It’s fun to play the “Who will Romney pick as VP?” parlor game, but the identity of who Romney selects won’t have an impact on the election in November. As I’ve been saying since April, Romney is going to win in an electoral college landslide. The decisive factor in that victory will be President Obama’s poor performance these past three and a half years, not who Romney selects as VP. The sample skewed polls the mainstream media have been pushing lately are meaningless exercises in liberal wishful thinking. The intensity of opposition to the odious statism practiced by Obama and his cronies is so great, tea party activists will literally crawl over broken glass to get to the polls on election day. The get-out-the-vote effort they will launch will be an historic turning point in American political history.
Rob Portman is one name on everyone’s short list for VP, but outside of Ohio, very few people know much about him. Who is Rob Portman and why is he on Romney’s short list?
A native of Ohio, Portman attended Dartmouth and the University of Michigan Law School, served a dozen years in Congress, had a cup of coffee as George W. Bush’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and was handily elected to the United States Senate from Ohio in 2010.
His political philosophy and personal style is standard brand Republican establishment. There’s little to see in his background that suggests he’s particularly sympathetic to the tea party’s core values of constitutionally limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility. The tea party friendly Club for Growth, for instance, rates Portman as only the 29th most conservative Senator–tied with the recently defeated Richard Lugar of Indiana, defender of the Republican establishment.
But Portman’s ideological blandness will have little to do with his performance as a potential VP candidate. He’s smart, loyal, and won’t make many unforced errors. And in this election, the VP candidate’s ability to handle the job of President if that need arises will be the key point upon which the Romney team will focus. Perhaps most important to those calculating the odds that he will be picked as VP is the observation that Romney seems very comfortable with his cautious, buttoned down, intelligent reliability.
Portman does get some style points for his skill and interest in canoeing and kayaking. In fact, he wrote an article recently about a kayaking adventure he had in China. As such, Portman has enough experience navigating through rough waters to predict that, if Romney selects him for the VP slot, he won’t do anything during the campaign that will capsize the good ship Romney.
Some suggest that putting Portman on the ticket may help Romney win Ohio. Only two other potential VP candidates–Rubio in Florida and McDonnell in Virginia–have the claimed potential to bring some swing state electoral college votes along with them. While any of these three are likely to move the electoral needle ever so slightly towards Romney in their home states, it’s unlikely that having a home stater in the VP slot will be the difference that turns any of these states from blue to red in November.
In fact, it’s been over a half a century since any VP candidate has brought along their home state’s electoral college votes. That took place in 1960, when John Kennedy’s VP–Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson–delivered the electoral college votes of Texas for his ticket. Delivered is exactly the right word to use in this case, because Kennedy’s slim 46,000 vote margin in Texas out of 2.2 million cast votes was said to have been powered by last minute votes suddenly “discovered” by Johnson’s cronies in notoriously corrupt Democratic counties.
The biggest negative for Romney in picking Portman to be his VP is his association with the George W. Bush Administration. In addition to the short year he spent heading up OMB, Portman also spent a year heading up the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Portman looks more like a get along, go along ticket puncher than a decisive executive. After all, during his year at OMB, we added another half a trillion or so to the national debt. Picture the VP debate with Biden in which Portman points out that the Obama administration’s record of adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the national debt is “financially reckless extremism” while the half a trillion added to the debt during his year on watch was dramatically better.
On balance though, Rob Portman as Romney’s VP won’t prevent the coming Romney landslide.
The problem with Portman, however, will be evident the day after the election, when the tea party activists responsible for record levels of get-out-the-vote start holding the Romney Administration’s feet to the fire. A tea party friendly VP could play a key role during this period, helping tea party activists force establishment Republicans in the Romney Administration to align more closely with the three core values of the movement–constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. The tea party will be pushing for an immediate and complete repeal of Obamacare, and establishment Republicans will likely resist this necessary action.
Portman may not be able to add a lot of value here. President Romney will be best served by a VP who can bridge the gap between establishment Republicans and tea party activists. In many respects, Portman as VP can be seen as “Cheney light.” While Cheney did a great job as Bush’s VP, times have changed. After he’s elected, Romney will not need “Cheney light” as his VP. He’ll need someone with the political skills to harness the energy of the tea party into a politically effective counterweight to all those get along, go along establishment Republicans who will be swarming the Beltway, looking to build their own nests of cronyism in the corridors of power.
If Portman is the VP pick, he’ll need to bring every ounce of his kayaking skills to the job. Because the tea party will guarantee plenty of political rapids for every get along, go along Republican in the coming Romney Administration.
Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.