Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Romney Out, Positioned for VP?

As you all know, the Ashbrook Center always has a serious presence at the annual CPAC conference in Washington. The same is true this year. Roger Beckett, Marv Krinsky, and a number of our students are there. We will give the Ashbrook Award tomorrow night.

But the most interesting thing I want to report to you is this: Mitt Romney just set Senator McCain up to get the most positive reception he could from such a conservative audience. Romney ended his speech ten minutes ago. The critical part of the speech is that he’s withdrawing from the race and effectively endorsing McCain. Thereby, Romney is, in my opinion, setting himself up to be seriously considered for VP. He may have out-clevered the clever Huckabee.

McCain is supposed to speak a few hours from now at CPAC. Everyone believed that he would be booed. Now, after everyone overcomes the shock, he is likely to get a warm reception and will, therefore, be the GOP nominee with authority. If I get any further reports, I will pass them along.

Discussions - 19 Comments

Brilliant. Now it's more than several notches of respect he's added to my estimation of him. Now let's see if McCain is clever enough to take the olive branch.

Mitt Romney has done much better than I anticipated.

But McCain can't offer him the VP spot. For the very simple reason most Conservatives are suspicious of his conversion experience. David Frum was interviewed by Dennis Prager, {you can hear it over at Prager's site on TOWNHALL}, and said exactly that. Conservatives don't really think Romney is one of them. When asked what he thought Romney was, Frum answered "a pragmatic problem solver."

McCain has to get a guy like Jeff Sessions. A guy whose Conservative credentials are almost impeccable. Though Sessions is a Senator, and it would be a good idea to balance by picking a guy outside of the Beltway.

I think Duncan Hunter would have been a great pick, but I'm not sure he'd be a good pick for McCain. Especially since McCain has demonstrated as much contempt for the House, and especially House Republicans, as he has Conservatives in the party.

I know the fashionable thing is to ponder whether McCain will offer the VP nod to Huckabee or Romney or Thompson as a means of shoring up his conservative flank, but I wonder why we should expect him to care about conservatives at this point in the race. He has essentially locked up the GOP nomination. He doesn't need the conservatives much any more. Sure, he would be foolish to overtly poke them in the eye, as I'm certain he would like them to show up in the fall, but the typical strategy that most Republican campaigns take from this point on is to moderate themselves for the General Election. Why wouldn't McCain take on someone who would appeal to independents in the same way that he does rather than scaring independents into the arms of the Democrats?

Don't get me wrong, I'd much prefer to have Romney/Huckabee/Thompson on the ticket than Tommy Thompson or Rudy Giuliani, but I wonder if conservatives are kidding themselves thinking that McCain has any reason to work much for their support at this point.

All along their calculation has been that once they've gotten the nomination, they'll have the balance of the year to make nice with Republicans, and just point out how radical Obama and Hillary are.

It was cynical, but not ahistorical.

But this time they've gone too far. Check out Rush's website, and check out Suzanne from Hagerstown comments. She's a lifelong Republican, fought many a battle for the party, like her mother before her, and she's been taken for granted once too often. That's why McCain has little option but to reach out to a true Conservative.

Should he fail to do so, which is a possibility by the way, for McCain is nothing if not a hammerhead, then open revolt would occur on the Convention floor, with the cameras running.

McCain has triggered VAST unrest in our ranks. Republicans are aware of what a disunited party could mean not just for the McCain ticket, but for the entire Republican slate down the ballot. The party just might force McCain to pick a staunch Conservative, not because they'll want to, but because political reality will dictate such a decision.

But if McCain and his groupies continue with this "grow up" mantra, NOTHING they'll do will assuage the visceral disgust with the McCain campaign.

The party tried to use Pelosi and her San Francisco following as a bogey-man to rally support in '06. They tried to use San Francisco, with all that San Fran means, to veil the Dubai Ports deal, Harriet Meirs and that obnoxious and hateful immigration "reform" proposal. It didn't work.

Nor will a similar strategy regarding Hillary or Obama work.

The Party is trying to treat Conservatives and Conservative Christians as the Democrats do Black Americans. Id est, nothing but empty rhetoric and lip service. Conservatives DON'T have the temperament for long suffering. And they're not going to take it.

Clever in that he was scheduled to speak first? From our cold dead hands will we give Romney the VP nod. McCain is already on weak ground in with Christains, pick a Mormon with extremely liberal background and it will fail for sure. Besides, McCain rightly despise Romney as an opportunist. Romney as VP would make the GOP establishment happy, but wouldn't do much for the voters. I have no doubt that Romney did this to try to snatch the VP, and it is smart, but it won't work.

I don't think that Romney harbours any fantasy about McCain extending him an invitation to join his ticket. He knows how much McCain loathes him.

Romney could be angling for 2012. He might have concluded that McCain is going to get his doors blown open in November, and that there will be no clear standard-bearer for '12. So why not him.

I said that his flip flopping problem could be solved had he spent several years in the Conservative trenches. For then he would have had occasion to prove the authenticity of his conversion experience. Which would only leave the Mormon issue. But he would have four years to let Protestants get to know him, get to know him personally, and that might go a long way towards reducing his LDS problem with Protestants.

Clint, I agree with you...too many conservatives dislike Romney for McCain to make Romney his VP. And I disagree with Dominick that McCain doesn't need the conservative vote. He knows that he needs the conservative vote because he can't afford for them to vote Democratic. A McCain-Huckabee ticket would be a good way to unite the moderate and conservative factions of the party together.

I'm not saying that McCain doesn't need the conservative vote. Certainly he does.

What I'm saying is that he may think that, given how liberal the two Democrat candidates are, that conservatives will have little choice but to vote for McCain in the fall. Given that, he may decide to pick someone that he thinks will help him with independents and figure that conservatives will have to come along for the ride.

This VP decision is important for more than just its effect on a few voting blocs. Given McCain's age, should he win in November, his VP candidate likely becomes the immediate frontrunner for 2012. McCain may be hesitant to put himself in a position to hand over the proverbial crown to the right-wing of the party by selecting Mike Huckabee or Jeff Sessions.

Let me reiterate, I'm not advocating all of this. I'd love to see Huckabee get the VP nod. I just question whether McCain feels as much of an obligation to have a group hug with the conservatives as a lot of the rest of you seem to think he does.

A Mccain-huckabee ticket would be a good way to unite the moderate and conservatives factions of the party??!!
In order for this to be the case, one of the two would have to be actually conservative.

When I look at mccain and huckabee, I see the exact same things, albeit to different degrees: a politician who ridicules business and the free market every chance he get and who has no qualms or hesitation about attacking my belief in a truly limited government.

I'd stay home rather than cast my vote for these two peas out of the same pod.

Folks, McCain has no good reason to make any of the VP choices being bandied about, I’m sorry. To select someone the conservatives like because he has to shore up his conservative support? Get serious. No Huck, no Romney on even the short list.
McCain, faced with two radical liberals in the Dem Party, has no reason to find a “movement conservative” running mate MERELY in order to convince the right to vote American!

But there is another way.

McCain will run a careful analysis of the states and regions that voted for Bush in 2004 and the changed political conditions since then (primarily the GOP wipeout in Ohio, Ashbrookers). He needs to determine which states he has the best opportunity of taking, in light of 2004. He will know, for example, that Ohio (20 electoral votes) is virtually lost.

The clear answer is that his best opportunity lies in the Midwest-Great Lakes area. Those states were lost to Bush by very small margins in 2004. There is one excellent choice available as it happens from MN, and that’s Gov. Pawlenty. Pawlenty is a stronger conservative as well, with a fine pro-life record, great on tax cuts, and in other areas. Pawlenty won re-election in the disastrous GOP year of 2006, by about 1 percent. (Incidentally, Schlafly and Weyrich tried to get a Pawlenty for Pres. boomlet going in 2005.) Thus McCain can strengthen the ticket in an area he can seriously contest and at the same time bring on board a solid conservative who will reassure the party base.

In my opinion, the faster a Pawlenty for VP movement gets going, the better!

Dennis, I agree Pawlenty would be a strong choice. I've suggested something of the sort previously. However, Huckabee is a much better speaker and visible person right now. Also in the modern era of politics, homestate appeal is very weak in national campaigns, especially for the VP. I don't think Pawlenty makes even Minnesota a shoe in. I would be quite happy with the ticket though, and it would be wise politics.

Don't give up on Ohio in 2008 so fast either. With McCain leading the way, Ohio is very winnable.

Clint, home state/regional choices continue to play a role, and I think are always the starter. There can be other considerations, but that's where you begin.

The reason they still count isn't narrow geographical loyalty. It is that a local boy is likeliest to represent the interests and views of your state/region. You have confidence in him in that way. Especially consider that McCain's strength is in foreign affairs; he is not nearly as strong in domestic policy. Pawlenty provides a great balance in that respect. Moreover the midwest and Great Lakes states are inherently inclined to be isolationist, contrary to McCain's forward strategy. Pawlenty would provide some reassurance in that respect as well.

Huck was always a nonstarter for VP. He is a regional and religious candidate who brings constituencies that McCain will have independently anyway. If he has to bring on Huck to get conservatives and the religious right to support him against the most liberal Dem ticket ever seen, against a party that disdains America, Christianity, and the family, then McCain is already finished, and I feel certain he understands this calculus.

I accept as a theoretical proposition that no state cannot be won by the GOP (or the Dems). But Ohio's Republican Party has been wiped off the boards mostly by scandals. In 2004 Ohio had to be fiercely contested -- I was proud to be part of it -- but the state is in much worse shape today.

A Presidential candidate goes where the margin is, to states that are most likely to switch the smallest number of votes that will bring them into his column. I believe Ohio isn't there this time, but MN et al. appear to be.
It's certainly not to say he should give up on it, but Ohio doesn't make sense as the state to look to for a running mate.

Wasn't that speech McCain gave today a group hug?


Huckabee, staying in the race and depending on how well he does in any upcoming primary, is a logical choice to gain McCain social conservative/evangelical voters. After Romney's very gracious speech today, I would like to see him be VP, but do not see that he brings much electoral power to the ticket. Now do I see anyone you guys are mentioning above bringing much ooomph to the campaign.

If I were McCain, I'd wait and see if anyone came to seem inevitable prior to the convention. Is there anything that says there has to be a choice BEFORE the convention? If not, then the event would have more interest if there was something like a surprise there, like the choice of VP.

Kate, do you know a single social conservative/evangelical voter preparing to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if Huckabee is not the Republicans' Vice Presidential candidate? (apart from Ann C.)

The next president will be a Democrat. Let's not fool ourselves.

And dennis, you're right about HRC, but some conservatives do talk of voting Obama. Strange, but true.

Carl Scott,

Do tell?

We don't have any great VP choices because we didn't have any great Presidential choices. No suprise. I would love to see Huckabee be VP, but in order of best nominees as I see them: 1) Mark Sanford (SC Gov), 2) Mike Huckabee/Tim Pawlenty, 4) Mitch Daniels (IN Gov, longshot but good guy), 5) Rick Perry (TX Gov, Texas...)

Ideally the GOP could use a good candidate from the Midwest, but there is a dearth of good Republicans in the Midwest (lakes region). The only GOP govs are Pawlenty and Daniels, so they make the list by default, although they are good guys. Lastly no one should be thinking about Santorum...I shouldn't even mention it.

A personal friend, dennis, who once in a blue-moon comments here, would be my main example. Another who doesn't, an evangelical who seriously considered Huckabee. Other talk I've heard may be just talk--talk as in, "I like Obama as a person, maybe he'd be an okay president, Democrat-wise, whereas I can't stand Republican candidate so-and-so."

Carl, to be sure, in every election, people get nominated whom some really, really don't like, so I don't doubt you will find folks here and there who are threatening to bolt. But two points: 1. They hate McCain and will not be mollified by whom he picks to sit in an office in a building near the White House. And 2. Giving them the benefit of the doubt about the authenticity of their conservatism, unless they are really deluded, they will come over the next months to see that the Democratic candidate's election portends only bad things for the country and the religion they say they love. These folks, in order, will: a. Probably not actively campaign for the GOP ticket or contribute; b. End up voting for McCain-Pawlenty, however unhappily; and c. Will not except for a very very few actually vote for Hillary Clinton (Obama may be VP but cannot get the top place in 2008). All of these are guesses, hopefully more or less shrewd, but I base them on many years of observing the phases of presidential elections and an understanding of the behavior of most conservative voters. People love to say "this time, things are different"...in fact people say that every time!

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