Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Romney types: no to Rubio as V.P.

First George Will disses Marco Rubio by omission. Now comes Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of the conservative National Review, which during the GOP primaries was in the tank for Romney, so seems likely to speak for the Romney camp today. Ponnuru writes:
Mitt Romney’s running mate is going to rank very low on the list of what’s on voters’ minds in November. Political journalists are obsessing . . . because it is one of the biggest remaining unknowns [and] creates opportunities for speculation. The speculators place high value on excitement[, i.e. Rubio]. They’re talking up potential vice-presidential candidates who would represent a demographic first[, i.e. Rubio].
Romney will. . . want someone he considers able to step into the role of president if needed; someone loyal; and someone with whom he feels personally comfortable.
Whoa. That means the Romney folks are, as we said, posing the vice president choice as either a Cheney type or a Palin type, which screams “No!” to the more Palin-like Rubio.

In fact, Ponnuru goes on to reject Rubio by name:
[Romney’s] criteria work against conservative heartthrob Marco Rubio. . . Romney and Rubio don’t seem to have much of a personal relationship. Rubio has no executive experience. And Romney probably considers Rubio unseasoned, which he is.

Of the seven Ponnuru calls able “to meet [Romney’s] criteria,” the three in "Intrade’s" current top six (chart) are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Ohio Senator Rob Portman. Ponnuru dismisses Portman—too tied to the Bush 43 past—leaving Pawlenty and Jindal. Ponnuru ends up favoring Jindal:
Jindal is the only potential vice-presidential candidate who hits the sweet spot: He is simultaneously a conservative favorite, demographically interesting (he’s a Catholic of Indian ancestry), and a reform-minded, competent governor.
Ponnuru by implication adds that Jindal would “excite the Republican convention” as would New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom Ponnuru rules out for other reasons.

So Ponnuru, who discounts Rubio’s excitement factor, likes Jindal for his excitement factor. And Ponnuru, who dismisses using demographics as a reason for picking Rubio, even though Republicans are already deeply concerned about losing the Hispanic vote by a wide margin, backs his fellow South Asian Jindal as “demographically interesting.”

In sum, we have George Will and Ramesh Ponnuru both advancing Bobby Jindal as the preferred alternative to Rubio. The audience of one is, of course, Romney, who seems to be, as Ponnuru suggests, leaning away from Rubio. In that context, Will and Ponnuru—probably both seriously worried Romney will over-react to pressure for Rubio by picking a (yawn) Portman type—are offering up Jindal as the safer “exciting choice.”

Especially after following Ponnuru’s twisted journey, I have little faith Romney will do the right thing and pick Rubio, who is the real thing, not some second-choice alternative.

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