Well, now we know: the most likely Republican nominee for President is Senator John McCain, after Mitt Romney took the martyr’s way and bowed out to keep the Republican party from destroying itself.
No doubt we’ll hear lots more from Romney in the future; he may have lost this race, but he did it in such a way as to guarantee himself a place in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates of the future. The big question now, however, is who McCain will choose as running mate. With some of the cries of outrage at him coming from the far right wing of the party, this choice could be critical.
McCain needs several things in a running mate to balance out his flaws in the eyes of the Republican Party and in the national electorate as a whole:
– He needs youth. McCain is 70, no spring chicken, even though he’s in very good health and more fit than many young men I know.
– He needs conservative credentials. McCain has gained the reputation of being more liberal than the far right of the party is comfortable with, and though he will easily gain the vote of most of the centrists, he will have problems with the core base: evangelical, conservative to a fault, and angry at Bush for his perceived betrayal in many Republican concerns.
– He needs diversity. Old white guy – ’nuff said. A running mate fitting in any minority could make a difference for him.
– He needs charisma. McCain is a good man and an honest man, but he’s also blunt and abrasive and not the smoothest talker in the room.
John McCain and Mike Huckabee is a possible pairing. The Huckster has a strong following in the far right wing of the party. He’s a minister, and the evangelical wing likes that. He’s funny and charming. But – he also has a mean streak that has come out occasionally in the race. With McCain being rather abrasive to begin with, he needs a nice guy for his second. Huckabee also does not have strong conservative credentials. Instead, he is known for voting very liberal on social issues. And there’s just something about Huckabee that makes you not quite trust him. In a long race, this pairing would probably be disastrous for the Republican Party.
John McCain and Joe Lieberman had been discussed as a great odd-couple pairing. A Republican and a discredited Democrat who made good anyway, a Jewish guy who is likeable and works with both sides beautifully. But – Lieberman has already announced he would not accept a vice presidential nomination if he were asked. Been there, done that.
John McCain and Mitt Romney would be a strong pairing. With the animosity between the two during the primaries, this is not likely to happen, even though Romney now has the strong support of the Republican base, is a nice and well-spoken guy, and certainly has the youth part sewn up. The allegations of dirty tricks in some of the Southern states, however, has probably scotched this pairing.
John McCain and Rudy Giuliani used to be my dream team, in any order; a war hero and America’s Mayor, wow. But today, both have similar flaws. Both are too liberal for the base to be comfortable, neither is strong on immigration. This is probably not the strong pairing it appears to be, though it would certainly gain much of the centrist vote. Why? The base would stay home in droves, which would almost guarantee that the Democratic vote would be stronger than the Republican.John McCain and Newt Gingrich. The retired congressman is a statesman today, running his own charitable foundations working on health care solutions and ways the government can take advantage of modern efficiencies. He’s also an amazing speaker, smooth and articulate and sensible. Unfortunately, he carries a very bad reputation from his days in the Senate, deserved or not. Gingrich could hand McCain the Republican base. However, it was the McCain-Feingold election finance reform bill that ensured Gingrich could not run for President this time round without also giving up his nonprofits, and I’m betting there is some bad blood there. Gingrich won’t be McCain’s second banana.
John McCain and – Condoleeza Rice. This is a massive wild card. But – Condi has strong conservative credentials and is universally respected, though questions were raised about her last trip to the Middle East. She is experienced, smart, and tough. Her black cultural credentials are strong, as she’s from Birmingham and a friend and schoolmate was killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963. And with a likely Clinton-Obama pairing, she knocks out the Democratic minority aces of a black and a woman. This pairing would be able to carry the South, a critical determination of the national election. Condi would also carry a large portion of the black and female votes. McCain has strong Hispanic support. Condi would bring out the base. McCain would easily carry the military vote.
The problem? Condi may refuse to run. Bush had to talk her into taking the Secretary of State job (that put her fourth in line for the presidency, though no one has ever mentioned it – the first black and first woman that close to being president ever!) and she has more than once expressed a desire to return to academia and get out of politics.
Of the many pairings mentioned so far, McCain-Rice is probably the strongest. The far left would hate hate hate this duo. But the base would like it, as Condi has never lost their support despite being in the Bush administration (which lost the base’s support a while back), and the center right and many of the center left would like it better than the hard left choices that are being presented by the Democrat Party.
If McCain is smart, though, he won’t announce a running mate until after he has the Republican election completed. He’s winning now without a running mate, and waiting will ensure that he can freely choose a mate who will help him win the national elections without a huge backlash from the base. My prediction: he’ll choose Giuliani after the Republican convention. But it’s all still up in the air right now.