Friday, April 20, 2012

Veep Power Rankings



Okay, when coming up with the GOP12 Veep Power Ranking score, there are two things you have to feed into your Crockpot – the strength of the pick and the likelihood of it.

For example, Ronald Reagan would be a really good pick, but he’s not a likely one, so you have to balance those two factors out.

The overall score I give will be the average of those two. When there's a tie, I assign intangibles as the breaker.

I tend to break Veep candidates into two categories.

Some candidates have purely local appeal and you pick them to win a key state (it’s arguable whether that actually works). Bob McDonnell is one of these options.

Others have national appeal, and you pick them regardless of which state they’re from. Chris Christie is one of these. He wouldn’t carry New Jersey for Romney, but he’d have a national effect.

Other candidates, like Marco Rubio, are double-threats. Rubio is from a must-win state (Florida) and would also energize Republicans across the country.

And finally, a lot of people chat about "governing choices", which are picks that aren't so much about good politics as they are good governing. That's overrated and doesn't happen. The two most common examples -- Joe Biden and Dick Cheney -- don't work. If you remember, both were picked to overcome the nominee's lack of foreign policy experience. Veep picks are entirely political, and if good governance is a side-benefit, then that's gravy.


1. MARCO RUBIO

Here’s the key thing most people are missing. Marco Rubio is the safe pick. Yes, the safe pick. That flies against the current narrative that Rob Portman is the Volvo with the Cupholder Airbag, but please hear me out on this.

Two things are conspiring to turn Rubio into the safe pick.

The first… polls. Barack Obama has defied political laws by remaining the prohibitive favorite for reelection in the midst of a horrible economy, miserable gas prices, an exploding deficit, and the fact that only 29% think the country is headed in the right direction, while 64% think it’s on the wrong track. Even more damaging, he hasn’t crafted a compelling vision for how to turn that runaway train onto the right track, and has offered little to zilch in the way of an agenda.

Yet for all that, he’s still the front-runner. Virginia looks probable for Obama, North Carolina very possible, Florida a toss-up, Ohio a dogfight, and he’s up big in western states like Colorado and Nevada.

In other words, he’s got a shot at making the 2012 map look very much like the 2008 one. And he won big in 2008.

So here’s the context of Romney’s vice-presidential pick – it’s a fight to stay competitive in states he has to win, all while Barack Obama can aggressively wage war in Romney strongholds.

Mitt won’t have a financial or organizational advantage anymore, he won’t have the powers of incumbency, and he won’t get a better personality or find a hidden immunity idol for all his flip-flops. Even worse, Romney’s rhetoric on immigration during the primaries will make him fall further behind among Hispanics. Obama will be making inroads in Arizona, shoring up New Mexico and Nevada, and nearing 70% with Hispanics when he really unloads on Romney’s immigration stuff.

In other words, leading up to the convention, Team Romney will look at all these things and realize that its 4% deficit in national polls is far worse than just a 4% deficit. Romney will be making his pick in that political environment.

Now… Rob Portman, the “safe pick” can’t do anything to neutralize Obama’s financial and organizational advantage. He can’t help reverse an enthusiasm gap that’s actually developing and that favors Democrats. He can’t help Romney recover with Hispanics, and face it, unless Mitt is competitive in Nevada and Colorado, he can’t spend enough time or money in Ohio and Florida to win.

In other words, in an election with a 4% difference, Rob Portman can’t do anything to help overcome anything leading to that deficit. In that environment, the “safe pick” becomes the risky one, and the risky pick actually becomes the safe one.

Now we all know that Mitt’s supposedly traumatized by what happened in ’08 when McCain took a risk on Palin. But remember, SNL didn’t sink McCain/Palin. The economy did. Much of the intense hatred for her developed after the election and as her celebrity continued to grow, and most critics agree that even though she might have been a bad pick from a “This person might be one heartbeat away from the presidency” perspective, she was a pretty good one from a political perspective.

How much closer would McCain/Pawlenty have come against Obama?

In essence, Romney/Portman would be the 2012 version of McCain/Pawlenty. Moderate Republican no one likes paired with a conservative, low-key, Midwestern governor whose homestate you want to pick off.

How much closer would McCain have come with 2008's version of the safe pick -- Tim Pawlenty? And how is Portman much more compelling than Pawlenty?

That’s why Rubio, I think, is actually the “safe” pick because he’s the guy you’d have to take if you’re facing the political circumstances that Romney will probably face when he makes a pick.

Rubio alone could help defray an enthusiasm gap. Rubio alone could help repair Romney’s damage among Hispanics. Rubio alone could drive a ridiculous increase in fundraising. Rubio alone could change the dynamics that make a 4% deficit actually traversable.With all that in mind, Rubio becomes the safe pick.

Now, 700 words later, the second reason Romney will lean toward Rubio is that he always does the safe thing, even if the safe thing doesn’t look safe.

In Massachusetts, his health care program was plenty safe, but not in a national GOP primary. Mitt is smart and knows that safety is relative. If you’re treading water in the middle of a backyard pool, you’re fine. If you’re treading water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a James Horner soundtrack around you, you’re not. See, safety is relative.

Onto Rubio.

In addition to being able to do the things I just listed, he’s smart, fluent on policy, looks great, and very importantly, his opponents will have trouble making him look extreme. That’s huge.

Yes, Rubio’s new to the stage, and there’s the possibility he could be like when you’re at a movie matinee; then step out into the sun, and are like “AAH!” and actually have an excuse other than rank vanity and stupidity to put on your aviator’s. He could have a moment like that.

But Rubio is blessed with a much more formidable set of skills at handling the big stage than Palin, and he’s already far more a national figure than Palin ever was before being picked, so it’s not like he doesn’t have some experience with the bright lights.

Okay…. next I’m going to turn into a grandfather or grandmother. He needs to TALK SLOWER and SMILE MORE, because he has a killer smile, but you’d hardly know it.

I can see why Chris Martin shouldn’t smile, I can see why John Sununu doesn’t, and I can certainly see why the cast of Glee should have to sing at a Requiem just for the sake of humanity, but Rubio needs to be smiling.

That’s not a fluff suggestion. It could be the difference between being president one day and being a relative has-been who curses The Washington Post and kicks his own dog in between bottles of whiskey, drawn shades, and playing Beethoven on an organ at midnight (If that sounds like the Phantom of the Opera mixed with the main guy from The Artist, yes, you’ve got the picture).

Strength of pick: #2
Likelihood: #2
Overall: #1


2. ROB PORTMAN

Rob Portman is sort of like the "Most Interesting Man in the World’s" polar opposite, and I can already imagine the Dos Equis ad campaign around him:

“When Rob Portman says he’ll leave his office at 5 PM, he gets home at 4:58 PM.”

“When Rob Portman is in a traffic jam on the highway, he finds the nearest exit, takes an alternate route for 3 blocks, then merges onto the highway again -- 500 meters beyond the road construction.”

“When Rob Portman has to fill out a form at Wells Fargo in red ink only, he already picked up a 100 count package of red pens last weekend at CVS.”

Romney & Portman would do a great job with your taxes, your lawsuit, or your wake. Less interesting as a vaudeville act. Even less interesting as best friends in a buddy, road trip comedy.

And we also know he’s not charismatic, BUT… he is likable. People often conflate the two, but they’re not the same. Dictators are charismatic but not likable; dentists are likable but not charismatic. Portman is more like a dentist, and maybe that’s good. Maybe voters think a little root canal is necessary for the adults and a cherry fluoride treatment for the kids.

Substantively, he has solid conservative credentials behind him. I went all Andrew Kacynski for a few hours and looked for something that could cause him problems with the base, but all I found was pro-life this, pro-life that, lower taxes then, lower taxes now, hawkish here and hawkish there. It’s like a political Old McDonald’s Song, and there ain’t a chicken’s skeleton in the whole barn.

So he checks all the right ideological boxes.

Further, he would be a fantastic pick if Romney and Obama are genuinely tied in August, or if Romney is genuinely ahead, because he’d help reinforce Romney’s winning message that he’s competent and can turn things around. Portman also looks competent, and exactly how Gore reinforced Clinton’s image, Portman could solidify Mitt’s.

As for negatives, there was that whole stint as Bush’s budget guy when the deficit exploded. Even though Politifact decided it was “half-true” that he figured into the combustion, it makes Rob vulnerable to charges that Bush is coming back to the budget, and Democrats will only be too happy to bring George W. Bush into the race. That’s a serious drawback to the guy who’s generally considered the safe pick.

But again, if Romney is dealing with a deficit, it’s dangerous to pick Portman. If he’s ahead or tied, it’s a white-haired, wise decision.

Strength of Pick: #5
Likelihood: #1
Overall: #2


3. CHRIS CHRISTIE

He’s another one of those Veeps who could help across the nation; not just in his homestate like Bob McDonnell or Rob Portman.For that alone, he’s a top consideration, but there’s much more to recommend Christie.

He’s still extraordinarily popular in New Jersey (as a Republican, no less), he’s got a strong record, and he connects with people even when he’s yelling at them. That’s a remarkable gift, usually reserved for the U.S. Coast Guard and Phil Jackson.

There’s another thing about Christie people often miss. He’s warm and relatable, and can connect with common folks in a way Romney can’t. Remember, that’s what Biden was for. Christie could bring it in spades and be Romney’s translator to the real people.

If this election does come down to a dialogue about tough choices and not dogs, then Christie could make the sell about containing government growth and stodginess better than any other Veep (Ryan could make the best powerpoints, but he should hand Christie the pointer, or better yet – hand him a bazooka, which he could fire into the screen when he wants to go to the next slide).

The upside for putting Christie on the ticket is massive, BUT… he also carries more risks than the other top contenders.

For one, the election could turn into the Chris Christie show, and Romney desperately wants it to be about the Obama record.

The media is fairly tired of Obama, Romney, and Biden, so the new guy or gal in the mix will get massive coverage. If it’s someone like Portman, okay, it’s a weekend of stories; then you’re onto pre-buttal speeches and post-buttle tweets about pre-buttle Facebook updates and mid-buttal conference calls about post-modern post-buttals.

But Christie?

He’d be a never-ending fount of material and could be a serious distraction for Romney.There’s also the chance that his shtick could grow thin and that, just when everything is running smoothly, he really blows it by punching an 8 year old boy for trying to unionize his lemonade stand; then sending the Youtube of it to everyone in the media (you know his office would so do it).

Strength of pick: #3
Likelihood: #4
Overall: #3


4. JOHN THUNE

It’s official. He’s too handsome. How many times have you read a Veepstake guide that says something like “John Thune’s chief qualification seems to be that he’s handsome.”

That’s kind of true and kind of not true (It’s like Long John Silver – you could argue he was a goodie, but also that he was a baddie, which is what made him such a compelling character). Yes, Thune seems to have been saddled with this idea that he’s good looking and nothing else.

Well, here’s what else he is: The chairman of the Senate Republican conference, which makes him the Senate’s third-ranking Republican, and though his time in the Senate has been relatively brief (he was elected in 2004), he’s earned himself the reputation of being a serious and thoughtful (if somewhat conventional) political mind. Before coming to the Senate, he was a also member of the House (and actually stuck to his pledge to serve just three terms)!

And there’s this – he is an extraordinarily successful politician. South Dakota, obviously, isn’t the United States, but he won his House seat by a record margin and also ran unopposed in his 2010 Senate reelection bid. Do you know how rare it is to be unopposed in something? Even the Red Cross has to use the U.S. mail system to send things!

Thune wins elections, and he’d bring that intangible to the ticket.

Now sure, he doesn’t have the executive experience of Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Bob McDonnell. But he’d be the #2 on the ticket, and people don’t hold the underling to unbelievably high standards. Dan Quayle and Joe Biden immediately come to mind (As does Jafar. Have you ever noticed that super dumb characters are always paired up with the villain in Disney movies, and the villain is always really smart except he chooses a parrot with a stutter to carry out his plan to destroy the world?).

However, there are a few “however’s” about Thune.

First is that, even though he’s conservative, he’s not a charismatic one who can galvanize the base and raise the ideological blood pressure like Palin. Conservatives would applaud politely, but he wouldn’t have the grassroots getting out of their chairs.

Second problem is that he’s from South Dakota, which isn’t a battleground state, and there’s still the perception out there that you have to pick someone from a critical state.

Third is that if you go digging into his record, you will quickly find a bunch of earmarks. Thune has pushed for and brought loads of bacon home to South Dakota. He also voted for TARP, and has pretty much set the course of a guy who wants to be in Senate leadership the rest of his life. That’s never great for presidential designs. So those are some drawbacks.

The positives?

The ticket would be really good looking. Clinton-Gore looked great together. Obama and Obama looked great together (he was so sharp that he canceled Biden out), and Romney-Thune would present a very appealing team.

Thune is one of the most disciplined politicians out there, yet he doesn’t have the dull factor that often accompanies discipline. He wouldn’t say the wrong thing, and he’d look good saying the right things (Senators who ascend to his ranks are often quite good at controlling message and, sometimes, hormones).

He’s also a strong evangelical without seeming confrontational or intolerant, and could be a formidable weapon in reaching out to that community.

And once again, don’t discount how great the ticket would look with him, and don’t discount how important that is.

Strength of pick: #4
Likelihood of pick: #5
Overall: #4


5. MIKE HUCKABEE

He could possibly add 1-2% to Mitt Romney across the Midwest, cover Mitt’s flank in the south, drive vital turnout in the Florida panhandle, help draw a bridge to women, and max out evangelical support.

There’s not another Veep possibility who could do all that.

He’s already been vetted, has been on the national stage continuously since 2008, has charmed the media repeatedly without compromising his core beliefs (even Joy Behar says he’s her favorite Republican!), and has been digested deeply enough by voters to assure suburbanites that he won’t become the pastor-in-chief. In other words, it’d be hard to turn him into an extreme Bible-thumper. Instead, he’s more like Thumper.

The thing that would hurt him in a primary – his fiscal record – wouldn’t be a liability in the general election; in fact, his sense of compassion could overcome Romney’s cold persona and help assuage fears that Mitt would outsource apple pie and replace it with more profitable Entenmann’s donuts.

Huckabee ticks every box.

Now…weaknesses. He doesn’t have the fire in his belly (I think he’s packing something in there, though, check out this pic). Sure, he’d only have to feign fire for about two months, but his heart is so clearly on the radio and behind the camera that I genuinely think he might turn down the presidency itself.

Remember what Huck said a few months ago – that he didn’t regret his decision one bit? He went from seething about being attacked in 2008 to just sore about it and now I think he’s finally terribly relieved that it’s all over (that’s also the stages of grief to the digestive system, btw).

So from Huck’s point of view, there are lots of downsides to this thing.

From Romney’s point of view, there are probably only a few concerns. Would voters pine for Huck; not Mitt? Would Huck’s big puppy dog eyes and compassionate persona badly highlight Romney’s non-big puppy dog eyes and “fire people” persona?

Strength of pick: #1
Likelihood: #9
Overall: #5


6. BOB McDONNELL

He’s the model example of the “Pick a Vice-President Because He Might Be Able to Win You A State” philosophy (which is supposedly overrated).

Virginia is going to be close, he’s popular in the state, and some of that might rub off on Romney. Further, he’s got a strong record, is very conservative without seeming extreme, has a great family, and his daughter is in the military, which he can toss at people who say he’s too 1950’s.

But he has problems.

Most acutely, Romney does not need somebody named “Bob” on his ticket nor somebody named “McDonnell” – particularly when this Bob McDonnell seems so much like a Bob McDonnell. In his case, the name corresponds to the personality which makes him a much less interesting version of Superman or Batman.

If we go on the premise that Romney is slightly behind (Obama has powers of incumbency + more paths to 270 electoral votes), McDonnell doesn’t seem to add enough juice to overcome all the problems a campaign experiences when it’s behind.

Which key demographic will McDonnell excite that Romney can’t? At one time, it seemed he could rally social conservatives, but then he went and caved on transvaginal ultrasound; then uncaved, which made him look more of an opportunist than ever (to defend him, how do you emerge from a controversy about transvaginal ultrasounds and abortion without at least a few scars?)

McDonnell is one of those “do no harm” picks that Mitt probably won’t have the luxury of indulging. If Romney were ahead or tied, maybe. But not here.

He’s the Rob Portman of Virginia, Ohio has more electoral votes, and Portman stronger experience.

Strength of pick: #7
Likelihood: #3
Overall: #6


7. KELLY AYOTTE

She’s got a solid resume. Strong career in law, Attorney General, U.S. Senator (although she was only elected two years ago).

There aren’t any significant deviations from conservative orthodoxy. She’s pro-life, pro-gun, pro-tax cuts. And she wasn’t around to hurt herself on TARP and other bailout votes like Thune, and her state isn’t one that depends on largesse (like South Dakota), so in a way, her Senate career is less perilous than Thune’s.

But her primary blessing as Veep is also a curse.

When you watch Ayotte for the first time, you think she’s nervous. There’s a crack to her voice that’s not a response to duress but sounds like it is, and that small radio interference makes her seem appealing and down-to-earth, but also kind of out-of-her league.

Other women who were in the presidential realm like Ferraro, Palin, and Hillary all had more gravitas. But Ayotte seems more like the female version of Tim Pawlenty, and T-Paw didn’t make it out of August 2011 in the 2012 election (when you can’t actually make it to the year of the election you’re running for, that’s a very bad sign).

Having said that, Ayotte has more warmth than Ferraro, Palin, and Hillary. She’s got a charm that few can concoct, and simply put, dear friends, I could see America falling in love with Kelly Ayotte. That’s a huge plus in her favor.

But it’s not a slam dunk, and there’s a chance it could go seriously awry. To illustrate my point, how awesome is this video I found? You get to see Mitt, standing awkwardly, with both Nikki Haley and Ayotte. Haley is the ROCKSTAR on that circular U2-concert-ish thing they’re perched on, while Ayotte seems a little uncomfortable but genuine and real. Also a little overwhelmed.



There are better picks, but if Romney feels the need to eat a little into the gender gap, she’s probably the strongest female pick (About that gender gap – yes, it’s big, but it’s always been there, and the current hype over it is largely manufactured. Now, in pretty much every article you read, the gender gap is tied to the war on women when, in reality, the gap is mostly assignable to persistent ideological differences between men and women).

Strength of pick: #8
Likelihood: #6
Overall: #7


8. JIM DEMINT

There are a few things the Universe has agreed upon. The Pope is Catholic, Tales like Beauty and the Beast are as old as time, and Jim DeMint is conservative.

If you’re in with DeMint, you’re in. He’s like a really clean version of a nightclub owner who can get you into the hottest VIP room (translated: DeMint can get you into the pew in church where you can see the pastor but he can’t see you) where you get to meet all the stars and celebs (translated: Grover Norquist and Grover Norquist's 'stache).

Picking DeMint would immediately shore up whatever problems Romney might have in the south, with evangelicals, and tea partiers. Now… if Romney were actually having issues with those groups, DeMint would jump much higher, but so far, it’s looking like the Anybody but Romney folks are making the transition to Anybody but Obama much faster and with much less cognitive dissonance than first thought.

His drawbacks?

He’s uberconservative and has a few moments of the kind of social conservative uberness that Romney wants no part of in the general election. Mitt spent the entire primary trying to stay as far away from social controversies as possible, and why would he risk an extended trip into that land when he doesn’t have to?

Strength of pick: #9
Likelihood: #8
Overall: #8


9. JEB BUSH

There are two competing elements here.

On one hand, Jeb doesn’t seem like a guy who’d deign to be Veep. He has top of the ticket written across the top of his forehead. In fact, being Romney’s Veep would sort of be like Bob Woodward being my assistant.

But... the VP position would offer a very sneaky benefit for Jeb, and one that may be his only chance at being the third Bush president.

Right now, Jeb is unfairly saddled with a lot of stereotypes that belong to his brother. Junkies, of course, know that Jeb was always the thoughtful, serious one, but normal people don’t know that, and that would hamper a bid for president.BUT… Jeb could use a Veep bid to introduce the REAL JEB to the country without the risk of putting his once-in-a-lifetime presidential bid on the line.

In other words, he could prove his separation from W; then head into a 2016 bid having already laid to rest the whole my-last-name-is-Bush thing. In fact, running for Veep would do a lot of the dirty work of squashing stereotypes for him without exposing him to as much risk.

So yeah, I think Jeb actually might take it if he were asked, but I don’t think he’ll be asked. Why?

Romney doesn’t want to trust his presidential bid to a Bush. This is Mitt’s election; this is not Bush’s, this is not about the opening horns for a future coronation.

It might make very good sense on paper, but there are too many awkward implications to a Romney-Jeb ticket – the first and very biggest being that Jeb could easily emerge as the alpha male. Chris Christie might overshadow Romney, but no one would call him more qualified or more fit to be president on Day 1.

Just like a 2012 presidential bid, Jeb is a vice-presidential fantasy that wouldn’t make it five miles outside Disneyworld.

Strength of pick: #6
Likelihood: #12
Overall: #9


10. BOBBY JINDAL

Jindal is an executive. He’s not someone you can easily insert into a politically charged environment where you have to strike a four month image that balances political resume and some indefinable appeal that not everyone can agree on.

We saw Jindal step into the national fray for one of those weirdly substantive yet supremely fluffy exercises called the State of the Union response. We all know he miffed it badly, but what’s important is that being picked for Veep is somewhat like being picked to give a State of the Union response. You’re thrust from a sleepy refrigerator into a lava flow of political heat that’s like a sun that’s too bright without any of its happiness.

Jindal has been serious, accomplished, and creative in his state, but on national networks, he hasn’t proven to be anything more than a smart guy who talks too fast and doesn’t seem very happy.

Bobby has got the opposite problem of many potential picks.

Rob Portman probably wouldn’t make a great presidential candidate, but he’d make a great Veep. Same with Kelly Ayotte. But Jindal would make a far better presidential candidate than VP candidate, and it’s probably smart to wait until 2016 or 2020. Of course, if a Romney-Jindal ticket lost in ’12, then it might set him up for 2016. But it could also irreparably damage him, and why push it until you know you’re ready?

Strength of pick: #12
Likelihood: #7
Overall: #10


11. MITCH DANIELS

What does a Gorecki symphony, the U.S. debt, Jar-Jar Binks, a rubber ducky, and Mitch Daniels all have in common? They grow on you.

Back when I started paying attention to Daniels in 2008, I thought the chattering class’s hype over him was all just the stuff smart people do to amuse themselves (For the record, I am also a smart person, who likes to amuse himself, so I’m guilty, too, but not without a Jean Valjean-esque capacity for redemption). To me, Daniels looked boring, he talked boring, he was interested in boring things (deficits), and he was short.

But a funny thing happened --- the more I watched him, the more I appreciated his utterly winsome dry wit. That’s a rare thing. Dry wit is rarely winsome, but Daniels’ is.

Even more impressively, he’s got a populist grace to him. “Populist” and “grace” are also rarely housed together, but he merges the two in quite an impressive bit of welding.

Now, if you haven’t followed Daniels closely but kind of know him, you’ll think I’m utterly mad, but just start watching him. You will grow to appreciate him, whether you like his politics or not, and you will start thinking that maybe he’s the sanest person on the planet.

The problem for him on a national level is that voters wouldn’t have enough time with him to understand that winsome, dry wit and populist grace. And that’s a problem. Romney is boring enough. And Daniels, prima facie? Even worse!

Combining the two would be like an anti-explosion of epic-mini proportions.

There are a couple other things working against him.

One is that I still don’t think his family wants to be in the public eye, and vice-presidents make it into a few pictures. Another is that he doesn’t really immediately appeal to a particular demographic. And another is that he’s short, and some of the hair on his head fell off without growing back. Of course, you could say the same about Joe Biden, but Biden was paired with Barack Obama, who could afford to run with a bald guy.

Daniels is an acquired taste, and I don’t think July-November is long enough for voters to appreciate the brew in that cup.

Strength of pick: #11
Likelihood: #11
Overall: #11


12. PAUL RYAN

You think Rubio is risky?

Well, dear friend, have you ever tried hand gliding during a hurricane? What about getting in a car with Amanda Bynes for a cruise down Lombard Street? Investing in a social media start-up with Isaiah Thomas and Ted Kaczynski?

Here’s the problem with putting Ryan on your ticket.

In 2008, seniors were the only age group John McCain won. Obama swept everyone else. Putting Ryan on your tickets jeopardizes your lead with the one group you already had. Barack Obama would turn this election into Paul Ryan, and why wouldn’t that be simple?

The media is hungry for a new national figure (what with Obama, Romney, and Biden being such old news), and Ryan would be a perfect guy to put on every magazine rack.

Your headlines:

“BOLD. Can This Man Save America?” (inevitably, the answer wouldn’t be “no” or “yes” but iffy, and voters aren’t into iffy in these perilous times).

“Romney’s risk: How he handed a 42-year old congressman from Janesville, Wisconsin the keys to the kingdom.”

“The Whiz Kid who’d change the world.”

“Romney/Ryan plan: It’s bold, but is it good?”

Already, we’re seeing Democrats refer to Paul Ryan’s plan as the “Romney/Ryan plan,” and this isn’t a complimentary pairing. Lewis & Clark, Abbott & Costello, Tom Morrello and Stratocaster, good stuff. But this one isn’t a compliment.

Now, there are lots of conservatives pining for a Ryan Veep bid, because they passionately believe that this election needs to be about a serious grown-up topic like entitlement reform. But Sandra Fluke and Hilary Rosen will always trump crippling debt that’s BORING.

And here’s another thought for conservatives ringing Ryan’s doorbell like a flamingo with a clavier – if the media is biased, do conservatives want it interpreting Paul Ryan’s plan for everyone, or would they rather it be something more approachable like class warfare, which is fairly traditional and easy to understand.

Mitt Romney is a safe politician. At nearly every point in his career, he’s taken the safe route, regardless of whether it’s sent him left or right. He’s like a very handsome kite. What’s he going to do when he sees the prospect of four months of going to bed with “The Romney/Ryan budget” ringing in his ears?

As to Ryan himself, there are a couple other knocks against him. First, he’s a bad public speaker. He will get better, but right now, he doesn’t sound like a heartbeat-away-kind-of-guy.

Second and relatedly, you can be a stud in wonky circles and go very far, but unless you learn how to sit on a chair, you will never be president.

I grabbed that screencap below recently. If you're dressed in suit, you never, ever, ever cross your shoes like that. Men, always cross your legs if you're sitting in a suit, and any president who doesn't should be impeached.


There’s another thing, I don’t think Ryan would necessarily fire up the tea party and libertarian types as well as some think. As Matt Lewis notes here, he has some pretty establishment-y votes buffeting him.I view Paul Ryan as the Mitt Romney that people wanted Mitt Romney to be.

I also don’t think he’d broaden the ticket’s appeal as much as some think, and even though he’s got social conservative credentials, he’s Catholic; not evangelical, and he’s seems like someone who could join hands with Mitch Daniels and talk about a momentary truce in the culture wars.

Strength of pick: #13
Likelihood of pick: #10
Overall: #12


13. NIKKI HALEY

You know how some athletes will just always be injured – even when they’re healthy? Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Prior. That’s how Nikki Haley is with controversy. She’s the Greg Oden of the field.

In theory, she should be fantastic, but she’s cursed with a continual stream of controversies that keeps her on the bench for much of the season, and just when it seems like she’s really back and has an iridescent future ahead of her, something happens like a phony story about the IRS auditing her.

Some of the controversies are manufactured and unfair. Right now, there’s this story going around that her memoir is a pack of lies, and since some of her accusers are Republican state legislators, then people think it must be true. But keep in mind – she’s clashed with those same legislators repeatedly; so they have a vested political interest in branding her a liar.

Anyway, other controversies around her are legit; but the big thing with her is that just like you wouldn’t give franchise money to a guy with a bunch of knee surgeries, you wouldn’t hand Haley the Veep nomination. It’s just too risky, regardless of merit.

On paper and on camera, she’s so good. An attractive Indian-American, who’s articulate, smart, and capable, and she’s got a rockstar quality to her (watch her on the stump or read about her in Vogue) But if she’s already viewed as too controversial, just wait until Team Obama gets through with her.

Strength of pick: #10
Likelihood of pick: #13
Overall: #13