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April 2, 2008

The McCain Vice President Decision

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Speculation persists as to who presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain will choose as a running mate. This upcoming decision has sparked a growing debate among many political pundits for a number of reasons.


Certainly one issue is that when he is sworn in next January, he will be 72 years – old and therefore the oldest first term president in American history.


Remember, President Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was sworn in for his second term.


Another reason, which I first discussed back in January – after the New Hampshire primary – on WYPR with political analyst Bob Sommersby, is that Senator McCain needs to shore-up his conservative base. At the time, I got very little traction on the idea.


However, it is no secret that Senator McCain was a “hold your nose” choice with conservatives. He is far too liberal to maintain the conservative base that put President George W. Bush over the finish line in the last two presidential elections.


This is a two-edged sword to be certain. Many continue to feel that this fall’s election will hinge on the vast middle-of-the-road voter demographic and Senator McCain is perfect for these people – especially as the Democratic contenders, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to go farther and farther left in their pursuit of the elusive silver bullet to break their deadlock.


For those who insist on deluding themselves, it doesn’t matter whether the Democratic nominee is Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, this will be a difficult election for Senator McCain. It will be another close election and the vice presidential choice will be critical.


The country is ripe for the Democrat’s populism and pie-in-the-sky promises. Anyone who deals with the voters straightforwardly will be handicapped.


Never mind, that the Democrats will never be able to deliver on most of their promises. That’s never been important. History shows they’ll say anything just to get elected.


As an aside, there is probably no truth to the rumor that Senator Clinton will choose her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for vice president. After all, it would be a role he would play no matter her choice. Imagine the possibilities.


Probably equally groundless is the idea that Senator Clinton would choose Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez for a vice presidential running mate – although he would be a perfect match for her. The only thing holding back that choice would be the “born in the USA” requirement.


If Senator Obama prevails to be the Democrat “Apocalypse Now” Party nominee, as continues to be the conventional wisdom, one wonders if he would really choose anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.  She is certainly articulate and oh, so charming.


Moreover, there is probably no truth to the idea that he would choose French socialist Segolene Royal, who is search of a job after her loss to Nicolas Sarkozy in last year’s French presidential elections.


Of course, Ms. Royal has the same “born in the USA” obstacles as say, one other name mentioned, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is obviously from another planet.


But seriously, getting back to Senator McCain’s running mate choice; one thing is for certain, there are a number of great choices on the Republican Party’s talent-filled farm team.


Among them are Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.


Certainly not to be overlooked was the favorite presidential candidate for many, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Or even former Massachusetts’s Gov. Mitt Romney.


Conventional wisdom is that Senator McCain to reach into the governor’s ranks for a running mate although many would love for current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to step up to the plate.  She’s perfect for the job.


To make the list comprehensive, some have also suggested North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.


However, there’s too much talent in the governors’ offices and it would be just as well to leave Congressional ranks in place for governance challenges after Senator McCain takes office.


One person frequently mentioned in the mix is the popular Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. She has developed quite a reputation as a reformer in the rough and tumble, scandal-plagued politics of Alaska since she took over the governor’s office in November 2006.


The Washington Post said in a February article: “When asked about whether she would consider the number-2 spot in the country – the vice presidency… Pursing her lips, Palin call(ed) it an ‘impossibility’ this time around, but not altogether out of the question.”


Many did not pick up on her use of the words “impossibility this time around, but not altogether out of the question.”


Subsequently, on March 6th, the matter of the curious words, “impossibility” was explained. Many media outlets carried the news.


“Gov. Sarah Palin dropped a day-ending bombshell. She's pregnant. Palin said Wednesday that she and her husband Todd are expecting their fifth child sometime in mid-May.”


To be clear, being pregnant certainly does not disqualify Governor Palin for consideration, except she has said that she now wants to remain in Alaska for the immediate future.


All things considered, there is heavy betting that the nod will go to either Florida Governor Crist or Minnesota Governor Pawlenty – with emphasis on the popular Florida governor and the potential to carry the sunshine state’s critical 27 electoral votes.


Nevertheless, Secretary of State Rice or Governor Palin are two of the three best choices.


The third would be the one wild-card candidate – former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. There is no doubt that he has been tested and vetted. In his senatorial contest against Ben Cardin, the national Democratic Party subjected him to every dirty trick in the book and threw everything at him – including the kitchen sink.


Articulate, young, charismatic, certainly well versed in the issues and of impeccable conservative values, he is the best choice in a crowded field.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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