A few months ago, I wrote an article about who should be Governor Romney’s choice for VP. Since then, the VP speculations have only increased, with the most recent example of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- as the potential running mate du jour.
And though Rice would add excitement to a ticket lead by Mitt Romney, it is unlikely she will be the final choice. Instead, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) will be Mitt Romney's running mate. Here are five reasons why he would be the best choice:
1. Experience: One of the biggest problems surrounding the selection of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, four years ago, was her lack of experience on the national stage. Portman is easily more qualified than her -- and any other potential rival for the VP slot -- in this category.
Senator Portman served in the U.S. House of Representatives for over a decade, and twice in President George W. Bush’s cabinet: first, as the U.S. Trade Representative; and then, as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. After Portman left the Bush Administration, he settled back into private life -- to reemerge on the national stage when he was elected Ohio’s junior senator, in 2010.
Portman has the experience, but he also has the good reputation. He is respected on both sides of the aisle, and has a knack for reaching across and getting things done (as exemplified by his recent work on an energy bill with Senator Jeane Shaheen (D-NH). Portman's combination of Midwestern Charm and encyclopedic knowledge of economics and the budget will be assets for Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts, who has never held political office in Washington before, is going to need a respected insider in order to help him accomplish his legislative agenda -- if he, indeed, becomes president.
3. Ohio, Ohio, Ohio:
Twelve years ago, Tim Russert famously wrote on his whiteboard “Florida, Florida, Florida,” to signify how important that state became to the 2000 Presidential Election. This year, the outcome in Ohio will be critical to decide whether President Obama is reelected or Romney becomes the next president. Portman’s name on the ticket would help Romney winning the Buckeye State. Portman coordinated most of President Bush’s southeastern Ohio operation during his re-election campaign in 2004, and Portman’s influence helped Bush carry the region that won the state -- and the election. Romney would certainly benefit from Portman’s stature, especially in the southwestern part of the state, which is always the bellwether. Portman already helped Romney squeak out a victory in the 2012 Ohio primary, he might need the "Portman Touch" again during the general.
4. Respect and Rapport:
I don’t know this personally, but from everything I have read, Portman and Romney seem to get along pretty well. Plus, Romney values loyalty and Portman --unlike the other major candidates being considered (with the exception of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) -- stuck his neck out to endorse Romney early on. Rubio and others waited until Romney essentially won the nomination to voice their support, but Portman endorsed Romney even when it seemed he would lose Ohio to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum during the Republican Primary.
I've heard every criticism there is about Portman as a potential choice for Romney's running mate, but most of those arguments are unfounded. Some have argued that his deficit hawk credentials are tainted from his tenure as Bush’s OMB director. While Bush certainly ramped up the deficit, when Portman was director those deficits were in the low hundreds of billions (not in the trillions as it is today). Most people would be very happy if we had those deficit levels today. Another criticism that has been leveled against Senator Portman is his perceived “blandness.” While one can make his/her own judgments about Portman's personality, that perception of him is actually an asset. Romney would be ill served by a VP who is constantly upstaging him. He needs to focus instead on projecting an aura of cerebral competence.
5. The "Boring" Effect:
Romney will never be as hip or as exciting as President Obama, so he should just embrace his "boringness." Romney should not go for a flashy option, as picking someone like that could be perceived as a publicity stunt. It's OK being boring. Team Romney can work with boring, as long as they project a competent image of professionals who are ready to turn the country around.
At the end of the day, the Republican Party should be very proud that it has a fairly long list of rising Republican stars that could realistically run for vice president (or president). But at this critical juncture, Romney needs a vice presidential running mate who has experience, who is trusted and admired (on both sides of the aisle) and who can carry a swing state. He needs Rob Portman.