Exciting, radical tickets on both sides. History bound to be made. Virtual fireworks echoing across the country. So four years ago.
And Governor Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick will probably show it.
Surprisingly or not, the 2012 election is not nearly as riveting as that in 2008. Our president’s supporters seem to have lost much of their spark, with disappointment weighing down many Americans. A candidate who promised the impossible (and reasonably, could not entirely deliver) is now simply an unexciting incumbent. On the other side, an astute businessman who promises to fix the economy comes from a party that lost its reputation in a number of social issues a while back, offering an uninspiring vision for the future.
The last time a Republican faced Obama, Senator John McCain in 2008, he felt a strong need to pick someone who would re-energize the flagging party – Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. We all know how that turned out– rather less than swimmingly. But this time, as Obama is at a low, Romney does not seem nearly as pressed as McCain to tap someone extraordinary. He definitely could. Check out his options – a minority? (Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Bobby Jindal) A woman? (Sen. Kelly Ayotte) A minority woman? (Gov. Susana Martinez, Gov. Nikki Haley, or even Sec. Condoleezza Rice!)
But Romney, who seems to think he already has the upper hand over Obama, looks like he wants to play to safe – extremely safe. We’re talking Tim Pawlenty safe. He seems confident that his message will resonate with Americans, and does not feel the need for a Hail Mary. There are a number of reasons he might want to – one is that there might be too much history on his ticket already. As the first major Mormon candidate, Romney is likely hesitant to tempt fate too much with an equally unconventional pick. Obama did the same four years ago, naming Joe Biden, and the play worked for him.
Another reason may be that Republicans are not eager to pander twice in a row, and seriously want someone qualified (a novel idea, no?) for the nation’s second post. A third might be that, for some reason, politicians still believe that bottom-half picks can affect swing states, and the appropriately bland candidate, who, say, might be from Minnesota, like Governor Pawlenty, or Ohio, like Senator Rob Portman, could tip the race. Besides, unexciting candidates are tried and tested. Candidates have won with them before – and the other option might just be all-too-radical for a racially predictable party such as the Republicans.
The unforgettable iceberg of Sarah Palin’s candidacy is not easy to forget merely four years in the future. Any unconventional candidate is bound to raise the same flags she did. And moderate voters will not be duped by someone of their race or gender if the candidate offers radical views – on the left or right. Because of that, qualified, possibly exciting candidates such as Susana Martinez and Kelly Ayotte might not be taken seriously – even if the gender card is not explicitly played, there will be a presumption that it has after the Palin fiasco. Jindal and Rubio picks will likely draw accusations of race pandering – and, newcomers to national politics, their readiness will definitely come into question.
Perhaps it is in Romney’s best interest to stick with a qualified, competent, candidate. Though many may not be thrilled with a Pawlenty, Portman, or even a Bob McDonnell pick, it does seem to make sense. Whether the ticket energizes may actually be less important than whether the ticket ultimately delivers.
Photo credit: The Colbert Report, via Tumblr.