As Mitt Romney stands poised to claim the Republican presidential nomination after a hard-fought primary race, speculation abounds as to who he may choose to stand by his side as he battles President Obama in the general election. Some have suggested Florida Senator Marco Rubio is a shoe-in, while a jovial Senator John McCain jested that Sarah Palin should be given a second go-around in a vice presidential run.
The Romney campaign may seek a more low-key approach with its vice presidential pick than did the McCain camp with its maverick, Sarah Palin. Thus, strategists wager it will be a choice tempered by balance and pragmatism, rather than sensationalism.
But in retrospect, both Palin and Biden complimented their running mates by providing attributes the other lacked. In Obama's case, Biden provided experience. In McCain's case, Palin provided energy and youthfulness combined with conservatism. Such counter-balancing is typically sought in a vice presidential pick.
While providing balance is crucial in any vice presidential candidate, the ability to deliver battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida are perhaps what count most in this particular election. But it is not enough to just be from a swing state -- the candidate would have to offer a probability of actually delivering it. In short, the person chosen will likely bring both balance and a swing-state to the table.
How times for a vice president have changed
Historically, the office of vice president was one often decried by some of its very inhabitants for the lack of responsibility entrusted in the second-in-command. It was perhaps not until Richard Nixon and later, George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, that a vice president quietly, in times of need, truly played a hands-on role in helping to steer the course of the nation.
Today, the office is considered an honor and a privilege as well as a stepping stone to the presidency itself. But so little did politicians of yesteryear think of the role, that John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice president, is reported to have described the office "not worthy of a pitcher of warm p*ss." Likewise, David Webster turned down a vice presidential offer with the comment, "I do not intend to be buried until I am dead."
Shockingly, these remarks came after decades of improvement in the perception and treatment of the vice president. This was made painfully apparent by Garret Hobart, vice president under President William McKinley, who managed to eke out the unofficial title "assistant to the president." As the late Herbert Klein of AEI pointed out, that was an exception "never repeated."
Aside from a few spotty invitations over the course of decades, no subsequent vice president ever even attended cabinet meetings until Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the cache of the office by inviting Vice Presidents Garner and later, Henry Wallace and Harry Truman to attend cabinet meetings.
In retrospect, such a policy of exclusion seems counterproductive given the fact that the vice president must step in and lead should the sitting president be rendered unable. It would have made sense, one would think, for a vice president to have been made privy to cabinet meetings. Nonetheless, that is how the office once functioned. Conversely, in today's day and age, the vice president is a celebrity of his or her own. And speculation surrounding vice presidential short lists are almost as interesting to the public as the actual presidential nomination.
Which brings us back to the present day...
What the Romney campaign will look for
Romney possesses the business acumen and executive experience typically sought in presidential candidates. What some members of his base claim he lacks, however, are deeply conservative credentials. Other factors to weigh against the candidate for vice president include age, ability to actually lead in the event he or she takes over the presidency, and ability to be an effective campaigner.
Many feel the best bets for this selection are from the ranks of governors, but geography (swing states), political prowess and philosophy, along with strength are all key factors in the selection process.
After reviewing the potential candidates below, be sure to head over to The Blaze Blog to vote for your pick in our GOP "Veepstakes" poll.
Present day contenders
Marco Rubio -- The son of Cuban exiles, few have generated more vice presidential buzz than freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio. His popularity suggests he has what it takes to deliver Florida's large number of electoral votes and would put the state on the map for spawning its first vice president in history. Another impetus for a potential Rubio-pick may also be certain pitfalls the GOP seeks to compensate for -- namely in its appeal to women and minority voters. Bear in mind John McCain, despite his popularity among Hispanics and his long record supporting immigration reform, still fared abysmally among Hispanic voters in the 2008 election compared to Obama. Given his Tea Party credentials, Hispanic heritage and potential to swing Florida in Romney's favor, Marco Rubio is on nearly everyone's short list.
Allen West-- One of the less touted but perhaps more intriguing choices for vice president, freshman Congressman Allen West offers a variety of attributes that could potentially balance Romney's resume effectively. A favorite among Tea Party members and everyday Republicans alike, West represents a significant Florida district encompassing West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and most of Fort Lauderdale. He has earned credibility for going toe-to-toe with the liberal establishment and has been an outspoken opponent of fellow Florida legislator and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. With a long tradition of service to run his family, West would also lend substantial military prowess to a Romney administration. Ultimately achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel, West served in the United States Army for more than 20 years of active duty service, including several combat deployments in Iraq. As an African-American, West has never shied away from issues of race, often breaking with his own Congressional Black Caucus when its members engaged in race-baiting and other tactics with which he disagrees.
Rob Portman -- Currently a junior senator from Ohio, Portman is slowly becoming the speculated-favorite among media pundits. This may very well be due to his potential to deliver Ohio combined with his straightforward nature and ability to speak frankly on difficult issues. Portman served as congressman for the state's 2nd congressional district, which includes the Cincinnati suburbs, from 1993 to 2005. He began his career campaigning for President George H. W. Bush and served in his administration as a legislative liaison until he became Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Before joining the ranks of the Senate, Portman authored or co-authored over a dozen bills while in the House that became law, including legislation to reform the Internal Revenue Service. Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union said, "He set a professional work environment that rose above partisanship and ultimately gave taxpayers more rights." Portman voted for the Ryan Budget.
Nikki Haley-- South Carolina Governor Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, or simply, Nikki Haley, is one of the few women currently being discussed as a potential pick for vice president. At age 40, Haley is the youngest current governor in the country and the first woman to serve as governor of her state. Haley, once a favorite among Tea Party members, lost support after endorsing Romney but there is still the chance she could curry favor with the group once more and even win them to Romney's side. An accountant by trade, Haley likely grasps issues important to business owners as she worked in her own family business, an upscale clothing firm, which reportedly grew into a multi-million dollar company. She is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India, and has been a tough critic of illegal immigration. She also supports a law requiring that voters present photo identification at the polls.
Bob McDonnell-- Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell lends executive experience and military background to the table. Head of the Republican Governors' Association, the former Virginia
Attorney General has been on pundits' and strategists' radars as an interesting choice for vice president. Perhaps a nod to his conservative credentials, McDonnell held his ground amid fierce criticism from the left over signing a bill requiring Virginia women to have an ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion. He has waived off the criticism, saying candidly that Democrats use social issues to detract from the most important matters at hand, which, for McDonnell, is the economy.
Mitch Daniels -- Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is one of the more seasoned candidates currently being vetted. Serving the Bush administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, Daniels was also a member of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. The governor is currently on an eight-day trip to Israel, which will reportedly include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The move could indicate that Daniels is considering a run for higher office.
Paul Ryan -- The young House superstar could potentially deliver Wisconsin, a swing state, and is slated to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in 2015. While the position is not one he would acquire if he were to be elected alongside Romney, the nod still speaks highly of his abilities. Ryan is also a key player in one of the largest issues of the day -- the budget -- and put a spotlight on the GOP's role in seeking solutions to the matter.
Chris Christie -- The man on everyone's radar, Chris Christie has become a larger-than-life figure for what many view is his effective leadership and frank, plainspoken manner. While some on the right do not consider Christie conservative enough, he has still managed to garner a dedicated following among Republicans. Strategists believe, however, that for as popular as he is, the New Jersey Governor will not be able to deliver his home state in the general election. There is also the perception among some conservatives that Christie leans moderate, and therefore would not provide enough balance to Romney's stance on any number of issues. These issues combined diminish Christie's chance at gaining the nod
Condoleezza Rice -- A wild card and one who does not yet appear interested in a vice presidential tap, conservatives could argue that there would be no better choice for second-in-command than the former Secretary of State. Ironically, far-left activist Van Jones couldn't agree more. While some might consider her association with the Bush administration a negative, her decades-long foreign policy experience and role as a diplomat and stateswoman lend her the background and credibility voters could be confident in. As a woman and an African-American, Condi Rice also provides the diversity any campaign would crave.
Tim Pawlenty-- The former Minnesota governor endorsed Romney shortly after he bowed out of the race himself. While viewed a safe choice for his loyalty and executive experience, strategists believe Pawlenty would not generate enough excitement with the GOP base nor would he effectively rally independents.
Sarah Palin -- John McCain recently joked that Romney should consider giving former Alaska
Governor Sarah Palin another go. While the former vice presidential candidate has name recognition and Tea Party prowess -- along with a socially conservative bend -- it is unlikely she would be tapped by Romney to be his running mate in 2012.
Rick Santorum -- Primary rivals often make for obvious running mates. Such is the case for former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. The Romney rival could prove a beneficial vice presidential choice as his social conservatism would balance Romney's more moderate bent. With few other viable options who could potentially deliver the swing state, Santorum could also very well turn Pennsylvania red in a general election.
Time will tell
In nearly every presidential election cycle, speculation on vice presidential choices tends to run amok -- and sometimes, the ultimate choice ends up being none of the usual suspects at all. While there is always the potential to play a wild card, such a drastic move seems unnecessary for a candidate as measured as Romney. It is likely Republicans will seek to rally their base and energize the electorate with a conservative who can deliver either Pennsylvania, Ohio or Florida. That being said, a candidate from a minority, or who offers strong military background, would provide the seemingly perfect compliment to Romney's executive and private sector experience.