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The Republican Veepstakes

July 8, 2007

Who will get a shot at ‘the bucket of warm spit’?

Having handicapped the contest for the Republican nomination it is only logical to investigate potential possibilities for the vice-presidential nomination. This is of course extremely speculative at this stage. If it wasn’t for the fact that the contest seems to be essentially a race between Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, with all other candidates trailing by a large margin, the exercise would be pointless. However, given that the contest for the top spot is not completely unpredictable a few basic predictions can be made about the candidate most likely to feature on the bottom half of the ticket.

1. Sen. Joseph Lieberman – The most obvious choice. He has already hinted that he will endorse Giuliani or McCain if either of them wins the nomination, while his decision to keep caucusing with the Democrats means that any change in affiliation will garner maximum publicity. Choosing him means that at one bound the nominee will regain many of the independent voters that Bush has alienated in the past four years. At the same time it would demonstrate a commitment to an interventionist foreign policy and a more centrist stance on economic issues. Unfortunately, Frank Thompson may want to adopt a more realist foreign policy, Giuliani is pretty much forced to pick a pro-life candidate and McCain may pick either Tim Pawlentry or someone else from the right. The eventual winner of the nomination may also feel uneasy with putting a former Democrat within a heartbeat of the Presidency.

2. Gov. Sarah Palin – If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama get on the Democrat ticket there will be a large amount of pressure to put a female candidate in the vice-presidential spot. Governor Palin is (for the moment) popular, pro-life and appeals to rural voters and ‘hockey mums’. However, she has only been governor for two years and her popularity could evaporate between now and the convention. It is unlikely that she could hurt the ticket but the Republicans really need someone who could radically shift public opinion and she might be too lightweight to do so.

3. Colin Powell – Like Palin, Colin Powell would be a visible symbol of Republican diversity. He also has extensive foreign policy and national security experience while his presence on the ticket would signal a move back to a more ‘realist’ foreign policy (important if the nominee wants to distance himself from Bush). The fact that he was the original choice of Bill Clinton in 1992 shows that he appeals to the centre while the success of Barack Obama means that the fear of racism, which stopped him running in 1996, is no longer an issue. However, his dovish views on both Iraq wars may make him unsuitable if the nominee wants to take a hawkish stance. There is also the question on whether his pro-choice views make him a suitable candidate for someone like Giuliani.

4. Tom Ridge – One of Bush’s potential choices in 2000 and a popular former governor of Philadelphia with plenty of ‘Blue-Collar’ appeal. A decision to pick him would be seen by many as a solid but timid choice

5. Sen. Susan Collins – As an experienced moderate Senator from a Northern state she would appeal to centrists. However, the only realistic hope of her getting the nomination is if Thompson wins the nomination and decides to balance the ticket by emphasising diversity, or if McCain is pressured into picking a female running mate.

6. Gov. Tim Pawlentry – Only on the list of potential nominees because of his friendship with McCain. His anti-immigration stance may play well with the Republican base but McCain would have to write off California. He might even throw Colorado and New Mexico into the Democratic column.

7. Fred Thompson – Charismatic and has a strong appeal to the Republican right. However, with the exception of Jack Kemp in 1996 and George Bush in 1980, you would have to go back to John Bricker in 1944 to find a defeated primary candidate who got the second spot on the ticket. Thompson might be seen as too old and too politically damaged by the time of the convention.

8. Elizabeth Dole – Although pro-life and female she’s really too old and too associated with her husband’s failed campaign of 1996 and her withdrawal from the Republican contest in 2000. Only the fact that she was seriously considered as Bush’s running mate in 2000 and her husband’s friendship with McCain keeps her in the top 10.

9. Mario Rafael Diaz-Balart – As a youthful Latino Congressman from a swing state Diaz-Balart must be considered a potential nominee, but only just. He hasn’t made much of an impact and the Cuban-American vote is overwhelmingly Republican anyway. Also, memories of Dan Quayle in 1988 demonstrate the danger of choosing a running mate solely on youth alone.

10. Rudy Giuliani – If he does well in the primaries he could be an asset in winning votes in the Northeast. However, the same qualifications about defeated primary candidates apply to him as they apply to Thompson. He is unlikely to increase in popularity and polls suggest that would have trouble in making any inroads in the Northeast even if he was on the top of the ticket.

So the frontrunner for the second spot seem to be Joseph Lieberman and Sarah Palin (with the latter being a possible future Presidential candidate). In terms of what he brings to the ticket, the message that he sends to the voters and the role in which he would play in keeping the nominee to a centrist economic message and a strong foreign policy Lieberman would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately a McCain-Lieberman or Thompson-Lieberman ticket makes so much sense that it seems destined to never happen.

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