The GOP VP buzz has turned comic, with Drudge hyping former secretary of state and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Aside from the fact that she doesn’t want the job, has never held elective office, is self-described as “mildly pro-choice,” has a track record of getting most foreign policy issues wrong (opposing the surge, “negotiating” with North Korea, pushing for Palestinian elections in 2006) and being the person most identified with George W. Bush, it makes perfect sense.
Less loony but nearly as perplexing would be the selection of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. There is nothing especially wrong with him, and he’s certainly qualified to be president if tragedy struck But still. Pawlenty?
When presented with charismatic (e.g., Gov Chris Christie), wonkish (e.g., Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal) and conservative (e.g., Rep. Paul Ryan [R-Wis.]) rock stars and experienced contenders capable of nailing down key states (e.g., Sen Rob Portman [Ohio-), it’s hard to fathom why Pawlenty would be selected. It would be a glaring case of opportunity cost.
There is much to be said for the VP axiom “do no harm,” but that should not mean “do no good.” A trip to Europe, a VP pick and then a strong convention showing are aimed at building Romney’s momentum going into the final fall stretch. Does TPaw accelerate that process or deaden it? Does he elicit, if not angst, disappointment among the ranks?
The VP selection matters on three occasions. There is the day of the announcement, when the media ponder what the pick “tells us” about Romney’s executive prowess. There is the day of the VP convention speech when the pick will wow the crowd or not, and be (unfairly or not) compared to the alternative picks. (Would Christie have been funnier? Ryan, smarter?) And finally there is the VP debate, when the nominee will have a chance to slice and dice Vice President Biden. Could Pawlenty shine in all of these settings? In any of them?
The saying goes that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. A TPaw selection would be a VP pick by campaign committee, the lowest common denominator for whom no one can muster much objection — or enthusiasm. Romney can do better.