With Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is honing in on a Vice President to complete the Republican ticket. This process of tapping a running mate is called the “Veepstakes”—a guessing game where bets are being placed on Twitter, cable TV and even in Vegas. Of course no one but a handful of trusted advisors and family members know the short list of names the former governor of Massachusetts is really considering. Names in a forthcoming article by veteran Time Magazine political reporter Mark Halperin include: Ohio junior Senator Rob Portman, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (whose proposed lean federal budget has caused a clash with President Obama and even members of his own party).
What’s the importance of a VP? It depends. Some say the choice doesn’t really matter since the focus is on the likely Presidential nominee. True, but campaigns often times separate roles, like those parents who play “good cop, bad cop” when disciplining their kids. The President or candidate has to be tough, but also likeable. Protecting the candidate’s image as someone you’d want to hang out with is just as politically crucial. Enter the Vice President, also known (in campaign lingo) as the “attack dog.” Whether stumping the opponent at a high school auditorium campaign event or debating on primetime TV, he or she will be let loose to obliterate the opposition’s statements, policies and record.
The VP choice also matters because he can shore up the nominee’s weaknesses. In 2008, then Senator Joe Biden’s decades in the Senate and his experience in foreign policy complimented then candidate Obama’s inexperience (although foreign policy has turned out to be one of the President’s strengths). Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a darling of the conservative wing of the GOP and the Tea Party, boned up Arizona Senator John McCain’s conservative credentials. Social conservatives also distrust Romney because of more “liberal” positions he supported as governor of Massachusetts, which explains the attention on Governors Jindal, Christie, Daniels, Senator Portman, and Congressman Ryan -- all choices that would come with support from hard-core Republicans.
Another weakness for Romney and the Republican party is gaining support of women and minority voters, especially Latinos. To that end, Florida’s junior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is at the top of the “Veepstakes” list. But my picks are New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Hispanic female governor and Florida Congresswoman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina elected to Congress and the first Latina to chair the powerful House foreign relations committee.
Tell Us: How much will a choice of VP influence who you will vote for in November? Does it matter?