Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential pick won’t be as important as media pundits would have you believe. Instead, Mr. Romney’s electoral success (or defeat) will largely rest on his ability to convince swing-state voters that President Obama has harmed the economy, rapidly increased the national debt, championed an unwise revolution in health care, and ineffectually addressed US immigration policy. If the President is able to shake-off the criticisms of his administration, Romney’s Vice Presidential pick won’t matter.
Nevertheless, Mitt Romney must pick carefully. In 2008 John McCain’s running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, had a positive impact on McCain’s campaign: conservatives suddenly felt comfortable voting for a candidate they didn’t particularly like. Unfortunately Governor Romney cannot afford a Vice Presidential candidate who will generate an undue amount of negative publicity – it would detract from his message and probably cost him the White House.
In addition to the short-term electoral considerations, the choice of a Vice President also raises long-term strategic questions. If Mr. Romney wins the presidential election with a Senator as his running mate, the victory might be a shallow one: it could cost Republicans a valuable seat in the Senate. Such a result would only make long-term reforms more difficult. Thus it would be unwise for Mitt Romney to ask Florida Senator Marco Rubio or New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to be his Vice President. Naturally, a Senator from a reliably Republican state would not pose such a risk (e.g. South Dakota Senator John Thune).
Mitt Romney is in a tough spot: a safe Vice Presidential pick will do little to offset the President’s dedicated supporters and impressive campaigning skills, while a high-risk high-reward choice will give Democrat loyalists a Vice Presidential candidate they can attack. Betters beware: this contest will be close – regardless of the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.