Conventional wisdom holds that the vice president matters in the general election—which is why we’re smack dab in the middle of the frenzied “veepstakes,” that period of time where vice presidential candidate wannabes try to impress the presidential candidate, and the candidate’s team vets and courts them.
Recent history suggests, though, that veeps don’t matter all that much in the general election, except for one crucial factor (which John McCain discovered in 2008): A candidate should be a credible replacement for the president.
Presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney has plenty of options on that front. The most interesting candidates are the non-white-guys, we think, though we included one for good measure.
Marco Rubio: The Cuban-American senator from Florida has been at the front of the pack for some time. The outspoken 40-year-old has been trying to stem the party’s bleeding of Latino voters by creating an alternative to the DREAM Act—but his plan would not offer immigrant youths raised in America a path to citizenship. Rubio also gave a policy-heavy speech—unlike, say, anything we’ve heard from either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney this campaign season—at the Brookings Institute last week, where he positioned himself as friendly to bipartisanship.
Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor won’t touch anything race-related with a ten-foot pole, at least not directly. His focus on education in the state may make him a useful pick for Romney—since school reform is on everyone’s minds these days. The problem? His push for school vouchers actually reduces choice.
Susana Martinez: New Mexico’s governor is a Latina who takes a hard line on immigration; she’s been trying to get rid of a law that lets undocumented immigrants apply for drivers’ license. She is also against same-sex marriage, a stance that lost her a hair dresser, but may very well find her a place on Romney’s team.
Kelly Ayotte: The New Hampshire senator is a former state prosecutor and a conservative Republican. She supports Arizona’s S.B. 1070, doesn’t think climate change evidence is “conclusive,” doesn’t support cost-of-living increases in minimum wage, opposes same-sex marriage, and abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother. But, she’s a woman.
Bob McDonnell: The Virginia governor is one more member of the short list, and observers say he’s begun holding off on signing bills in his home state because of how it may play on the national stage if he’s selected to be Romney’s number two. McDonnell’s in a tough spot. In 2010, the state assembly shifted to a Republican majority—and members have been pushing increasingly conservative bills (“transvaginal ultrasounds” anyone?). The problem? McDonnell had enthusiastically embraced the controversial lawmaking—which may be too much for even Romney to swallow.