporting, but once they went Mitt they didn’t quit.
He wooed us with his CPAC speech. It was that incredibly graceful exit from the campaign, despite the palpable animosity between McCain and himself, that earned him new friends in the Party base. Still, he didn’t win. He didn’t catch fire with social conservatives, despite what Fred Barnes’ professes. Huckabee hooked them early and he hooked them hard.
Once again splitting from Barnes’ analysis, it is difficult to measure to what extent Religion played in keeping social conservatives at arm’s length from Romney, but I believe that it was more pronounced than he would hope. While the former governor of Massachusetts made headway and showed his silver tongue well with his speech at Texas A&M concerning his religious heritage , it didn’t dent how he was running against Huckabee. Many denominations do not accept Mormons as Christians, and if they do, they aren’t familiar enough with the denomination to trust them. I would imagine the vast majority of us learn what we know of Mormonism from television and movies. Big Love does not equate well to the values of that Baptist values voter.
So despite my praise for Romney, not even touching on his extensive experience in the private sector and in management, I don’t know if as a Vice President he will be able to secure the majority of those social conservatives that we can’t afford to have wandering around in November. I would hope that he could, and as far as I see it on paper he is the proper choice for McCain, but I don’t think adding him to the ticket is a silver bullet for the Republican divide this cycle, far from it. Just as McCain is a hard sell to conservatives worried about issues like illegal immigration and border enforcement, Romney will be a hard sell to conservatives who see him as a phony in any sense of the word.
More speculation/opinions/reaction from around the web:
Big Lizards likes Romney in the primary but wants a bold new choice for the VP. I disagree. Bold and new equates to unknown. Unknown doesn’t add any star power against the vapid power of Obamamania.
McCain himself is heading to Israel. Good move.
Hot Air has video of Michelle Malkin’s reaction.
Hot Air also has dueling views on the possibilities of a running mate Romney from Allah and Ed. Ed provides more background on Romney’s economic experience.
Power Line thinks Barnes’ case is pretty good.
Romney says he’d take Veep, calls McCain “Big Dog” – Jonathan Martin’s Blog – Politico.com