My first reaction upon learning late Friday night that Obama’s pick was Joe Biden was that McCain needed someone who could handle the rhetorical onslaught that the Dem VP candidate was bound to subject to his rival at their debate on October 2nd. Biden’s decades in the Senate have made him one of the better communicators in DC. When he speaks it doesn’t seem like he is reading…. he speaks to the voters in ways they understand. Unfortunately for him, his rhetorical talents have ultimately led to unfortunate gaffes. It also has given him a reputation as someone who is as arrogant as he is long winded.
So who can stand up to him? Wouldn’t we want someone that even the mainstream media would expect to put up a good fight? Mitt Romney comes to mind. Experienced on the campaign trail, did a solid job in the debates and would be expected by many to be Biden’s equal when they sit across from eachother at the debate table.
That’s the exact reason why it can’t be Mitt.
In politics, much of the game is about expectations. Mitt vs. Joe would be billed as a fight between two evenly matched boxers and even a ‘win’ by Mitt wouldn’t be a story.
Another argument for Romney is that he could be the attack dog on the stump that can match Biden’s expected scathing political offensive. But once again, Mitt would be EXPECTED to do this. It wouldn’t be a story.
Finally, picking Mitt would not be a surprise. He has been considered a favorite for the pick for some time. He’s a known commodity to voters so there wouldn’t be any substantive coverage introducing him to the public. Once again, there wouldn’t be a story.
Now it can be considered a positive for Romney that there wouldn’t be a story because, as I’ve discussed before, the last thing McCain needs is a news coverage about how bad a pick he has made.
But while McCain had a good run of coverage in the weeks leading up to the Democratic convention, he is still an underdog and playing it safe is not how he will win.
There are two variables that the GOP Presidential candidate must consider before he makes his pick: ‘Who’s the Boss’& ‘Expectations’?
Let me explain.
Who’s the Boss? One thing came to mind when I first saw Obama and Biden on stage together as running mates….which of them should be a candidate for President? Obama’s inexperience is highlighted by Biden’s tenure as a Senator in Washington DC. Of course, our Presidential candidate could pick Wilford Brimley and McCain would still be considered the old guy on the ticket, so age isn’t necessarily a consideration. While people like us…the ones that read political blogs daily and pay attention to every little news story…what we want in a Vice-President is someone who can step in on day one. But is that how the swing voter thinks? Do they need a Dick Cheney? It’s my contention that the people who start paying attention 30 days out are perfectly ok with the President playing the role of the mentor with the Vice-President being next in line eight years from now. They’ve seen this role played over and over again…and they never responded well to the Vice President who defied that role, Dick Cheney. That means a younger, less experienced, but still competent candidate could satisfy the swing electorate.
At the same time it would also serve as a subtle reminder to the voter about who is in charge in each the Republican and Democratic ticket. It wouldn’t be a question with the Republican ticket, but some may question who’s the boss of the Democratic ticket. In response, one might say that this didn’t have much of an effect in 2000 when Cheney was clearly more experienced than Bush. However, Bush didn’t have the gravitas problem that Obama clearly has now. Bush had served as Governor for years and his political pedigree was without question. That’s not the case with Sen. Obama.
Expectations. When the mainstream media previews the first Vice-Presidential debate between a younger and energetic GOP candidate against Sen. Biden there will be no question who will be expected to win. Biden’s rhetorical abilities will make him the overwhelming favorite heading into the event. So the worst that can happen for the GOP is that the VP candidate doesn’t ‘win’, as expected, and the VP debate is therefore a wash. But what if the GOP VP candidate surprises the world and somehow pulls off what could be considered a victory? That would be a story that owns the media cycle for days.
So the question is who fits this profile? Who can make the VP selection a real story, rather than illicit a collective yawn from the press?
Pawlenty has been considered a longtime frontrunner for the job and while he would satisfy the first two angles, he wouldn’t maximize the ‘expectations’ variable. His standing as a current favorite wouldn’t provide the lack of a story the Romney selection would make, but it wouldn’t make everyone take notice either.
My preference? Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal. Each are supremely competent and maximize the ‘Expectations’ and ‘Who’s the Boss’ variables. Finally, with McCain making his selection the day after the conclusion of the Democratic Convention, there are no two people in the country that would make the entire media stand up and take notice and pull coverage away from Obama’s acceptance speech the night before.
What is their negative? Experience, of course. But do they really have any less than Obama? Each already has significant accomplishments in office, much moreso than Obama. If nothing else, they would highlight the experience debate and make it an issue once again. This highlights McCain’s primary strength over Obama to the all-important swing voter. Imagine the talking points when the Obama campaign challenges the Jindal/Palin pick?
‘We may have the same amount of experience, Mr. Obama…but what have you done lately?’