Republican Veep Primer

As promised, here’s your semi-reported full primer on the Republican veepstakes. The prospective list is very short, and much more well known than the Democrats, so this will be more to the point.

Tim Pawlenty: The insider’s betting favorite. McCain has a tendency to offer praise unprompted in Pawlenty’s direction on the trail, and did so again this week. Pawlenty was an early supporter of McCain’s, a national co-chair of his campaign, and stuck with him during the good times and the bad times. McCain’s campaign still views Minnesota and Wisconsin as battlegrounds, polling be damned, and feel that Pawlenty could put them in play. Pawlenty also has brass tacks, winning a narrow re-election in a blue tinted state in 2006, when Republicans were being pounded across the country. If you put a gun to the average Washington Republican’s head and made him guess McCain’s veep, 9 out of 10 would blurt out Pawlenty’s name.

Charlie Crist: The pessimist’s favorite. McCain is very close to Crist, having campaigned vigorously for the Florida governor in 2006. Crist has big popularity numbers in Florida, and did McCain a huge favor during the primary, not just endorsing him, but doing so on the Saturday night before the election. This both ensured McCain a bit of coverage on the cable news networks on the night of the Democratic primary in South Carolina, and made it the top story in Sunday papers around the state just before the election. Crist would almost surely lock down Florida for McCain, allowing him to spend resources elsewhere. Unfortunatley, the persistent rumors around Crist’s sexuality may make him a non-starter with the religious right.

Mitt Romney: The media favorite, as the only recognizable name in the bunch. McCain is intensely disliked by McCain, the biggest impediment to his candidacy. Romney also has a handful of advisers telling him not to accept a nomination, as they see a McCain victory as highly unlikely, and a Romney presence on the ticket hurting his chances for a 2012 run for the Presidency. Romney is seen as a money machine by many, although at least one person I talked to wondered why, if Romney has such access to so many big donors and the ability to raise so much money for McCain, he had to contribute so much of his own money to his campaign. There are also some lingering questions as to how much that money can really do with McCain in the public financing system, and the RNC committing most of their money to the Presidential race. There’s also the idea that Romney could help deliver Michigan to the Republicans, although many are skeptical of this as well.

The other three names who pop up semi-regularly, Bobby Jindal, Rob Portman, and Tom Ridge are red herrings for various reasons. Jindal is conservative red meat, but whether he was ever credible or not, he just took himself out of the running. Ridge is apparently McCain’s favorite, but he’s both a former Bush cabinet official and pro-choice, which makes him a liability on every front. And Portman is just your traditional diversionary name. He’s a somewhat obscure name from an important swing state, Ohio, so any dropping of the name will invariably create a mini-obsession in the media. But at the end of the day, Portman has strong ties to the Bush administration (he’s a close friend of Cheney’s who was tapped to be US trade representative, also not necessarily something you want in Ohio) who has never run for statewide office. His district, the 2nd, is one of the most heavily Republican in the state (even if Jean Schmidt is so embarrassing that she can barely hold it). So Portman, while great media fodder, is not really under consideration, so far as I can tell.