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2012 GOP Veepstakes Finals: Rubio vs. Portman… 'Exciting' vs 'Safe'

By Amir Iljazi - posted Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A little more than a year ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced what many already knew, that he was running for the GOP nomination for President in the 2012 election against President Barack Obama. Slightly more than a month ago, Mr. Romney did what many also already knew he would do… secure that nomination.

The last few months have provided certain clues, names, and rationales for the individuals who may be asked to join Mr. Romney on the ticket for the general election campaign this fall and there has been no shortage of people willing to give an opinion, myself included. We have now reached the point in the campaign where the VP pick will be made (privately, not yet publicly revealed) and I say this because the mistakes of the McCain campaign were unique to that campaign. There is no doubt that President Obama, President Bush, Senator Kerry and President Clinton all knew who they were going to choose several weeks before the public was made aware of the pick, and I am certain the Romney campaign will be no different.

The choice for Vice President, in my opinion, has always been between two dynamics and this time around that still holds true.


One dynamic is the “exciting pick” that tends to be more about style and generating buzz about a ticket, certainly that is what won out for the McCain team in 2008, and in all honesty they had no choice but to go for that excitement factor considering what they were up against (stylistically speaking).

The second dynamic in the Vice-Presidential paradox is the “safe pick” which is much more about the substance of the campaign and the credentials of the individual. This type of pick can be seen in many recent selections including the current Vice-President, Mr. Biden who was not only seen as a “safe” pick, but he was also someone who “balanced” the ticket for then-Senator Obama in many ways including age, experience, policy expertise, and middle-class appeal. Mr. Romney is now in the position where he must decide what type of dynamic will work best for his candidacy?

Within the two dynamics, there are a number of individuals who fit the criteria in more ways than one, and that is where we started when I began the Veepstakes Brackets months ago. The 32 initial contenders were a mix of many but in the end I could classify them all as being part of one of the two dynamics. “Exciting” choices like Condoleezza Rice and Gov Chris Christie were eliminated just as were “Safe” choices like Sen Jon Kyl and Gov Mitch Daniels. That being said, the final two contenders undoubtedly represent the truest forms of the “exciting” vs “safe” dynamic.

The case for Marco Rubio falls into line with those who feel Mr. Romney needs to make an “exciting” choice in order to increase his chances at winning the election. Senator Rubio would add an instant jolt into the Presidential campaign and many in the conservative base would be absolutely ecstatic with his selection to be on the ticket. Senator Rubio would provide an initial boost in polling for the Romney campaign both nationally and in specific swing states including NV, CO, and his home state (and mine) of FL and no state may be more important to Romney than the “Sunshine State.”

Those who are endorsing Rubio for the VP nod are also looking at it from a demographic standpoint with the belief that placing Rubio on the ticket may provide Mr. Romney the opportunity to chip away at President Obama’s heavy advantage with Hispanic voters, an advantage of more than 40% as it stands now. Mr. Rubio, 41, is also seen as someone who could reach out to younger voters, another demographic where Mr. Romney is well behind the President.

Certainly the fact that he is Catholic has to be seen as something of an advantage when weighing him for VP, considering the recent infringements upon the Catholic Church that Obama Administration has engaged in related to ObamaCare. Finally, the optimism that Senator Rubio exudes when discussing his life story on the trail is an assett that many believe can help the Romney campaign in their efforts to identify with voters from states all across the country. Nobody can deny the uplifting story that Senator Rubio brings to the table, and it is something that can appeal to voters from all backgrounds.


The case for Rob Portman rings true with those going for the “safe” choice. Senator Portman of Ohio is safe in almost every way, his bland and boring background practically screams conventional. Picking Portman would be all about the credentials, with just a hint of electoral map strategy. Senator Portman is one of the most qualified individuals in consideration for the VP, and he has been since the start. He was a former congressman and now a first term Senator hailing from the crucial swing state of Ohio… no Republican has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio.

In between his time representing Ohio, he was a member of the Bush Administration in two different roles, and for both he was confirmed by the U. S. Senate. He was United States Trade Representative overseeing economic issues, which directly impacted how the United States does business both domestically and internationally. He was also confirmed to the OMB (Office of Management & Budget) Director for the Bush White House, where he was able to burnish his credentials on fiscal policy even further. Senator Portman’s credentials bring to light the first rule that many see as essential when choosing a Vice President, that rule is to pick someone who will be ready to be President on Day One.

The pick for VP is the first major decision a nominee makes and when choosing someone for the number two spot, it will convey a message to voters on what you want from a Vice President. Senator Portman also brings almost no liability in the fact that he has been vetted already… twice. The Senate confirmed him for cabinet positions less than ten years ago, and had there been something in his past the Democrats in the Senate would have made sure to make it public. Finally, Portman reinforces exactly what the Romney candidacy is about... the economy.

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This article was first published on Menzies House.

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About the Author

Amir Iljazi is the US Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, DC and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for federal races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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