Even a Great No. 2 Pick Won't Save a Second-Rate Campaign
The right running mate could bring Romney some soft benefits, but won't cinch election
May 30, 2012
Conventional wisdom holds that Romney's VP choice matters. The modern presidency is fraught with challenges that raise the importance of the office and voters perceive the ticket as a package deal. This view drives the idea of ticket balancing and grounds arguments that Dick Cheney's foreign policy experience gave President Bush an edge in 2000 and Sarah Palin's spectacular gaffes doomed John McCain's 2008 campaign.
Conventional wisdom is wrong. Romney's choice will do little to ensure his victory. Voters will adjust their expectations of his leadership skills, but the net hard effect the running mate brings is about 1 percentage point of votes. If the election is incredibly close this could make a difference, but current polls give President Obama a 100 electoral-vote advantage. Romney will need to do a lot more over the next six months to win than choose the right person for the No. 2 job.
We can't, however, dismiss the soft benefits a vice presidential nominee brings to the ticket. If Romney chooses Marco Rubio, he'll get a lot of attention from Florida's Hispanic voters. Tim Pawlenty could win him some affection from social conservatives. Either one or others on the short list would generate increased campaign donations, higher attendance at rallies, and endorsements from influential party activists.
But Romney can only tip the balance in his favor if he runs a better campaign than the president. He's got to hammer voters with his message that his business experience will usher happy economic times over the next four years. He must also maximize his super PAC advantage and a make a solid personal connection with voters. He's got the potential, but in the words of the 32nd vice president, John Garner Nance: "the vice presidency ain't worth a warm pitcher of [beer]."
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