Saturday, March 24th, 2012 at 3:47am

Rule#1: Do No Harm!

Posted by vicepresidents

Lately it seems like all the big names in the Veepstakes are winding up dead in the water. The formidable force of Barack Obama and Joe Biden would not only trounce a Romney-McDonnell ticket in Virginia, but a Romney-Christie ticket in New Jersey too. Yet, does any of this really matter? After all, only 1 in 5 dentists says they care who is selected.

The first rule of picking a vice president is simple:

Do No Harm.

Of course, that wise old adage didn’t stop some of our former presidential nominees from making a few blunders. As Political Analyst Charlie Cook said last week, “John McCain clearly just reared back and let a Hail Mary go” when he picked Sarah Palin. Most people with any sort of brains in their heads can see through the old “balancing the ticket” trick. Choosing a candidate out of left field that hasn’t been adequately tested or vetted is a recipe for disaster. Even though Palin revved up the Conservative base, there is no doubt that she inevitably did more harm than good.

McCain: "What am I doing?"

On the other hand, Market Watch contends that Romney couldn’t possibly select someone like Rick Santorum because he’s almost too heavily vetted and the Democrats would have “endless fodder” to pick on the pair after all their weaknesses have been exposed. Sure, Obama picked Biden, who had been running against him for a presidential bid originally; however, there were far fewer debates and far fewer personal attacks on the campaign trail. We can presume the door will be left open for someone who is a safe bet — exciting to Republicans, but maybe not so well-known to Democrats and not so in-the-national-spotlight.

Does The Veep Sway Voters?

On the other hand, think of the Bill Clinton / Al Gore pairing. They were both just two like-minded, middle-aged white dudes from the states bordering the Mississippi River. Gore was no firebrand, but together they won Tennessee, Arkansas and enough other states to sweep the election in their favor.

Clinton & Gore: Two Peas In A Pod

Looking closer

  • Tennessee was originally a Democratic state until the 1950s, when Republicans took over. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were able to win the state back, but Gore lost his home turf when he tried to headline the ticket in 2000.
  • New Jersey has voted Democrat in the last 5 elections, after voting Republican in 8 out of the previous 10.
  • Virginia voted Democrat from Reconstruction through 1948; then largely Republican from 1952 – 2004. Obama won a narrow victory in the last election, however, swinging the state back into the blue.

So, we can conclude that:

1. Choosing Bob McDonnell could still sway Virginia into the red, despite what the polls say — just as Clinton/Gore were able to swing Tennessee back to their party after literally decades of voting solid Republican (save for Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater, of course).

2. New Jersey is a much tougher nut to crack, but it’s doubtful that Romney was counting on this state to win the general election anyhow.

Not So Fast… History Shows Us The Power Of Uniting The GOP Base

"See you in 2012?" "You bet!"

There has been much talk about picking someone more Conservative, which is something Romney has really taken to heart. Howard Barbanel at the Huffington Post suspects the Romney-Santorum ticket would be akin to the Reagan-Bush ticket, which successfully united moderate and conservative voters — and defeated the incumbent one-term president.

However, is Rick Santorum “conservative” enough for Romney? Mitt was recently quoted as saying Santorum “doesn’t have the Conservative chops” to be his running mate. Yet, this NY Times scatter map says otherwise — that, in fact, Conservatives have largely been voting for Santorum thus so far.

Who might Mitt pick that is a really solid conservative?

Well, if he really wanted to impress the party, then he would consider one of the select few to receive a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union: Marco Rubio (FL), Rand Paul (KY), Jim DeMint (SC), Tom Coburn (OK), Orrin Hatch (UT), Jim Inhofe (OK), David Vitter (LA), Ron Johnson (WI) and Mike Lee (UT). Of course, there are also ACU favorite governors (or former governors). This year’s CPAC had speakers like: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Bob McDonnell, Rick Perry, Rick Scott and Scott Walker.

And so the Veepstakes continues…

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© 2012 The VEEP: Thoughts & Analysis on the Vice Presidents