As soon as Mitt Romney had clinched the Republican nomination for
president several weeks ago, I wrote a column with my own list of prominent
persons who might be considered for vice president. I have been observing
and writing for presidential politics long enough to know it was no more
that. My list included Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Governor Mitch Daniels
of Indiana, Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia, and Governor Susana
Martinez of New Mexico. Soon after that, more lists appeared, many of them
including other names. The person I have thought to be the most likely choice,
Senator Portman, has appeared on virtually every list, and seems to be the first
choice of several observers.
Speculation about a vice presidential choice is one of the most inevitable, and
least useful, aspects of a presidential campaign. With the exception of 1956
Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson, only the nominee makes the choice
after a highly confidential vetting process (a process heightened after 1972
Democratic nominee George McGovern's initial choice had to resign from the
ticket after public disclosures about his health). I say "least useful" because
almost everything written and said about who will be chosen before the choice
is announced is wrong.
Already, we have read "speculations" that former Tim Pawlenty of
Minnesota is the new frontrunner, if not the certain choice, to be picked by
2012 presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Senator Portman, these speculations
also say, has been eliminated from consideration. Governor Bobby Jindal of
Louisiana, it is also said, is the second choice, and Governor McDonnell has
also been taken off the list. The basis for most of these speculations is that
certain politicians have "bonded" with Mr. Romney, and others have not.
It appears, however, that the vetting process has only begun, and that Mr.
Romney is only now becoming better acquainted with the men and women he
Publications and networks, most of which have been hostile to the Republican
cause, are breathlessly reporting "unnamed sources" with inside information
about who is in and who is out. A recent such report, allegedly from high
sources in the Romney campaign, stated that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida,
and a major Romney ally, was not being vetted. Mr. Romney, on the campaign
trail, promptly refuted the report, stating that Mr. Rubio was being fully vetted.
My rule of thumb is that ANY report before the official announcement, no
matter how high (always anonymous) the sources from which it came, is to
be viewed with considerable skepticism. Ninety-plus per cent of such reports,
to be blunt, are false. (And the few which are true are lucky guesses.)
Only one person knows who the nominee will be (Mr. Romney) and only one
other person (Beth Myers, who he placed in charge of the nomination vetting
process) knows fully who is being vetted, who is not, and the status of that
process. As the date of the announcement approaches, more facts may be
known, but the final choice will be a very tightly kept secret. The whole
purpose of drawing out the process, other than the practical efficacy of the
vetting, is to create suspense, and maintain news interest in the campaign. It
is unlikely the final choice will be announced any time soon.
A lot of folks with various connections to the Romney campaign, to the
Republican Party, and even to Mr. Romney personally, will be tempted to
parade their self-importance (hiding behind anonymity) to members of the
news media by "leaking inside information." And virtually everyone (myself
included) will indulge in speculation about who the final choice will be.
But only Mitt Romney and Beth Myers will really know the facts, and they
won't be revealing anything until the final choice is made.
A little anecdote from the 2008 campaign: I was told by VERY HIGH
sources the day before Senator John McCain was to make his vice presidential
choice known that it would be then Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Living in Minneapolis, I drove over to the governor's residence in St. Paul
that evening to see if the secret service were now protecting the residence,
as they would have to do if Mr. Pawlenty had been chosen. No secret service
were visible. In fact, they WERE quite visible accompanying Governor Sarah
Palin of Alaska (who had been chosen.)
Mr. Pawlenty might be chosen this time, or it might be Mr. Portman. It might
be someone else. But no one knows who it will be now, and until a few hours
before the announcement, no one but Mitt Romney will know.
You don't have to wait for the fat lady to sing, but it will be a good idea to
watch for which vice presidential hopeful is suddenly joined by a small horde
of figures with little devices in their ears.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.