I see that my colleague Bridget Johnson is touting the possible front-runner status of Ohio senator Rob Portman as Romney’s vice-presidential choice. To which I say: if Mitt wants to see all the conservative air go out of his campaign balloon, the colorless Portman would be a perfect choice. Maybe win Ohio, lose the other swing states, and — given the Democrats’ lock on their electoral base of California, the Great Lakes region, New York, and New England — go down in a landslide.
Pretty much the same thing goes for nice-guy former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, another of the top tier candidates. That would be the fellow whose own presidential campaign went nowhere, and who was driven from the race early by the Swiss Miss, Michele Bachmann. (UPDATE: This Pawlenty rumor was being floated as of last night.)
At a time when the Axelrod Democrats’ scorched-earth tactics against Romney are already showing results (he’s a felon! A tax cheat!! A murderer!!!) in swing-state polls — when the Democrats are successfully defining a devout Mormon as a vampire capitalist who laughs as children starve to death — an energy deflating pick like Portman or Pawlenty would send the worst possible signal to the frustrated right, which would be faced with the choice of hustling for a ticket that does not represent its fundamental interests, or picking up its toys, wishing Mitt well, and heading home to await the inevitable.
As Mark Halperin just observed:
Given modern technology, the length and depth of preparation, and the ethos of the Obama campaign, Romney’s pick will be hit harder and faster than any selection ever.
Romney may be tempted to pick one of the colorless, competent white guys to project an above-the-fray, ready-to-govern-on-Day-One image, but there’s just one tiny little problem with that notion: he actually has to win in November before he and his veep can start governing in January. In other words, the GOP may already be preparing to fight the last war and avoiding a polarizing choice like Sarah Palin in the hopes that Obama and the media won’t eat them alive.
Which brings us to the third man said to be in the running, Paul Ryan. I’m a big fan of Ryan, as you can read here and here, and indeed would have preferred to have seen him at the top of the ticket over Romney, whose weaknesses have been all too predictable, and have been exploited by the Democrats exactly as I feared. As I wrote about Ryan over at NRO:
The first is that he speaks in the cadences of a younger America; he’s like a Quentin Tarantino character come to life, minus the profanity. Obama’s manufactured persona extends down to his mannered way of speaking, with the dropped “g’s” and the use of the word “folks,” but Ryan’s hip, rapid-fire staccato is the real thing.
Second — the deal clincher — is that Ryan is not afraid of Obama. Born in 1970, Ryan’s not dragging around any sixties baggage or angst or animus; he came of age during the Reagan administration and radiates some of the Gipper’s Sunny Jim optimism. Plus, he’s already shown he can take a punch from the president, who clearly fears him
I understand that Marco Rubio and Chris Christie each have special baggage (Rubio might to be open to some reverse-birtherism, while Christie is a little too cozy with some Islamists for comfort), but — given the reality that Halperin articulated above, what difference does it make? If Axelrod, whose unsavory background and associations are far worse than anything on the Republican side, can turn Mitt into Satan, a little baggage is not going to make a hell of a lot of difference — especially when Obama’s own considerable baggage remains tantalizingly unexamined. Either of them would be better than Portman — who’s far more useful in the Senate than he would be as veep — or Pawlenty.