Sometime between now and the Republican National Convention — where in practically all certainty Willard Mitt Romney will accept his party’s nomination to run against President Barack Obama — Mitt Romney is going to have to pick a running mate.

Whether or not the choice of a running mate in any way affects the outcome of an election is an open question (and yes, I hate linking to a David Brooks column because his intellect’s about as sharp as overcooked pasta). But in general, presidential nominees pick their partners for one (or more) of three reasons: 1) to garner support in a critical state; 2) to augment their resumé on the basis of their running mate’s resumé (see: Cheney, Richard) in order to paper over perceived gaps; 3) to enhance their image with key constituencies in hopes of digging up votes in those constituencies.

It’s going to be very interesting for Romney, because he’s really in a double bind: he’s 19 points behind Obama with women and polling at 14% (!) among Hispanics; And he’s perceived by much of the party’s base as too moderate, and even worse for conservatives, too ideologically malleable. He also has to deal with the lingering fallout of the catastrophic Palin pick in 2008, and faces a great deal of political risk in picking someone with relatively little executive experience. A pick like Susana Martínez (R-NM) — the Republican governor of New Mexico — would address both those constituencies. Or he could go with another conservative hero like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (who not only augments Romney’s bona fides with conservatives and the Latino community, but also happens to affect the key state of Florida), but would again be susceptible to the charge of picking someone not ready for the highest office in the land.

The Romney campaign mechanism — both this year and in 2008 (and even previously) — is to play it safe. Bet on the house, in other words. That said, I do think the pressure to Mitt’s right will lead him to make the same move Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made in 2008, and pick a young and outspoken conservative to bolster his credentials with the right. The smart pick would be Ms. Martínez, but I think it’ll be Rubio. Romney knows he has no chance without better backing from women and Hispanics, and despite the fact that the policies he has thus far laid out do nothing but make life harder for both women and Hispanics, he’ll go with the rising star who (in his thinking) he could groom for a succession.

~ by Benji on April 13, 2012.

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