Andrew Sullivan recently pegged Mike Huckabee for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Daniel Larison knocked down that idea on the basis that the Huck has blasted Romney in the past, and Sullivan backed off.
I think Sullivan’s initial impulse was the right one. The story with running mates is that there’s not all that much they can do to help you win the election; most likely, the upside is a point or three in the VP candidate’s home state. Most of the time, they can’t hurt you very much either, but even if it matters a bit you would presumably want to avoid a scandal or someone who is widely perceived as a disaster. The best way to do that is to select someone who has both the (successful) vetting and the experience with national politics that a serious presidential run provides. Which doesn’t exactly leave a large group of Republicans. Huckabee is, if that’s your priority, the logical choice. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that his constituency is precisely the people whom Romney is probably weakest with.
What of Larison’s objection? I’ll just look at his main point:
Huckabee would make an interesting choice. It would mean that Romney was tying himself to the person who once said that he had no soul. The Democratic ads would practically write themselves: “Even Mitt Romney’s running mate has said that he has no integrity and will say anything to win an election.”
I think that’s the wrong way to go about these things. Romney’s bound to face those sort of attacks regardless of who his running mate is; I’m highly skeptical that including the running mate adds to the punch in any significant way. I have no systematic study, but this smells to me like one of those things that people talk about before the fact all the time but that never really pan out, whether it’s a nasty comment or a difference on the issues or any other kind of documented tension or disagreement within the ticket. On the other hand, I think people tend to underestimate the chances of getting a real dud.
So my advice to Romney, assuming he’s the nominee, is to play it safe. And I suspect that the Huck is the safest choice out there.