The burning question is who close-to-presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama will pick as his running mate. The question is better asked of his GOP foe John McCain. His vice presidential pick is far more crucial than who Obama picks. Obama is pretty much a solo act on the campaign circuit. He's firmed up his rock solid core of black voters, students, and college educated businesspersons and professionals, with his rock star allure, fresh face, soaring rhetoric, inspiring and catchy message of hope and change.
If he can convince a reasonable number of blue collar white Democrats that are racially doubtful about him that he can do more to soothe their economic woes, this could trump the racial doubts of many about him. That and the Bush albatross of the war and the economic meltdown around him is a tough one for McCain to get around, especially since he has none of the charisma, the message of Obama, a wobbly base among Christian fundamentalists and social conservatives, and the persistent whispers and doubts about his age and health. He'll need a vice president who can help right the tottering GOP ship. He has no choice but to implore Mitt Romney to sign on to the ticket.
The reasons for Romney go beyond McCain's image problem and party doubts. Romney was the first GOP presidential candidate to publicly warn back in January that Obama would be the likely GOP opponent, and then say that he could beat him. This was not mere political braggadocio. He like Obama sold himself as the change guy who can go to Washington cut the cronyism, bureaucratic and congressional inertia, and restore public confidence. McCain is the walking embodiment of the much loathed Washington insider establishment.
Obama is a cash cow and will have a king's ransom campaign war chest. In fact, he's the first Democratic presidential candidate in a while who can go toe to toe with Republicans in the presidential money rink. This presidential race will be the costliest in American history, with some estimates putting the price of winning the White House at one billion plus dollars. Romney is every bit the corporate cash cow as Obama. He pumped tens of millions into and virtually self-bankrolled his campaign. He can do what McCain has struggled to do and that's open the GOP's corporate money spigot.
Romney is a social conservative, but he's also one that social conservatives like, have confidence in, and have gotten behind with passion. McCain isn't. Though he's done reasonably well in some primaries getting Christian fundamentalist and ultra conservative votes, there's little passion and enthusiasm among them for him. If they stay home in droves on Election Day, McCain's candidacy is DOA.
In nearly all polls, affordable health care worries ranks close behind the economy as a major concern of millions. Obama will tell what he will do if elected to provide affordable care for millions. Romney can tell what he actually did to provide it. Though since leaving office he sounded a warning about the costs, he can still wave the much admired, and successful health care plan that he helped craft and implement as Massachusetts governor as a model for the states and the nation.
McCain will have to spend time and money building name identification for any VP pick other than Romney. Romney has that name identification, and more importantly, name identification that is not saddled with a trunk load of negatives.
Romney is a decade younger than McCain. Age, as race with Obama is a great X Factor, for McCain. He will be the oldest president ever on inauguration day. This, and health questions, is a big concern of many voters.
The most successful presidents have been governors (with one very current exception). They bring the administrative and management skills crucial to the office. Romney would put the minds of many voters at ease that if McCain succumbed to health problems, he could immediately step in and ably run the affairs of state.
He's a team player. When he shut down his campaign in February he immediately met with and smoothed over the ruffled feathers with McCain, and urged his delegates to support him. He then went to a couple of states to pitch him. One of them was Michigan which is very much in play for the GOP given the large number of social conservatives there and his strong roots there during his father, George Romney's, years as governor.
McCain bets the political bank that his strengths on national security, the war against terrorism, and strangely, even winning the war in Iraq on his terms, will resonate with millions of voters. He'll need more than that to offset voter and party doubts, divisions, and the X Factor of age and health. Romney gives him added insurance to help offset these potentially deal breaking liabilities for him. Romney poses a bigger threat to Obama than McCain.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008). He is the National Political Affairs Writer for New America Media.