Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain's VP choices

In the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg, the resident conservative columnist there, writes about McCain's choices for VP. The upshot is that he doesn't any great choices, just several almost-decent ones. My guesses for the top six:

Mitt Romney
Rob Portman
Sarah Palin
Tim Pawlenty
Carly Fiorina
John Thune

Even those six have problems. Mitt Romney came across as Mr. Flaky in the primaries, changing his position with the position of the sun. Rob Portman is strongly associated with Bush. Sarah Palin is a somewhat obscure candidate. During the campaign, I anticipate some logistical problems: won't she have to, you know, go home to Alaska to be governor every now and then? Won't that take up large chunks of time? Not a huge deal, to be sure, but it occurred to me. Tim Pawlenty sounds good, but I don't know much about him. Carly Fiorina has not held elected office, and she was fired from Hewlett Packard. In other words, there isn't any good, solid reason to choose her, apart from the fact that she's a woman. John Thune is close to the same age as Obama (47), and has similar experience: he served in the US House from 1996-2002, and has been a Senator since 2004, same as Obama. Weakens McCain's charge that Obama is inexperienced. Also, he's very conservative, and strongly associated with the Christian right, so he brings both the good and bad karma associated with believing in creationism.

I'm going to narrow my choices down to Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, and John Thune. Choosing Palin would be a bold choice, but she's younger than Obama (only 44), and her experience in office is so light it makes Obama look like an elder statesman - she was elected governor in 2006, and before that was the Mayor of the city of Wasilia, Alaska, population around 8,000. Say what you will about Obama's experience, next to being the mayor of a suburb of Anchorage, state senator in Illinois suddenly has a lot of weight. She has a lot of time to make her mark, I don't think this is her turn. But having a woman on the ticket young enough to be his daughter would only highlight McCain's age. On the other hand, her approval rating is in the 80's. Of course, the fact that she's very pretty doesn't hurt.

Pawlenty is a bit older (48), still young enough to be McCain's son, but has been governor a little longer than Palin (since 2002), and before that was a state represenative. Again, not a huge contrast with Obama. He doesn't really have any foreign policy experience, but that's not much of an issue for McCain. He's very conservative, which might help with the Republican base, but not so much with independents. Sounds like he's pretty hardcore on cutting taxes, which is not as popular as it once was. So he's attractive, but not perfect.

Thune has the problem of the other two, i.e. that he doesn't have much to compare against Obama in the realm of experience. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, Thune was elected to as South Dakota's sole US Representative in the same year - not a huge difference. Having another senator on the ticket would also reinforce Obama's claim to be running against Washington insiders.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Mitt Romney may be the best of the lot. He has more experience than Obama with running things. He's older than Obama, but still younger than McCain. He's energetic. But he's also strongly associated with the kind of capitalism that has resulted in spectacular income inequality - not going to go down well with the blue collar voters.

If I were McCain, I think I would have to go with either Pawlenty or Romney.


Ted said...

Sarah Palin, "obscure" you say (more than Pawlenty, e.g., to the average voter across America)???

Palin's currently at the epicenter of Amrica's domestic oil drilling debate, and on top of that, set to get the Hillary voters pissed off at the Democratic Party and Obama!!!

Bottom line, Romney brings more negatives to the table of electing McCain than positives, whereas Palin's positives are off the chart, and she can't effectively be attacked by the Dems.

And finally, if the Dems want to make an issue that Palin is a newbie to the national scene, she's got more actual experience, qualifications and accomplishments than Obama times 10.

To challenge Palin's lack of experience would be rich indeed! I would say, bring it on!!!

JohnTEQP said...

Palin is clearly an attractive candidate, and I think McCain would do well to choose her.

But a big part of McCain's campaign strategy is to paint Obama as too young and inexperienced. If his VP choice is younger than Obama, that makes a mockery of his claim that Obama is too young. As for experience, Obama has been Senator since 2004, Palin has been governor since 2006 - Obama has more experience there. And he was a state senator in Illinois, while she was mayor of a town of 8,000 people. That may count as a big city in Alaska, but there are neighborhoods in Chicago with more people. Obama would have represented over 200,000 as a state senator in Illinois. They have both held elected office for twelve years, but four of those years for her were on the Wasilia City Council, which is a long way from the White House.

The problem with Palin is not that she doesn't have a lot of experience. The problem is that, if McCain is going to accuse Obama of having a thin resume, he can't choose a VP whose resume is actually less impressive - that invalidates his criticism of Obama. On her own, Palin might be a viable candidate for VP. Against Obama, not such a good idea.

Although I do agree that Romney brings more negatives than positives. I just think that's also true of every other possibility, and Romney's negatives aren't as bad as, say, Huckabee's.

ITF said...

To toss of Carly as being "fired" from HP is to give her short shrift. She has a _lot_ of credibility in the business sector. She is a very accomplished businesswoman.

Ted said...

By the way, here’s the theme song when Sarah Palin makes her Veep center stage appearance at the Republican National Convention later this summer:

Oh, and yes it IS gonna be Palin. McCain’s already got this new ad up which essentially announces Palin as his pick (without ever having to mention her name).

It’s even got the McCain/Palin campaign slogan vs. Obama: “Don’t hope for new energy, vote for it.” –-

JohnTEQP said...

Carly Fiorina was asked to resign by the HP board (according to Wikipedia). If someone leaves a company involuntarily, they've been fired. The stock dropped while she was there, and went up after she left; there's disagreement about whether or not she was the one who laid the foundation for the success that came after she was gone. The stock went up 7% the day her resignation was announced - many people clearly saw her departure as a positive.

I think there's enough doubt about her record at HP to ruin her chances to be VP. She may be good, but she's not a superstar, and that's what McCain needs, because her record is going to be under a microscope. Otherwise, he's choosing her just because he wants a woman. There are a lot of CEO's who have better records than her.

JohnTEQP said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the new McCain ad with Palin! I still think choosing someone who is younger than Obama would be a mistake. Although I'm sure it would be good for Palin personally.

McCain already has a key personal relationship with a woman much younger than him - his wife. Choosing a woman who is 28 years younger than him for VP is going to be like manna from heaven for comedians.