Obama has been leading in the polls. Recent polls from CNN and Fox News (which was conducted by one of my UT professors’ polling firm Shaw & Research Co.) put Obama on top by 7 and 9 percentage points respectively, which is above the standard margin of error. Gallup poll conducted Friday put both campaigns at a 46-46 tie. Rasmussen tracking provided Romney with a two point advantage. Mr. Obama has also been leading in most of the swing states. Romney needs a good convention, a good vice presidential pick, and good debates to carry him over the top: it is an uphill battle for sure.
As for the VP speculation, the Romney campaign has been trumping up its VP selection by pestering supporters with emails asking them to donate for a chance to find out the identity of Romney’s running mate and rolling out a new Apple app as a tool for supporters to be the first to find out about the pick. In a recent CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, Marco Rubio came out on top of the list, with Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey close behind tied for second. Ok look, as much as I would like for Paul Ryan to be Romney’s running mate, I do not think that is very likely purely out of strategic concerns. Nate Silver, a respected statistician turned pollster, puts Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) at a mere 2.8% as a deciding state to carry Romney over, while he pegs Ohio (18 electoral votes) at 34% decisive to a Romney win. Wisconsin already has Scott Walker, the governor who took on the unions and survived a liberal, special-interests campaign to unseat him. Walker is also speaking at the Republican National Convention to trump up support. In addition, the President has been leading in Wisconsin for weeks now. These realities alone deprive Paul Ryan of a chance at VP, not to mention the Left has successfully painted Ryan as a radical affront on the women and the poor through his budget plans. Ryan himself is not vastly popular in his home state with 30 some percent approval. If Ryan is picked, more negative ads will flood the air to bring down Ryan’s credentials and paint him as killer-of-Medicare-as-we-know-it, which is a liberal way of deflecting from the real issue: entitlement reform. I am a huge fan of Paul Ryan. I think he is one of the few Republicans in Congress who had the balls to offer a bold plan to reign in the country’s fiscal binge. But in a tight election year, Ryan may be too “bold” of a pick. Ryan will be red meat for the “gotcha” mainstream media’s dog-and-pony show, a good pick for the Party’s fiscal hawks, but bad for the electability of a Republican presidential candidate in a tough election year.
Bobby Jindal, Republican governor from Louisiana, has been a name thrown around as well. From a strategic standpoint, Jindal makes absolutely no sense for Romney’s electoral gains. Jindal has a phenomenal resume that arguably outshines Romney. Why do you want to make a sequel of Batman and focus solely on Robin (McCain/Palin)? The campaign would be stupid to pick Jindal as the VP ticket.
Other names include Bob McConnell, Rob Portman, and Marco Rubio. According to Nate Silver, Rubio has a net positive impact of 2.8% in his home state, while Portman has 1.1%. Bob McConnell has a 3.5%, but Virginia has only 13 electoral votes, 15 less than Florida. Rubio is predicted to increase Florida’s win chance by 15%. In the same blog, Silver however predicts that Portman and McConnell will have the most likely impact (about two percentage points) on winning the election. That’s how the numbers look today. Here are some qualitative considerations.
McConnell is a popular governor in Virginia, a state that went to a Democratic President in 2008 for the first time since LBJ. Virginia is an important state for Obama. He has campaigned and fundraised in Virginia numerous times this year. The state has a relatively low unemployment rate at about 6%. Even though southern Virginia bordering North Carolina has higher jobless rate, that area of state, being rural, small town America will most likely go to Romney anyways. The key urban center in Northern Virginia, where an economic boom, similar to that of Austin, has brought in diverse, highly-skilled workers to IT and government contract jobs. Places like Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Loundon County are some of the wealthiest counties coupled with lowest jobless rates in the country. Bob McConnell carried all three of these wealthy counties in 2009. With McConnell as surrogate, Romney can tap into these counties and steal a win in Virginia. With a Real Clear Politics polling average between 3-8/10, the country rejects Obamacare, 49.9%-42.2%, a 7.7 percentage point lead in favor of repealing. There is only one candidate who is campaigning to repeal Obamacare in this race. Team Obama has a tough sell to make in these rich counties where people are perfectly fine with their health care. Therefore, it is not overly optimistic for me to think Romney has a good chance with Virginia.
In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio has the political profile and the conservative credentials to not only solidify Romney’s support in Florida, a key swing state, but he is vastly popular among the Tea Party brand of the party and the so-called conservative purists. And let’s face it, a rising star in the new Hispanic right? Jackpot. If Florida’s 29 electoral votes go toward Romney, and if he takes back Wisconsin and Virginia, states that went to Obama in 2008, he doesn’t need Ohio to win the election. However, admittedly, the scenario I proposed is rather rosy because Wisconsin and Virginia have been trending Democratic. In turns of resource allocation, Ohio (18 electoral votes) is still THE strategy for the Romney campaign, and he needs to do anything to shore up support to carry 50%+1 in Ohio, even if that means picking Rob Portman as his VP…or so some strategists would suggest. But a plurality, 42% of voters polled in Ohio, either don’t know or haven’t heard of Portman. Actually a PPP poll concludes 55% Ohioans don’t know Portman in his own state! What use is that? While it is true that 16 out of 22 vice presidential picks since 1968 came from home states already in candidates’ favor, often those are states with little electoral gains such as Connecticut, Delaware, Wyoming, etc., (Bill Turque, Washington Post), Rubio is from a state that hails 29 valuable electoral votes, the same state that had riveted the nation in 2000 with butterfly ballots and Supreme Court drama.
Nate Silver predicts that Rob Portman will boost Romney’s election win potential by 2 points, while Bob McConnell will carry it over by 1 point. To the non-political watchers, in a current world of party polarization and divided America, that can be significant enough to carry Romney to the top on Election Day.
Of course, the media and the pundits love a good horse-race. To them, this is the NFL draft of politics. Couple weeks back, network television was hyping up Condoleeza Rice as Romney’s potential VP, to all serious Republicans, we knew that was a desperate call from media running out of guesses, which is a good sign for the Romney campaign – keep them guessing. The media has been focusing on Tim Pawlenty (uh no jose), Rob Portman, and Paul Ryan in the last week.
Republicans need to stop fooling ourselves and put up a show for the mainstream media. Barack Obama is arguably one of the best political communicators, orators, rhetoricians, BSers in the history of the United States. He has some of the brightest political operatives working for his campaign. And despite his recent habitual lament of how the Republicans are beating him in the fundraising game, his campaign is still ahead of the game having raised some $550 million, compared to Romney’s $395 million. To put that in perspective, Obama campaign has a fundraising advantage of $155 million that could easily employ more than 860,000 Kenyans for a year based on the country’s per capita annual income of $1,800. Republicans should not and cannot underestimate the Chicago political machine that is behind the Obama campaign.
On an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC, Romney said that he wants a VP who has “a vision for the country, that, that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country.” Rob Portman doesn’t seem to fit the description. Senator Rubio is a young conservative firebrand who will ignite the conservatives, tear down the stereotype of Republican old “white male” club, and provide political hope for fiscally conservative, anti-communist, Catholic, pro-family Latino voters. Going the Florida route in an electoral plan via Rubio seems like the best VP choice for me for Romney and the Republican Party. For an owner of a 200-year-old haunted house in Ohio, Portman is too spooky of a pick for the Republican Party. I understand the rationale for a “boring white guy” as running mate; but come on, I can’t be the only guy who thinks a Romney-Portman might be too boring that people may not even turn out to vote?
CNN just broke the news: Romney campaign will be announcing his VP pick in Norfolk, Virginia tomorrow morning (Quick! All network reporters, get on the first plane to Norfolk #BostonAirport backed up on tarmac)
Here’s my relatively rosy Electoral Map. We will see where political tides take up in the next three months. Wisconsin was a big call for me, but let’s wait and see.