If political parties had brains and could see beyond the next presidential election, Republicans this year would nominate Rick Santorum and stoically endure his inevitable defeat.
Some political candidates do have brains (or advisors who have brains), and they can calculate odds. That’s why none of them signed up for this year’s GOP primary. The absence of a sitting president in 2016 will amplify Republican prospects. Plus, in 2016, a possibly chastened base might discourage primary candidacies by so many mountebanks and people delusionally blinded to their absence of presidential qualifications.
Absent real presidential material this year, social conservatives, religious extremists, racists and an interminable primary process have combined to alienate women, blacks, latinos, gays, Muslims, mainstream Christians, and political moderates. Worse, the result is a nominee-by-default, whom few Republicans like or believe in.
If the damage can be repaired before November, it must begin with selection of a running mate.
Depending on political ailments a vice presidential pick might cure, here’s the remedy a presidential nominee should reach for first: a popular governor from a swing state rich in electoral college votes.
Unlike most legislators or judges, governors have experience doing what presidents do: They are administrators; they govern. And they are chosen in statewide elections.
In Part I of “A vice-presidential sieve”, I discussed the current crop of swing-state governors and pointed out that the most popular among them was Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Her state has only five electoral votes, but as the nations first latina governor, she would be attractive to two of the demographic groups the GOP must woo.
However, Gov. Martinez is only two years into her first-term. Choosing a governor in a similar position in 2008 didn’t work well for the previous GOP presidential nominee. The lack of vetting before John McCain picked Sarah Palin — and the still reverberating consequences of it — probably have changed the selection process forever.
If Gov. Martinez becomes Mitt Romney’s running mate, it will follow the political equivalent of a strip search.