Word on the street is that Mitt Romney will soon announce his vice-presidential running mate. Here’s a quick rundown of the contenders:
— Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman — Low Risk, Low Reward
Safe, but boring. Both are experienced and “ready to be president on day one” — a strong factor for Romney. Pawlenty was a successful Minnesota governor. Portman is a well-respected Ohio senator and former cabinet secretary and congressman. Either would make a fine governing partner.
But before Romney can govern, he needs to win. And it is unclear whether either man helps accomplish that.
Both are dull. Vanilla. Uninspired. Neither would give a rousing convention speech. Neither would excite the base, draw large crowds to campaign events, or bring in significant financial contributions. It is even unclear whether either could deliver his home state.
— Kelly Ayotte — High Risk, Low Reward
As a fellow New Englander, the freshman New Hampshire senator would bring nothing to the ticket electorally. Ayotte is bright and may one day be ready for the vice presidency. But she is ill at ease before the cameras and unaccustomed to the national stage. In short: Not ready for prime time.
— Chris Christie — High Risk, Medium Reward
The New Jersey governor, on the other hand, may be too accustomed to the limelight. (His next fight on a Jersey Shore boardwalk would be President Barack Obama’s next attack ad). Christie would excite voters and fill campaign coffers. But his penchant for speaking his mind — indeed, for never having an unexpressed thought — means he would have the potential to embarrass.
— Marco Rubio — High Risk, High Reward
It’s no secret that Rubio is my favorite.
The freshman senator from Florida has gravitas and maturity beyond his 41 years. As a conservative Latino at home on the national stage, Rubio has the potential to weaken a critical pillar of the Obama coalition and add thematic coherence to the Romney campaign.
But he is greener than others at the national level, and that makes Rubio a higher risk.
— Condi Rice — High Risk, Low Reward
Obama already blames everything on his predecessor. Choosing the former secretary of State would turn this election into a referendum on George W. Bush. Need I say more?
— Paul Ryan — Medium Risk, Medium Reward
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is intelligent, prepared and anything but dull. In many ways, he is the anti-Condi. Selecting Ryan would keep the focus off foreign policy and on the economy, just where Romney wants it.
One of the GOP’s most persuasive spokesmen for budgetary reform, Ryan would clearly articulate the economic stakes in this election. Although choosing Ryan might risk miring the campaign in policy minutiae when it should be stressing larger themes, I predict this is where Romney is headed.
— Bobby Jindal — Medium Risk, Medium Reward
Although his state (Louisiana) isn’t in play (it’s already a lock for the Republicans), Jindal would bring valuable experience to the ticket. He is highly experienced at both the state and national level — a successful governor, former congressman, state cabinet secretary and federal government official. He is not the most dynamic person in the field, but his story is a lot more interesting than many.
Like Rubio, Jindal is the child of immigrants, and tells a compelling story of the promise of America. One of the most aggressive and persuasive Obama critics, he is at once both an ideological conservative and a competent technocrat. A convert to Catholicism (his parents are Hindu) and a Rhodes scholar, Jindal has the rare ability to appeal to both conservative Christians and the secular intelligentsia. He would excite the base without alienating independents.
It is said that Mitt Romney is not a risk taker. But that doesn’t mean he intends to go vanilla. Paul Ryan or Bobby Jindal might be just what he’s looking for.