Picking a running mate is the first big decision a presidential candidate makes. The rule is a vice presidential candidate can help you a little or hurt you a lot. But reflecting back on my decades in the business of politics, I guess I would have to say neither is true. The only candidate in my life time who was really helped and actually won the presidency by his veep choice was John Kennedy when he picked Lyndon Johnson in 1960. Johnson on the ticket certainly was the difference in winning Texas and probably Illinois.
Will the choice matter this time?
In a dead even race like this one, the choice is important. There is no one being mentioned who can guarantee victory in a state that Romney can’t produce by himself.
Governor Christie can’t get New Jersey into the win column for Romney and the same goes for Governor Pawlenty and his home state of Minnesota.
The one possible exception is Senator Rubio, who may be able to energize his Cuban American base and other Latinos in Florida along with his Tea Party supporters to make up the two hundred and thirty six thousand votes McCain lost by in 2008. If Romney doesn't win Florida's 29 electoral votes, he loses!
The latest name being bantered about is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
An extraordinary person who has served her country ably in a variety of positions, Rice poses some risks I would not take if I was running the Romney campaign (which of course I am not.)
The risks are simple. She has never run for office and the skills to be a diplomat are quite different than being a good political candidate. Obviously she is expert in foreign affairs, but she has never been vetted on the domestic side.
She is allegedly pro-choice, which will not endear her to the conservative base that already has doubts about Romney.
She has no ability to bring California, her home state into play or any particular constituency group that presently doesn’t support Mr. Romney today.
The last part of the equation is this: Does Mr. Romney want to begin his fall campaign by defending President George W. Bush’s foreign policy of which Secretary Rice was the architect.
This is a campaign about economics and job creation and Mr. Romney needs to pick someone who can help him articulate and develop his economic message.
As John McCain discovered 4 years ago, putting a woman on the ticket doesn’t close the gender gap. The way to close the gap is for Mitt Romney to address issues of concern to women and many of those issues are economics.