Saturday, June 23, 2012

Race for the White House

I feel like keeping it pretty brief this week. By next weekend, it is very possible that the political discussion will be about the impact of Supreme Court decisions, and that will obviously be a huge story.

This past week, a major story involved the Fast and Furious investigation, which is a somewhat complicated news story that has not been gaining major mention, outside of conservative circles. Congressional Republicans have been pushing very hard for answers from the Obama Administration though regarding what they see is a scandal that involved the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has now voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over a standoff regarding the turning over of documents and many people were further surprised this past week when the Obama Administration exerted Executive Privilege for the first time, refusing to give further information over what they knew about the whole set of circumstances. While other recent Presidents have also exerted Executive Privilege, though typically over national security manners, the very concept often brings up calls of Watergate and cover-ups. The "Fast and Furious" story is all but certain to garner more headlines, now that these developments have been broken, but it remains to be seen whether many people other than the most ardent partisans on both sides of the aisle truly are going to pay much mind. Of course, it has to be said that Barack Obama and some of his strongest Democrat supporters in Congress spoke out quite adamantly against an Administration exerting Executive Privilege under the Presidency of George W. Bush.

We are just a little over two months away now from the opening of the Republican National Convention in  Florida, and the Romney campaign is assuredly busy preparing themes and agendas for the highly scripted television event. Many now expect one of the speakers at the convention to be Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who formally endorsed Romney a couple of weeks ago, even though his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, technically remains a GOP Presidential candidate. There is certain to be much backstage drama between now and the convention as the Romney people hope to not have demonstrations or outbursts from Ron Paul delegates overshadow the "coronation" of the new Republican nominee. In any event, it appears that after a contentious primary season, this GOP convention will be about as unified  as all the other ones in recent decades. On the other side, while Barack Obama is going to be renominated without any snags, there are a lot of other concerns about the timing and location of the North Carolina confab. Some headlines have recently been produced regarding prominent Democrats who have announced earlier they will be skipping the convention and not attending the event. That is indication that these Democrats feel that being tied too closely to Obama and the national party would be a hindrance for their own races in November. Among those who announced intentions to not go to the convention are West Virginia's Governor, new U.S. Senator, and sole Democrat U.S. House member, all of whom are up for reelection this year.

A large part of these conventions of course typically involve the unveiling of a Vice Presidential candidate. On the Democrat side, some may wish Joe Biden would find a way to be pushed aside, but he has made comments about how the signs have already been printed so there is "no way out" and that is probably true for the Democrats, for better or worse.

On the GOP side, well over a dozen names have been mentioned in recent weeks as potential running mates for Mitt Romney and while the process of vetting these candidates is underway, nobody knows for certain if Romney will go the traditional route of announcing the pick very shortly before the convention of if the unveiling could take place as early as the month of July.

This past week, Florida Senator and recent author Marco Rubio was mentioned as a story indicated that was not formally being vetted by the Romney team and had not been asked to turn over any documents.That led to a belief that Rubio, a leading Hispanic political figure, was completely out of the running, but later that same day, Mitt Romney took the very unusual step of stating publicly that Rubio was definitely being vetted and was under consideration. As for the Florida Senator who had spent months publicly ruling out a spot on the ticket, his remarks this past week, while sufficiently vague, seem to now indicate that he would be more than willing to run with Mitt Romney is asked.

I really like Marco Rubio and think he has an almost unlimited political future,and while selecting him would greatly excite the GOP base,and could pay strong dividends both in the key state of Florida and as the first Latino ever to be nominated for national office, I would hope that everything that could possibly be known about Rubio's background and potential vulnerabilities is thoroughly found out and deliberated before he would advance to the Veepstake Finals.

Another politico who had ruled out a VP spot and who can probably now be officially crossed out is outgoing Governor Mitch Daniels who has accepted a new job as President of Purdue University beginning next year.

Besides for Rubio, the Republican names listed as the "hottest prospects" are Ohio Senator Rob Portman and this past week, there has been increased chatter about former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who briefly ran for the nomination before dropping out and then taking a position in the Romney campaign. Reports this week also indicate that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the high-profile Chairman of the House Budget Committee is also being vetted.

If Romney is looking for a female running mate, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte are probably getting consideration, but I think those are unlikely picks, especially after the Sarah Palin saga of 2008.

To speculate, I would say that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Dakota Senator John Thune are definitely contenders and for good reason. I would also be quite excited about a ticket that would include Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and for a very long time, I thought that was the ticket that made the most sense, but over the past couple of months, there has been a lot less mentioned about McDonnell, perhaps due to concerns that his selection could open up some questions about social issues, while Republicans would prefer to focus on the economy. Nonetheless, I still think McDonnell would be a very strong addition to the ticket and would help a great deal in the key battleground state of Virginia.

Of course, in a perfect political world, I feel the absolute best candidate to be Vice President of the United States would former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, but for a variety of reasons, he is probably not going to be among the finalists.

In conclusion, I think Governor Romney has many strong options for a number two upon which to select (as well as a handful of some really bad ideas which I believe he will be smart enough to pass on.) The way the race currently stands, a "game changer" is probably not needed, as the Romney Campaign seems to have the makings of a winning message and political landscape against the Democrats,and thus the most important thing is that the selection of a running-mate be seen as credible and not harmful.

With that in mind, a nomination of Rob Portman, no matter how "unexciting" the media might declare it, continues to make a lot of sense.