The Washington Post

Romney picks Portman?

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Political prognosticators didn’t see Republican GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate coming — but it was hardly the first time a candidate has defied the expectations of the chattering class.

While Ryan enjoyed strong support from conservative Republicans and leading conservative publications, consensus seemed to be pointing to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as Romney’s likely choice. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in second place, according to prevailing wisdom.

The selection of Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican usually mentioned in the second tier on prognosticators’ lists, threw many for a loop.

But the surprise shouldn’t have been a surprise: The media cognoscenti don’t have particularly sparkling track records when it comes to predicting vice presidential selections — especially when it comes to the GOP candidates. Most of the Democratic vice presidential picks have been on at least a few of the Great Mentioners’ lists: Walter Mondale (1976); Lloyd Bentsen (1988); Al Gore (1992); John Edwards (2004) and Joe Biden (2008). Gore’s pick of Joe Lieberman (2000) might count as a mild surprise, but hardly stunning.

The only real surprise was Mondale’s selection of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. There had been chatter about Mondale picking a woman for the No. 2 slot, but most thought Dianne Feinstein was the leading candidate in that category. Republican picks have been pretty much shockers to the punditocracy, at least in the last four rounds: Sarah Palin (2008); Dick Cheney (2000); Jack Kemp (1996); and Dan Quayle (1988).

Ronald Reagan’s pick of George H.W. Bush in 1980 and Gerald Ford’s pick of Bob Dole in 1976 weren’t great surprises.

On the other hand, maybe the prognosticators were right and Romney was leaning toward Portman… but somebody might have informed Romney that Portman and Sen. John Kerry are good buddies; they have been seen frequently on morning bike rides.

And Romney and Kerry despise each other. Kerry is even going to play Romney in President Obama’s debate prep.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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