Now that Obama has made the inspired choice of Joe Biden (HA!), the rumor mill is churning full blast over possible McCain vice president selections. McCains pick is going to be a much bigger deal, because no one who wasn’t already going to vote for Obama was going to be swayed by the name at the bottom of that ticket. Obama carries all the sex appeal that the Democrats need; the v.p. is just a technicality.
McCain’s pick, on the other hand, is going to make a big difference because, not to put too fine a point on it, the conservative base hates him. They are willing to vote for him to keep Obama out of the White House, but their commitment is tenuous at best. A good veep pick will reassure them of McCain’s conservative bona fides and motivate them to get out and vote. A bad pick will motivate them to stay home just to spite the maverick. And McCain is entirely capable of making a very, very bad pick.
A lot of the veep scuttlebutt has been about the possibility of McCain choosing a Democrat or liberal, pro-abortion Republican. This would be suicidal. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this: If McCain picks a culturally liberal running mate, he must lose. If he doesn’t, it will mean the end of the influence of Christian cultural conservatives on American politics.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Republican party isn’t a conservative party; no party that offered McCain, Giuliani, Huckabee, and Romney as its top choices for president could say it was. It’s just the slightly-less-liberal-than-the-other-party party. They pay lip service to cultural conservatives because they need to in order to win elections. If they think they can win without all those pro-life, pro-traditional-marriage, pro-religion rednecks, why should they even bother paying lip service? Sure, conservative Christians will still be a voting block, and they may be an influence in local and state elections. But the national Republican party would see a McCain+Liberal V.P. victory as a sign that the country was trending left, and conservative Christians would be cut out of influence for a generation.
With that happy thought in mind, let’s take a look at some of the names that have been tossed around. Waaaay back in February, I wrote a post handicapping possible veep choices, and I managed to include a few names that are supposedly still in the mix:
Joe Lieberman (100 to 1): This would be absolutely flippin’ insane. Lieberman is the conservative’s favorite Democrat, but that doesn’t mean they trust him with the keys to the liquor cabinet. He’s been good on the war, but he’s undeniably liberal in everything else. Of course, this would be a perfect pick if he wanted to give the finger to the conservative base one more time. And then it would be a funny story to tell on his speaking tour after he lost the election. Lieberman wouldn’t accept anyway.
I’d still say this today. If McCain had a win in the bag, he’d pick Lieberman. In a tight race, flippin’ insane.
Mitt Romney (80 to 1): In a normal election year, this would probably be the pick. Conservatives liked him; they just liked him too late to cause McCain any trouble. It would coalesce the base and put somebody in the queue to be the front runner next election. It’s said that they don’t like each other, but politicians are remarkably quick to overcome that when they smell opportunity. But remember what I wrote earlier about the veep pick being black or a woman? Romney is about as far from either one of those things as a person could be. He should walk around in Ricky Bobby’s Wonder Bread jumpsuit.
This may be a little more likely than 80 to 1 now (hope you bet early!). I thought Romney would be on the rubber chicken circuit by now, but apparently he’s on the short list. McCain could do worse.
Mike Huckabee (80 to 1): Unquestionably angling for the veep slot, but his goofy, liberal ideas would steal the thunder of McCain’s goofy, liberal ideas. McCain isn’t going to jockey with anybody for the role of head maverick. Look for Huck to end up in the Department of Commerce or maybe Housing and Urban Development, which will be bad enough.
I’ll still go with this, including the cabinet position.
Kay Bailey Hutchison (12 to 1): A pretty solid conservative woman with a ton of name recognition. Also, she kind of gives the impression that she could step in and take the reins were McCain to keel over.
Here’s a name I’ve been hearing a lot over the last 24 hours. She’s probably still a solid pick; the only thing that gives me pause is this comment from National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru:
Senator Hutchison is pro-choice—in 2003, for example, she voted for a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Supreme Court should keep Roe on the books—although she votes with pro-lifers on such issues as partial-birth abortion.
However, over the last five years, NARAL has given Sen. Hutchison ratings of 0, 0, 0, 20, and 7, which sounds pretty good to me. If she’s the pick, I’m sure we’ll learn plenty more.
Other names mentioned include Eric Cantor and Tim Pawlenty, which would both probably make conservatives feel good. Although, I’m not sure I could pull for Cantor, because he won his seat in Congress by defeating Cooter! Dang you, Cantor!
And, to further wallow in the blogging tradition of quoting myself, I also handicapped the mystery pick:
Somebody we haven’t thought of (3 to 1): I think the most likely thing is that McCain will go all crazy maverick on us and pick somebody out of left field. The two caveats I mentioned at the top still apply, but I think his pick will probably make everybody say, “What the…?”
This “screw you!” tendency from McCain is what scares me. Hopefully he realizes that his victory depends on satisfying the Republicans’ most reliable voting block. If he doesn’t, I’ll just have to leave that part of my ballot blank.