The Veepstakes, as we head to the wire

Karl Rove tells Fox News that Mitt Romney is “close to a decision” on a running mate. Rove predicts that the announcement will come next week, but adds that “it could come as early as Friday.”

I’d be reasonably satisfied with any of the folks whose names I’ve seen on the “short lists” that get bandied about. That includes, in no particular order, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Tim Pawlenty, and Chris Christie. Each seems qualified to be president (that’s the most important thing) and each would add something to the ticket.

Each also has some sort of “strike” against him. Portman was significant player in the Bush administration. Rubio apparently has associations in Florida out of which Team Obama might be able to make something. Jindal, it is said, gave a poor response to one of Obama’s addresses to Congress (I didn’t see it). Ryan can be targeted by Obama as wanting to end Medicare as we know it. Pawlenty was unimpressive during the presidential debates last year. Christie may be less conservative than the others.

These considerations are unlikely to be decisive; nor, in most cases, should they be. Romney needs to decide in the first instance whether he wants a relatively safe pick or someone who will liven things up. I’ve believed that he will opt for safety, which would favor Portman or Pawlenty. But perhaps, with the polls moving slightly in Obama’s favor, Romney will heed those who say that he can’t just rely on Obama’s weaknesses to propel him to the presidency by default.

For what it’s worth, I favor Bobby Jindal. He’s been a successful governor now for almost five years. Before that, he served in the House for two terms, rising to the rank of House Assistant Majority Whip. Jindal also served in the first Bush administration as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation. This blend of experience distinguishes him from the rest of the field (as I’ve defined it), though in some cases not by much.

Jindal’s conservative credentials are, to my knowledge, beyond legitimate dispute. And he articulates conservative principles effectively. He did so, for example, in a recent C-SPAN interview on the vital subject of education reform.

Finally, Jindal seems to combine the elements of “safety” and potential to liven things up better than the other contenders. Of course, Team Romney presumably has been vetting these guys for months, and thus knows far better than I do who actually is safe, who excels on the campaign trail, and who (if anyone) might win votes for the ticket.

Unfortunately for Jindal, it can’t be argued that he would help Romney is any particular swing state (as, say, Rubio, Portman or Ryan might), and it’s not clear that he would help with any sizeable voting block (as Rubio might with Hispanics). So I doubt that Jindal is at the top of Romney’s list.

In any event, if Rove is right, all of this speculation will soon come to an end.

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