Last Updated:November 28 @ 07:44 am

Mackowiak: Romney's Considerations for Vice President

By Matt Mackowiak

There appear to be four serious finalists to fill the vacant role of Mitt Romney's running mate: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ann Romney's recent admission that they were seriously considering choosing a female vice presidential candidate, most likely Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) or former Secretary of State Condi Rice, is probably a calculated head fake or wishful thinking.

How to rate the four finalists? Consider five criteria, listed in order of presumed importance to Romney:

1) Risk — In a post-Palin political world, the Hippocratic Oath of "first, do no harm" comes to mind. Of the four finalists, Portman and Pawlenty have been the most thoroughly vetted and thus offer the lowest risk (and perhaps the least excitement). No major controversies were uncovered during Pawlenty's GOP presidential campaign. Portman ran statewide in Ohio and was twice appointed to cabinet-level positions in the Bush administration, surviving the White House vetting process and Senate confirmation twice with flying colors. Jindal is not as well known nationally, but his resume is remarkable: Rhodes Scholar, health policy expert, Louisiana State University chancellor, congressman, two-term governor. However, his State of the Union response in 2009 was widely panned, leaving the lingering perception that he is not ready for prime time. Ryan, who was shamelessly demagogued for his 2012 and 2013 budgets, would saddle Romney with that political baggage and has never been elected to anything other than Congress. Moreover, both Jindal and Ryan are young.

2) Geography — No major-party candidate has won the presidency as a result of his vice presidential candidate swinging a major battleground state since Lyndon Johnson won Texas for Kennedy in 1960. For Romney, though, choosing Portman or Ryan could help him carry Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively. Romney must win Ohio, and Portman, a former congressman from Cincinnati who easily won election to the U.S. Senate in 2010 after running one of the best campaigns of the cycle, would help. Wisconsin appears to be competitive in light of a great 2010 cycle and the striking victories by Gov. Scott Walker this year in a series of recall elections. Ryan is in a swing district with a party registration disadvantage, but he consistently wins with over 60 percent of the vote. Pawlenty likely cannot put Minnesota in play, but his working-class background could sell in midwestern battleground states. A Southerner, Jindal would change nothing about the map.

3) Relationship — Of the four finalists, only Jindal endorsed someone else (Rick Perry), yet all have campaigned publicly for Romney, served as Romney surrogates, raised money for him and been team players since Romney wrapped up the GOP nomination in April. Pawlenty appears to have ingratiated himself with Romney as a low-maintenance, easygoing teammate. Portman was seen as a crucial part of Romney's critical and narrow victory in Ohio and has been a trusted adviser to the Romney campaign for a long time. Ryan, more policy wonk than political animal, recently stepped up his assistance to the campaign and appeared to click with Romney during Wisconsin rallies earlier this year.

4) Governing — The strongest governing choices are Ryan and Portman. Ryan knows the budget better than anyone and has personally authored two budgets as House Budget Committee chairman. Portman is widely respected by members in both chambers for his intellect, experience and calm manner. He served as a legislative aide to President George H.W. Bush before winning a seat in Congress, and was appointed White House budget director and U.S. trade representative by President George W. Bush. Former Gov. John Sununu (R-NH), a senior Romney adviser, told National Review's Robert Costa that Portman is a favorite at Romney's Boston headquarters because of his "political diligence, his fundraising prowess and his policy acumen." Pawlenty and Jindal have very limited Washington experience or relationships, but both have credible reform records as governors.

5) Narrative — The media is more powerful today than ever before. As such, Romney's campaign must consider what the narrative will be for each potential VP choice. For Portman, it will be: insider, Bush baggage, experienced, plain. For Pawlenty, it will be: failed presidential candidate lacking charisma. For Jindal it will be: first Indian American on a major-party ticket, conservative, young. For Ryan, it will be: austerity.

As I said, pundits make predictions. I predict Romney chooses Portman and unveils the before the Olympics in Cincinnati, Portman's hometown. But I'm not wagering money.


© Copyright 2011 Matt Mackowiak. Matt Mackowiak is a Washington- and Austin-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC.

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  1. lwessonComment by lwesson
    July 17, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    Paul Ryan has an important understanding for the collapsing financial house of cards that the nation has. More importantly, he actually can come up with plans, rather than just mouthy platitudes.

    He can talk clearly, intelligently, WITHOUT a teleprompter. He seems not to have the gaffe problems that others have. VP Joe Biden would be slaughtered in a debate.

    Age, Ryan would gracefully age well in the next 8 years, and be in prime shape to follow after Romney for another 8 years. He is smart enough, good enough, to assume the Presidency if he had too. Oh, and unlike Obama, I bet that he could have a National Security Clearance, if he wanted one right now.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 17, 2012 @ 10:55 am

      Ryan also carries the most baggage on this short list.

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      July 17, 2012 @ 11:01 am

      What is this weighty luggage?

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      July 17, 2012 @ 11:15 am

      Elimination of the home mortgage, as Ryan suggested, is not going to happen, period. But overall, kicking, The financial bust can, down the road, will just buy some time, and that is what the Power Players want, more time.

      The Left screams foul at any and all, social budget cuts. The louder the scream, the closer to some worthy cut.

      It could be that the game is really, all over, and we just don’t know it yet. Happens all of the time in life. Has happened to nations… .

      Have yet to find the baggage, but still looking.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      July 17, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

      Just stating the facts. Ryan is so disliked by the Democlowns that they will fight him tooth and nail. The Denoclowns don’t care anywhere near as much about any of the others but they have made Ryan a cause celebre. That’s pretty heavy baggage to carry…especially for someone like Romney who already has a good portion of his party looking askance at him.

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  2. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    July 17, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    If History is any guide, the office of Vice President is the least important office in the Constitution. And with present situation of the Congress, I believe it would be foolhardy to select as a vice presedential candidate, any incumbent Senator or Congressman. I would even go a step further, do not select anyone who is perceived to be strong candidate for the Federal legilature.

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  3. minutemanComment by minuteman
    July 17, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    Is Jindal a natural born citizen? I fear he is another Marco Rubio.

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    • joe93Comment by joe93
      July 17, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

      Rubio is a natural born citizen. You show ignorance of the law.

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  4. joe93Comment by joe93
    July 17, 2012 @ 5:57 pm


    I’m assuming your namesake is refering to those who defend the boarders. To compare Rubio and illegals that cross the southern boarder as one and the same is plain stupidity.


    It is US law that if Cubans reach American land, they are protected as political asylum seakers, therefore are “subject to the jurisdiction of the US” according to the 14th ammendment. This would refer to HIS PARENTS! Rubio IS NOT an anchor baby. He was born in Miami to parents subject to the jurisdiction of the US, therefore he IS A NATURAL BORN US CITIZEN!

    Rubio can legally be president. Anyone who disagrees is plain stupid.

    I’m tired of ignorant people thinking otherwise. I believe I’ve had to clarify this to you before.

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  5. joe93Comment by joe93
    July 17, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    And, just to be clear, if they immigrated before Cubans were granted asylum in the late 1950′s, who’s to say that they were illegal immigrants? Can you prove they were? NO! Many Cubans legally immigrated to Miami from Cuba during that time. Rubio was born more than 10 years after his parents came to the US. It’s very easy to assume that they were legal immigrants, which would also mean they were subject to the jurisdiction of the US. Case closed.

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