Talk in Republican circles lately has focused on the possibility that Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s relationship with his fellow Floridian Congressman David Rivera could spell trouble for his nomination. Rivera, a solid conservative who was also elected in 2010, is an old friend of Rubio’s, and the two bought a house together that went into foreclosure. Rivera is now under investigation by the FBI and the IRS for misuse of campaign funds. The Miami Herald has covered the story, as has the Washington Post. Whether there’s any fire behind the smoke or not, you can bet that if it was in the Post, it’ll be on Obama’s radar.
Marco Rubio would be the strongest VP candidate — if the vetting shows the Rivera concerns are not an issue — because of his huge appeal among Latinos and his popularity in Florida.
But, like a doctor who takes the Hippocratic Oath, the duty of a vice presidential candidate is to “first, do no harm.” So if it’s not to be Rubio, who should it be?
The only other VP candidate who would be exciting and give Romney a bounce would be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Eileen and I wrote a book entitled “Condi vs. Hillary” promoting her for national office, and neither of us has given up on that dream.
While she would not be able to make any inroads among African-Americans against Obama (nobody could), she would be an exciting candidate who would do Romney good among women. Hers is an authentic feminist story of a person rising to stardom without any help from husbands or fathers (cf. Hillary). The fact that her credentials came from her intellect and academic achievements — not through her community-organizing skills and affirmative action programs — is a real plus (cf. Obama).
She would bring star power to the ticket, as Sarah Palin did, without any of the downside risk of appearing shallow in interviews that came with Palin. She would light up the campaign and bring a lot of new female support Romney’s way.
Her negative is her association with the war in Iraq. There is danger that her nomination would bring back the passions and divisiveness of that turbulent period. But not so much. The war is over. The endgame was as much Obama’s as Condi’s. The surge “won” the war before Obama took office. And now it’s all history. Did Condi know that there were no WMDs in Iraq? Why did she persist in the mission once we all knew that they didn’t exist? Ancient history. Not the fodder for a presidential campaign eight years later.
And, with Obama trying to find a place to stand in recounting his accomplishments as president — as the economy tanks — he increasingly relies on foreign policy. Condi would compensate for Romney’s lack of experience on that front and would reassure people that the former Massachusetts governor could handle himself on the world stage.
On the social issues, Condi is solid on gun control but weak on abortion. She’s all over the place on the issue, and her nomination would make some social conservatives uneasy. But her evangelical childhood roots and overall conservatism can likely contain any fire over that issue.
If Condi says no? Then Romney should pick from the list of boring white men — Pawlenty, Portman, Thune, etc. The first criterion must be that they do not harm.
My own next pick would be Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia. He has actually reduced state spending below its 2008 levels without raising taxes. His record and Governor Christie’s are similar, but he has had even more success in his battles. Unlike New Jersey, Virginia is a swing state, and McDonnell raises no conservative doubts on social issues.