McCain Hands Romney Advice on VP Pick
May 7, 2012
Handing out more gratuitous advice, former 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered 2012 GOP nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney free wisdom about picking a running mate. McCain stunned the 2008 campaign, picking former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Aug. 28, 2008, throwing caution to the wind. McCain's pick was a catastrophic blunder, sinking his chance of running a competitive campaign with then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). "The absolute most important aspect is, if something happened to him, would that person be well qualified to take that place," said McCain, in a stunning paradox: McCain picked Palin, someone regarded by most voters as one of the least possible qualified VP picks. McCain's 2008 VP pick goes down as one of the most self-destructive moves in U.S. history. McCain refuses to this day to admit his mistake.
Speaking today on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, McCain created great theater with the absurdity of seeking his VP advice. No one got it wrong more than McCain and his chief strategist Charlie Black. "I happen to believe that was the primary factor in my decision in 2008. And I know it will be Mitt's," said McCain, signaling to Mitt to do exactly the opposite. By the time McCain picked Palin Aug. 28, his campaign was hopelessly behind Obama. Truth be told in 2008, riding the negative coattail of former President George W. Bush, McCain had little chance of beating Barack. On the other hand, picking Palin put McCain more in a hole. Advising Romney to pick the most qualified candidate for VP also isn't the best advice because Romney must go after certain regions like the South and specific constituencies like women and minorities.
Talk of Romney's VP pick dominates the headlines just like McCain's in 2008. All things considered, VP picks historically aren't too important. McCain's pick was so crucial because most polling showed him trailing Barack in 2008. This time around the election stands to be much closer, amplifying the importance of the VP pick. McCain's chief strategist completely blew the Palin pick, hoping to take the women's vote away from Obama. Palin, a fiery orator and fierce Obama-basher, dazzled audiences Sept. 3 at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Minn., whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Her dazzling oratory didn't mean much when voters looked at her lack of experience in national politics and foreign affairs and her extreme right wing politics. McCain's brain-trust hoped Palin's pick would get Bush's religious conservatives back to the polls.
Much of Washington's VP buzz centers on 41-year-old first term Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), less than two-years into his first term in the U.S. Senate. Like Palin, Rubio's a neophyte on the national and foreign affairs scene, and, despite his youth and appeal to the Tea Party crowd, would sabotage Romney's chances. Romney's weakness during the GOP primaries was his questionable conservative credentials. While Rubio, a Latino of Cuban background, is a favorite on FoxNews, he won't pull in the Latino vote for the GOP. His Tea Party views play well in the primaries but not in the general election. Considered his Achilles Heal in the primaries, Romney's moderate views pose problems for Obama, who must now pivot to the left to draw a more extreme contrast. Urging Romney to pick someone "he knows he could trust," McCain has no real advice for the former Wall Street executive.
News of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's stunning defeat to Socialist Francois Hollande also poses problems for Romney and Obama. Changing political parties in France could spell more problems in the Eurozone, where growing frustration over Germany's dominant role might lead to more instability on Wall Street. On the other hand, a more conservative trend in the States could alienate one of America's most trusted allies. Romney's strong ties to Wall Street would have problems with a pro-Socialist government, more concerned about workers rights and welfare benefits than corporate profits. Either way you cut it, Hollande's victory is bound to present problems for both political parties. It's ironic that Romney's campaign loses if the U.S. economy picks up steam. Obama knows that bad news on Wall Street spells problems for his prospects in November.
Looking at the big picture, many different things affect the outcome of close elections. Romney can't afford to miscalculate his VP pick, when the election might be decided by less than three percent. "In his obsessive effort to get his win, his reelection, he has lost himself and has lost what makes him different," said Rubio talking about Obama showing he's a good attack-dog but not at polished diplomacy. Forgetting McCain's advise, Romney needs to pick someone that fits his own ideological bent, not pandering to one group or another. Rubio neither offers experience nor any guarantees to deliver the Hispanic vote. Given the contrast between Romney and Obama's speaking styles, he needs to pick someone with some pizzazz, who's on the same page and who's also ready to step into the Oval Office, if needed. When Mitt considers his pick, the last person he should listen to is McCain.
About the AuthorJohn M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He's editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma
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