McDonnell, Christie, and Rubio Make Romney’s Short List for Being Palinized

Bookmark and Share    At a private $1,200 per plate fundraiser in the home of Virginia State Senator Jeff McWaters, Mitt Romney declared that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are on his short list of possible running mates. The remark was essentially an innocuous statement of the obvious. For many conservative voters, Christie, McDonnell, and Rubio are on the short list of preferred candidates for President not just Vice President. Unlike many of the leading Republican candidates for President, including Romney, much of the conservative base of the G.O.P. are excited about the promise of Christie, McDonnell, and Rubio.

So for Mitt to suggest that he would consider all three men for the job of Vice President should not come as a surprise. The surprise would be that he wasn’t considering them. Such a surprise would also be a sign of some problematic political instincts. Any Republican who is serious about winning the White House in 2012, would be crazy not consider the governors of New Jersey and Virginia and the Senator form Florida.

However, would any of the three want to tie their future to Mitt Romney? Or for that matter would any of them want to tie their futures up with any of the current Republican presidential candidates?

If anyone of the three men in question were seeking the nomination, there would be none of the current chatter about a perceived lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field. Each of them would energize the base, excite those within the TEA movement, and even appeal to more independent minded Republicans. But Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio are not looking to be flashes in the pan. They are each in this for the long haul. Each of them are focusing on the still relatively new jobs that they have gotten and neither of them want to be palinized or quayled.

Those of us who were following Sarah Palin prior to her being picked as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, while we were pleased to see McCain pick her for Vice President, we were not pleased by the price she paid for accepting the nomination. After feeling threatened by the energy Palin brought to the otherwise lackluster ticket, the left pounced on her relentlessly. Combined with her relatively short political record and her inexperience with the constant political game paying of national politics, Palin’s image was not helped by the assistance she provided the G.O.P. in 2008. The same could easily happen with Marco Rubio who has not been in the U.S. Senate for even a year yet and Governors Christie and McDonnell who have served just about as much time in their current positions as did Palin when she was nominated.

As for Chris Christie, just yesterday, he again confirmed that he does not feel that the time for him to run for President is right and that he is personally not ready for to pursue the job. Ironically, he made that statement in Iowa, the hotbed of presidential politics which holds the first presidential nomination contest. But Christie was there as a guest of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for a forum on education, not to run for President.

In the case of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, back in February, when asked “What if the Party’s nominee.. came to you and said ‘for the betterment of your party and your country, I need you to serve as my running mate’. Wouldn’t that be a difficult thing for you to turn down?”, McDonnell replied, “Probably”. But other than that, the Virginia conservative has shown no interest in possibly giving up his job prematurely.

In regards to Marco Rubio, here is a young conservative who became the youngest Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and after being term limited, ran an incredible come from behind, against all odds, anti-establishment, race for the United States Senate. Before doing so, many urged him to wait. They asked him to pay his political dues and get in line in order to allow the traditional succession of the political hierarchy to tell him when it was his turn. Instead Rubio told the political hierarchy to get behind him. Eventually they did. Now Rubio’s future is still tied to no one. That is one reason why although he is a leading force in support of the principles held by the TEA Party movement, he did not join the Senate’s TEA Party Caucus. This was a bright strategic move that allowed him to create some distance between him and the type of hyperbolic rhetoric that the mainstream media uses regarding those connected with the TEA Party. While he adheres to the TEA Party agenda and in many ways leads it, the left does not have the opportunity to describe him as a radical, card carrying member of the TEA Party Caucus.

So Rubio is looking out and while being on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee in 2012 will undoubtedly be most beneficial to the chances of the Party’s winning the presidency, it may not be so beneficial to Rubio and the nation. The chances of being palinized for the sake of the vice presidency is not worth the risk. Win or lose, either way, for a talent like Rubio to be wasted on the vice presidency would be a conservative political travesty. And I believe Rubio knows that he is a future President, not a future Vice President.

Nonetheless, those who are running for President in 2012 need all the help they can get right now and not attempting to recruit the help of Rubio, McDonnell, and Christie would be stupid. The only question I have is why Mitt did not include New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on that list. In my estimation, each of those women are on a plane equal to that of McDonnell and Christie and almost equal to that of Marco Rubio.

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Will Social Conservatives Have Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Bookmark and Share Although it is far too early to define the still emerging Republican field of potential 2012 presidential candidates, it is safe to say that at this point in time, it is a much more broadly conservative field than we saw in 2008. Right now, while names like Daniels, Romney Gingrich and Barbour are top tier candidates who have records that, whether social conservatives realize it or not, have great merit and should have great appeal to them, an endless slate of names which come directly out of the social conservative movement is producing an extremely crowded field of political battle. Currently such perspective names in this area include Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Jim DeMint. A second tier in this category includes Buddy Roemer, Bob Riley, Herman Cain, and most recently, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, the judge who was thrown off the bench because he refused to uphold an appellate ruling that ordered him to remove a statue of the ten commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

Now while it is almost certain that not all of these names will make it to the starting line and even fewer will make it much further past the starting blocks, it is more than obvious that this field of potential Republican presidential candidates is much further to the right than we saw in 2008. That is a good thing, or at least it should be. Especially if the catalyst that moves it to the right is based on fiscal conservatism. But even on social issues, a lurch to the right is a good thing. Part of social conservatism should be support for the values of individualism as opposed to federalism, independence as opposed to bureaucratic tyranny, responsibility rather than dependence, defense of religion instead of offense against religion. All of these beliefs are a part of social conservatism, or at least they should be. So for that reason, I believe that both economic and movement conservatism is a great thing.

But with the endless amount of religious fundamentalists entering into exploratory presidential committees and thinking about entering into such ventures, I cant help but recall that even Noah did not stock his ark with only one breed of any animal. Noah knew that the future of the animal kingdom and of life as we knew it, relied on including all breeds, all types and strains of animal life. Yet right now, in the ark of Republican presidential candidates, we are finding our stalls filled with predominantly religious right, social conservatives. And to compound that point, a specific genus of social conservatives has begun to stock the stalls.. Southern conservatives. The latest count is at eight.

Now before anyone starts writing in and accusing me of being a liberal with prejudices against Southerners, think again. One of my top tier choices happens to be Haley Barbour and correct me if I am wrong, but I dont think you can get much more Southern than Haley and you will be hard pressed to find a more conservative Republican than him. In addition to that, as someone who goes by the online pseudo name of Kempite, I am a self-described, bleeding-heart, Jack Kemp conservative. Have been all of my life, or at least since my political passions were sparked by the campaign and presidency of Ronald Reagan at the age of 12.

So I am not knocking conservatives and I am not belittling the potential candidacy of any conservative aspiring to run for President. But what I am questioning is the potential that exists for splintering the social conservative base and diluting the movements influence over who the Republican presidential nominee is.

From a strategic point, social conservatives are not helping themselves with a field of fourteen zealots who can divide support among the base and along regional and state lines. I mean right now, with the emergence of Roy Moore, even Alabama has the chance to see its primary divided between two favorite sons.. Moore and Bob Riley. And dont think for a moment that Haley Barbour and or Mike Huckabee cant get a few votes from both of them.

The proliferation of social conservative and Southern social conservative presidential candidates in 2012 is something which the religious right and movement conservatives across the nation need to think about before the primaries and caucuses begin. If this segment of the G.O.P. hopes to have any significant influence in choosing the 2012 Republican nominee, they are going to need to rally around a specific name or two rather than divide themselves among a dozen or two names. If they fail to do so, they will be providing a perfect opportunity for a candidate like Jon Huntsman, Jr. or even a Rudy Giuliani, to walk up the middle and become the G.O.P.s next John McCain.

I personally dont mind this split. Again, not because I am anything but conservative fundamentalist, but because I believe the religious right in our Party is marginalizing themselves by shunning people like Mitt Romney and Mitch Daniels, and even Newt Gingrich. It is my belief that social conservatives have great friends in all these men. Yet because of what are somewhat superficial reasons, they object to these names. Romney is a Mormon, Mitch Daniels wants to concentrate on the fiscal crisis, Newt Gingrich is divorced. But for me, the more Huckabees, Bachmanns, Cains, Roemers, Moores, Santorums, and Rileys, they divide their support among the social conservatives, the better chance that their less favored Daniels, Romneys, Gingrichs and even Haley Barbours have at winning the nomination. So I dont mind. But they might.

But even if the records of Romney, Daniels, Barbour or Gingrich, fail to inspire social conservatives and they continue to divide their support among a dozen other religious, or defense of marriage or Right-to-Life agents, we still run the risk of losing both the opportunity to nominate a social conservative for President and to elect such a President. The inordinate amount of movement conservatives running, is going to cause many candidates to portray themselves as more conservative than the next. Each one will try to go further to the right of the other. And at some point it will be hard for the winner to not be believably portrayed as an extremist and to avoid being painted as too radical in the general election.

This is not to say that our ultimate nominee shouldnt be a true conservative of both social and fiscal values. But it does suggest that with such a large number of social conservatives competing, the rhetoric used in the campaign must be carefully parsed. Conservatism is one thing, but extremism is another. President Obama has delivered extremism and it has not exactly increased his popularity. So while Barry Goldwaters words about extremism in the defense of liberty not being a vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice not being a virtue, are true, radicalism in the name of elections is certain defeat.

So there are two things for us as Republicans to think about here. How many candidates are we willing to divide the delicate marriage between social and fiscal conservatives by? Then we must ask ourselves how far we are willing to go before we become the type of radical extremists that we claim President Obama and the Democrat Party leadership and apparatus to be? To answer that question, the candidates in the race must allow ideological fervor to be tempered by constitutional legitimacy. They must allow the United States Constitution to interpret their ideological positions into a practical application of government that allows for constitutionally limited government. We can go as far to the right as we want, so long as the Constitution prevents us from turning religion into legislation and so long as it protects the rights of all, without discriminating against the rights of some. Moving to the right will not be a problem at all, so long as we remember that while our ideology is important, the Constitution is what must shape how it is applied to federal governance and how far it can be taken into the lives of every American. That is a message that the TEA Party movement sent in 2010 and you can expect them to echo that same sentiment in 2012.

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