By Teresa Welsh |
John Adams, America's first vice president, may have regarded the position as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." But Adams' own career demonstrated why politicians so eagerly seek this position today. Of the 47 who have served as VP, 14, including Adams, became president.
So it is no surprise that jockeying has begun in earnest to join Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket. But this can't become a beauty or buddy contest. The campaign must make this decision knowing it alone could spell the difference between success and failure.
Vice presidential nominees are chosen to balance or augment the ticket. They provide what the man at the top of the ticket cannot. John F. Kennedy needed Lyndon B, Johnson to help him with the South and Congress. Mike Dukakis needed Lloyd Bentsen to provide gravitas. Ronald Reagan needed George H. W. Bush for his foreign policy and intelligence credentials, and George W. Bush needed Dick Cheney for his Washington experience.
What does Romney think he needs? It's a well-kept secret and one of intense interest to voters. They'll learn from his selection.
Of course, he'd love to find someone who would appeal to independents, Hispanics, women and conservatives, boast impeccable credentials on jobs, national security, federal spending, and healthcare and deliver a battleground state such as Florida, Ohio, Virginia, or Colorado. It also would help if this person could perform the attack dog role well, stay on message and, oh yes, avoid upstaging Romney.
Failing that ... does Romney choose a woman to shore up support with women? President Obama still leads in support among women, but the president's numbers have fallen and continue to drop and there could be an opening. Does he choose a Latino to help in battleground states with large Latino populations, such as Florida and Colorado? A Washington insider to shore up his foreign policy and national security credentials? Or perhaps a conservative firebrand to inspire the base?
Does he seek to attract independents? If so, which independents ... those who fall ideologically between Democrats and Republicans or those who reside between Republicans and conservatives?
To complicate this, a lot could happen between now and decision time. Does the Supreme Court overturn Obamacare? Does the euro collapse? What happens in the Middle East? Maybe he will need not a Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, or Rob Portman at that point but perhaps a David Petraeus. Will Romney make that choice if the situation demands it?
Voters await the decision because it provides tremendous insight into a subject about which they know little—Romney's values and ability to make high-stakes decisions.
As Joel Goldstein, an expert on the vice presidency says, how Romney decides largely will be how he is judged.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Elections'
Michael Marshall Policy Adviser and Communications Director to Former Sen. Bob Dole
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College