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Veepstakes: Should Romney Stay Away from Someone Too 2008?

A new face and maybe, just maybe, that future Reagan dreamed of by everyone on the right would be ideal, but there are many realities and variables at play.

by
Bridget Johnson

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May 11, 2012 - 9:39 am
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If I had to make one prediction about this year’s GOP veepstakes, it will be that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will not ask former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

The reasons for this are many, never mind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wryly quipping last month on CBS that Romney should pick Palin.

Simply put, no presidential candidate wants to align himself with a campaign that went oh-so-awry four years ago as Barack Obama sailed through on his wildly successful hope-n-change train.

Obama, however, is saying at every campaign stop that it ain’t 2008 anymore — in an effort to rally his faithful into the same frenzy as four years ago.

Even George Clooney and pals got the treatment at last night’s Studio City fundraiser. “2008 in some ways was lightning in a bottle,” Obama said. “That’s not going to be replicated.  …That passion that we brought to bear in 2008 is going to have to express itself maybe not in such flashy form, it’s going to have to be steady, but we’re going to have to keep those fires burning all the way through November and beyond.”

The Republican Party won’t be able to fully escape the brand of 2008 rehash considering that the nominee will be Romney, who unsuccessfully battled McCain for the nod. But talk of Romney potentially picking former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who finished in the 2008 delegate count between McCain and Romney before the senator’s challengers dropped out, is very 2008.

The reasons for a Huckabee pick range from wooing social conservatives (the HuckPAC quickly jumped on Obama’s gay-marriage evolutionary revelation) and mobilizing the grass-roots Tea Party to winning the South. And, to be on the safe side, he was already vetted in 2008, not just by campaign staffers but by the media. And we’ve learned what a distraction to a campaign anything less than thorough vetting can be.

But would picking an also-ran in the veepstakes be molding a powerful ticket or sinking voters’ minds back to that not-very-good year? Do you signal to the electorate that it’s time to try again, or time to move forward with new faces and maybe, just maybe, that future Reagan dreamed of by everyone on the right?

Moving forward would be Romney’s best option, not giving Obama a chance to cast the election as 2008 all over.

But what other variables are going to figure in to finding that perfect VP nominee?

Superstar or not too shiny?

Remember the movie My Fellow Americans with Jack Lemmon and James Garner, where the vice president was a dolt No. 2 to Dan Akroyd’s president? That fiction was based on a lot of fact, and not an accidental one. When you want to be president, you don’t want the country sobbing that your veep isn’t really the guy in the Oval Office.

Walter Mondale to Jimmy Carter — failed miserably at his own presidential bid. George H.W. Bush to Ronald Reagan — nice, smart guy, but couldn’t keep the Reagan fervor going for more than one term on his own. Dan Quayle to George H.W. Bush — everyone knew there was no bloody way he’d be president. Al Gore to Bill Clinton (who, I’m guessing, laughs harder at the “Manbearpig” episode of South Park than anyone else).

They picked veeps who were capable, who contributed to the ticket in some way, but who would never eclipse the first name on the campaign signage.

And, well, Joe Biden. You knew that Obama was not going to pick anyone who could remotely outshine the Obamagod.

You could also sense, especially in the waning days of the last campaign, that McCain and Palin were in a tussle for that spotlight, with very different fan bases — a tussle highlighted by nothing else like McCain’s SNL appearance with Tina Fey days before the vote.

But some have asserted that Romney needs star power to get him over the hump in November.

Those stars are Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been giving presidential-style addresses and leads the race on Intrade; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who would provide entertainment in debating Biden (shooting fish in a barrel) but everyone really wants to see him debate Obama; and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whose baby blues and Path to Prosperity excite the base without abandoning the middle wherever he goes.

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