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Evans

Romney's VP Choices

Sean Evans, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science
Aug 2, 2012

                Who will Mitt Romney choose as his vice presidential running mate? While few voters cast ballots based on the VP nominee, many view the VP choice as a window into the character and vision of a potential presidency.
Consequently when Barack Obama chose a more experienced running mate with extensive foreign policy experience, many saw a nominee confident enough in himself to choose someone who would complement his weaknesses and help him govern. Conversely, John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, while reinforcing his reform credentials and separating him from George Bush, eventually was seen as a desperate, not very well-thought out decision that suggested impulsive decision making.
In looking at Romney’s supposed short list, the clear message that he is sending is quiet competence. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are serious candidates known for their competence and ability to get things done. Portman is a former White House aide, House Republican leader, U.S. Trade Representative, Budget Director, and well-respected Senator who comes from a swing state. The only real knock against Portman is that his time as budget director under George W. Bush undermines Romney’s attacks on Obama’s budget record.
Pawlenty is an evangelical who would assuage social conservatives concerned about Romney’s inconsistent positions on abortion and same sex marriage, is a proven deficit hawk from his time as governor, has a working class background to counter Romney’s more privileged background, and would reinforce Romney’s “outsider” image as neither have Washington experience. The criticisms of Pawlenty are that he will not excite anyone, he ran a lackluster presidential campaign, he was an incrementalist with no major accomplishments, and he lacks foreign policy experience.
Jindal is a consistent conservative with an impressive reform record as governor pushing through major ethics and education reforms and who received rave reviews for his handling of the Gulf oil spill. Before that, he was a Rhodes Scholar and policy wonk that cut costs and improved health care in Louisiana, director of a commission to save Medicare, president of the University of Louisiana college system, and a member of Congress. 
Moreover, Jindal is Indian-American and would send the message that Republicans are open to minorities. While Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Secretary of State Condi Rice might excite more people, Rubio has limited national experience and Rice is too closely associated with the Bush Administration. Jindal is probably more experienced and credentialed than either Romney or Obama, would overshadow Romney less than Rubio or Rice, and would diversify the Republican ticket when running against the nation’s first African-American president.
His negatives are that many questioned his skills after his widely-panned response to President Obama’s State of the Union in 2009, his plan to erect sand berms to collect oil from the Gulf oil spill largely failed, and he participated in an exorcism in college that might raise questions about religious practices that the Mormon Romney might want to avoid.
In short, all three would largely be clones of Romney stylistically and temperamentally as they are known for thinking through issues and making measured statements. This “boring” image of pragmatism and competence would stand in contrast to a charismatic president, the ideological presidencies of Bush and Obama, and the ticket’s cerebral nature would stylistically separate them from the Bush presidency. 
 
A version of this originally appeared in the July 27th edition of The Jackson Sun