Friday, May 30, 2008

For (Counter-) Strategy Purposes, Here Is Hasslington's Top Half-Dozen List of Possible Running Mates for Senator McCain; Also, The Race Begins in MN

Hello, folks.  In this post, I'm going to provide an updated list of possible running mates for Senator McCain, which is a companion piece to the one I posted earlier this week, in which I provided an updated list of possible running mates for Senator Obama.

I am a supporter of Senator Obama's presidential candidacy.  Yet in the interests of speculation, as well as anticipation and (in particular) strategy formation, I will now provide a list of Senator McCain's potential running mates, with accompanying reasons:


*  The First Tier *

1.)  Sarah Palin. [Last time: #3]  

Reasons:  If the G.O.P. is to retain the White House after nearly eight long years of George W. Bush leading their party, they're going to need a "new paradigm," even after Senator McCain's  now rather trademarked "maverick" moniker is factored in.  Governor Palin is young (44), charismatic, and popular in her home state; she may be just what Senator McCain needs to offset age concerns and bring enough women on-board in critical swing-states to tip the election his way.  So what if she's from already-conservative Alaska?  Her chief executive strengths, which are considerable, would most likely vastly outweigh that geographical weakness.  (Alaskans, take note:  your state is lovely; I'm simply suggesting that it happens to be geographically disadvantaged insofar as potential regional "swing-status" is concerned.)  She's also a hunter, which could play well in swing-states with considerable numbers of conservative-leaning but independent-voting hunters, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, amongst others.  That she is also physically attractive cannot hurt a McCain/Palin ticket's chances with independent male voters, either.  She would be an interesting and possibly electrifying choice.

2.)  John Thune. [Last time: #1]

Reasons:  If I could (and, since this is my blog-site, I suppose I could...) I would put Senator Thune in a tie with Governor Palin for #1, but that would make me feel as though I were cheating.  So he slides down one notch to #2, though through no fault of his own, but rather because Senator McCain has been hinting that he might choose someone from outside of Washington, D.C., which means from outside of the national legislature.  Yet Senator Thune must still be high on Senator McCain's list, because he's more conservative than Senator McCain (which would allow the nominee to focus his campaigning energy on the political center as his running mate shores up conservative support; they could, in a sense, have it both ways).  He is also young (47), from a critical electoral region (the Upper-Midwest, though his home state of South Dakota is ruby-red), and as a first-term U.S. Senator he's been careful to stay rather impressively untainted by the Bush administration.  He's also popular with the national party because he defeated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in a close election a few years ago.

3.)  Tom Ridge.  [Last time:  #2]

Reasons:  This ranking is more of a "correction" than anything else, as I ranked ex-Governor and ex-Homeland Secretary Ridge very highly in previous listings (originally #1, then #2) due to the fact that very few other heavy-hitters seemed (at those points) to be seriously considered by the McCain camp for the job of Senator McCain's running mate.  But with the emergence of people such as Governor Palin and Senator Thune over the past several weeks as major candidates for the job, Mr. Ridge has seen his ranking slip.  Yet it hasn't slipped much at all, really, because in his own way he would reinforce a lot of Senator McCain's strengths (he's known to stand on principle at times but also be open to political compromise when the public calls for it, much like Senator McCain).  His tough-guy image is oddly comforting in this uncertain era, particularly because as governor he was also ingratiating enough to be rather popular with both conservatives and independents in his very important home swing-state of Pennsylvania (which shows his broad appeal).  The vast majority of Democrats feel as though their nominee needs to win Pennsylvania in the general election in order to win in the electoral college, so Senator McCain may want to choose ex-Governor Ridge in order to put the opposition into a state of electoral panic.

4.) Bobby Jindal. [Last time: Not ranked]

Reasons: Governor Jindal--of Louisiana--would shore-up the conservative vote in that rather conservative yet increasingly anti-Bush state (think Hurricane Katrina...). He is a rising conservative star--please see my piece on him from this past Sunday's post for more about that--so he would be able to help with that wing of the party and allow Senator McCain to be "maverick" (much like Senator Thune would). He's also of Indian descent (his parents were immigrants), and it would probably help the Republican cause to have a minority on the ticket in order to shift the party's paradigm a bit (in a different but no less important way from that of Governor Palin). Some might suggest that he is too young (he'll soon be 37), but conservatives point out that he has already compiled an impressive resume' at both the state and national levels.  He would be an intriguing choice indeed, and I think he'd be surprisingly effective with independent voters in their thirties and early forties.

5.)  Tim Pawlenty. [Last time:  #5]

Reasons:  Governor Pawlenty is not particularly loved in his (and my) home state of Minnesota, but he certainly isn't loathed by the majority of Minnesotans, either.  He won an impressive plurality of votes (nearly, but not quite, 50%) in a true three-way gubernatorial race in 2002, and though he won re-election by less than 1% in a tight race in 2006, it was during an election cycle in which Republicans became radioactive across much of the country (Minnesota was not an exception).  It also occurred during an evening in which Democrat Amy Klobuchar eradicated Republican Mark Kennedy by twenty percentage points in order to win the open U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota, despite the fact that both Klobuchar and Kennedy were strong candidates.  Governor Pawlenty's home-spun style and ostensibly open and honest manner might play quite well on the national scene (though it might or might not help Senator McCain win in Minnesota, which is beginning to trend heavily toward the potential Democratic nominee[s]; both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are leading Senator McCain by over a dozen percentage points in the most recent state-wide poll).  He's also a friend of Senator McCain's, is relatively young (47), and has similar views on carbon emissions to those espoused by Senator McCain.

6.)  Mitt Romney. [Last time:  Not ranked]

Ex-Governor Romney wasn't ranked last time and, truth be told, I wish I could avoid ranking him this time, as well.  (Well, I suppose I could avoid ranking him if I stuck with my old "top-five" list template, as opposed to my new "top half-dozen" list....)  Yet he is popular with an increasing number of conservatives, despite the fact that he wasn't anything near a conservative a few short years ago.  That, in fact, is his biggest weakness:  though he's good-looking, looks younger than he is (60), has been a successful businessman, and was at least fairly successful as Governor of Massachusetts, he changes his stances on multiple important policy topics almost compulsively, which has given him the (accurate, I think) reputation for being a bit of an empty political suit.  Yet his father's popularity in Michigan, which is a very important state for the Democratic nominee to win in November and where Mr. Romney's father was governor, seems to have transfered itself to him.  Senator McCain obviously dislikes Governor Romney, but he may feel he needs him on the ticket to possibly take Michigan away from the Democrats and at least compete in Massachusetts and New Jersey, while shoring-up support in some heavily-Mormon Western states...and put the Democrats into an electoral panic.  If Governor Romney were chosen, it would be a Kennedy/Johnson-esque ticket in one (and probably only one) sense:  it might be electorally necessary, but they'll most likely detest each other.

* The Second Tier *

Here are several other individuals the McCain campaign might be considering seriously to be potential running mates (in alphabetical order), all but one of whom are Republicans:

Haley Barbour; Charlie Crist; Rudy Giuliani; Lindsey Graham; Chuck Hagel; Mike Huckabee; Kay Bailey Hutchison; Joe Lieberman (Independent-Democrat); David Petraeus (probably a Republican, though he's not yet a politician); Rob Portman; Colin Powell; Condoleeza Rice; Mark Sanford; Olympia Snowe; and any of two dozen other politicians and businesspeople who do not have the last name "Bush."  (This is to suggest that I doubt seriously if ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush will be chosen....)


(Saturday, May 31 Update)

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press, after speaking with Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak (the Chairman of Senator Obama's Minnesota campaign), has this morning reported that the Obama camp has contacted officials at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul (just down the road from where I presently reside) in the hopes that Senator Obama can hold a general-election-style rally there on Tuesday evening at approximately 8 p.m. Central Time (9 p.m. ET; 2 a.m. GMT).

This is important because on Tuesday evening, the final nominating contests will occur (the Montana and South Dakota primaries), and indications are that the proposed Saint Paul event--which is said to be free and open to all--will be part victory rally (in which Senator Obama hopes to send a clear message that he has won the majority of delegates and therefore should be his party's nominee) and part metaphorical/audacious kick to the solar plexus of the Republican nominee-presumptive, Senator John McCain, who will be the main focus of the Republican National Convention when it meets in the same building in early September.

In a sense, if the Xcel clears its schedule and gives the Obama camp the go-ahead, the "McCain vs. Obama" general election cycle both will and--given the unfinished business the Democrats still have to clear up--will not start Tuesday evening in Saint Paul.


Ted said...

Here's an important piece of advice: If it looks like it's going to be McCain/Palin anyway (and that should be a "no brainer" for Team McCain), McCain should announce NOW or VERY SOON, rather than later towards the convention. There's currently a growing chorus for Obama/Hillary (as VP) ticket (in fact the Dems are likely aware of the Palin phenomenon). If the GOP waits while movement for Hillary as VP grows -- even worse until after it is solidified that Hillary will/could be VP pick -- selecting Palin will be portrayed by Dems/liberal media more as a reaction by GOP selecting its own female (overshawdoing Palin's own remarkable assets), rather than McCain taking the lead on this. Selecting Palin now or early (contrary to the punditocracy) will mean McCain will be seen as driving the course of this campaign overwhelmingly, and the DEMS will be seen as merely reacting. And, there's absoultely no down-side to this because even if Hillary is a no-go as VP for Obama, the GOP gains by acting early. McCain the maverick. Palin the maverick. Do it now!

There's no reason, and actually substantial negative, in McCain waiting to see what the Dems do first insofar as his picking Palin as VP, because, no matter who Obama picks, Palin is by far (and I mean far) the best pick for McCain and the GOP, especially in this time of GOP woes. The GOP can be seen as the party of real 'change' (albeit I hate that mantra, change, change, bla bla), while not really having to change from GOP core conservative values, which Palin more than represents.

In light of the current oil/energy situation, as well as the disaffected female Hillary voters situation, and growing focus on McCain's age and health, Palin is more than perfect -- now.

(Perhaps Team McCain is already on to this.)

Hasslington said...

Ted, good thoughts. I'm an Obama supporter, but if I were a McCain strategist, I would tell him to pick his running mate quite soon (which is what you're suggesting).

Governor Palin would be the strongest "early" pick, as she is a "two-fer" of sorts--young and female. It would generate excitement in the G.O.P. (and excitement is what the G.O.P. needs badly). She is also a very capable chief executive, of course, and a rising star with conservatives, both of which are also electorally important....

If Senator McCain takes a "wait-and-see" approach and still selects Governor Palin a few months from now, he may (I emphasize "may") look as though he's trying to counterbalance a possible Obama running mate selection. (This may force him to select someone else to avoid looking crass and overly-calculating.)

If he waits and selects someone else, he may miss out on what she might bring to the ticket.

So if I were involved in his campaign, I (like you) would be urging him to select her as his running mate, and do so sometime in the next two weeks.

Gail said...

McCain runs the risk of alienating women if he chooses Jindal over Palin. Some say that Palin is too young and inexperienced. But Palin is 7 years older than Jindal and has several more years of executive experience than Jindal. It may look like McCain is bending over backwards to NOT choose a woman as his VP if he chooses Jindal.

Hasslington said...


I think they'd both be strong, somewhat audacious choices, but Palin seems to bring a little bit more to the table for Senator McCain during this particular election cycle: she might be a bit more palatable than Jindal to a certain percentage of independent female voters this time around, and she's taken a few more independent-minded "maverick" stands than he has while avoiding alienating conservatives. (That takes talent, which is why I rated her #1.) In that sense, she'd actually be the "safer" choice. (At not-quite 37, Jindal has a lot of time to get more "seasoned" at the national level.)

Then again, both of them made my top half-dozen list for a reason....

My goodness, I should watch myself--I'm sounding like a Republican strategist....

Ted said...

There’s been noted buzz of late on rising GOP star Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal as a McCain prospective Veep. Certainly Jindal is more than very good, However, I believe there’s some “strategerie” going on here. The “real” beneficiary of the Jindal talk is the other rising GOP star, Alaska Gov Sarah Palin. Palin’s got everything that Jindal has (new/exciting, wildly popular, ethics and spending reformer, core conservative etc.) and more — mother of 5 w/remarkable bio, she’s 8 yrs older than Jindal, Alaska energy issue, and set to garner the disenfranchised female Hillary voter (I don’t believe Dem leaders can dump Obama).

Getting Jindal’s name out first — at Team McCain’s BBQ for instance — sets the stage for the obvious choice, Palin. For example, albeit Rush Limbaugh introduced Palin’s name, and later Jindal’s as good Veep choices, of late Rush has been praising the name of Jindal while on his very same shows discussing at great length the frustrated female Hillary voter and the global warming hysteria/need for energy development, without mentioning Palin’s name as the obvious beneficiary of those two issues. Rush walks a fine line, introducing Palin, yet can’t, at least yet, reiterate much, knowing that his praises may be counter-productive to many a swing, moderate and/or formerly Dem voter (who’s against Obama and switching to McCain). Moreover, while I feel that Palin has more real accomplishment, experience and qualification than Obama (and Hillary combined, albeit w/Obama the bar is pretty low), the only potential argument against Palin is she’s a newbie to the national scene. By having Jindal out there first as a VP prospect “passing” the “experience” and “new to the national scene” test, implicitly passes Palin as well. (For that matter Palin’s got as much if not more experience and accomplishment than Florida Gov Crist who’s only been Gov for 2 yrs — and the media has been touting Crist as a VP prospect.)

That’s my thinking at least.

Hasslington said...

If we're anywhere near prescient (and lucky) in our picks we could have two female running mates this time around (Palin, my #1 for McCain, and Sebelius, my #3 for Obama--or some other combination...). Such a scenario could prove interesting....

(Then again, there is always the possibility that either or both of them chooses a running mate from out of the blue, which could prove to be entertaining.)

Incidentally, MSNBC's "veepstakes" (which is structured in a silly, arbitrary manner...if anything, it should be set up by region--West, South, Midwest, Northeast) has Palin, Thune, Ridge, Jindal, Pawlenty, and Romney all leading a "rival" thus far to advance to the next round. I'm a bit disappointed that the Democrats don't have a "veepstakes" yet, but then again I guess that's a bit premature at this point....