Picking the right one to run with Romney

July 3, 2012

Several months ago, we met a CEO who had one main complaint about his job. It wasn’t foreign competition or fickle consumers. No, it was loneliness. “I make every decision by myself,” he moaned.

“That’s nuts!” was our immediate reply. “You can’t run the place that way!”

Every leader needs a team, and every leader benefits enormously from having a wingman, a partner who can be counted on to counsel, goad, provoke, listen, and on and on. It’s true in business, and it’s true in politics. A great person in the No. 2 spot can make the person at No. 1 decidedly stronger, smarter and more effective.

So, Mitt Romney, don’t blow the VP thing.

Fortunately, that would be pretty hard at this point. The current short list of contenders easily passes muster in terms of intellectual heft and leadership experience: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. There’s not an iffy option in the bunch.

So how should Romney choose among them? To answer that question, we’ve put together a scorecard that rates each candidate against six criteria we consider essential in a vice-president.

Of course, it’s possible none of these individuals will be Governor Romney’s final pick. Both Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin took most everyone by surprise, to put it mildly. But even if Romney were to select a wild card like Condoleezza Rice – who has loudly disavowed any vice-presidential aspirations – the selection criteria should remain the same:

First, a VP must be able to be president, not eventually, but from Day One. The main, unfortunate reason for this doesn’t need to be said. But such a requirement is also about creating confidence in government. The right VP pick sends a message to America and the world: No matter what happens, the bottom will never fall out of our system.

Again, all of the current VP contenders could serve in the Oval Office without hesitation, but Portman’s nearly 20 years of government service and Christie’s and McDonnell’s tenures as chief executives of their states give them an edge on this count.

Second, a VP can’t be a clone of the president. There’s just no point. A VP’s value comes from bringing different skills and abilities to the table – as meaningful as they are complementary. Rubio, for example, would contribute inspiring oratory to Romney’s repertoire; Ryan an intricate understanding of the more-important-than-ever budget options; and Portman a thorough understanding of Washington’s inner workings. Christie would add a level of excitement and humanity to the White House. Bottom line: With the exception of McDonnell, who’s very similar to Romney, the candidates are all about equal on this criterion.

Third, a VP has to have guts. Why? Because it’s every No. 2 person’s profound responsibility to look their boss squarely in the eye and deliver the hard, awkward, unpleasant and even painful messages that no one else can. “This is what people are thinking but not telling you.” Or, “You might have come off too strongly in that meeting. To some people, it probably looked like you weren’t listening.” The VP, in other words, needs a certain fearlessness, an attitude born of self-confidence and candor. And here, while everyone under consideration certainly seems up to the challenge, the advantage has to go to Christie, who, to our knowledge, has never managed to mince a word in his life.

Fourth, a VP has to project gravitas and be a significant presence, but cannot overshadow the president. This criterion is (again) about confidence in the system. The leader needs to be the focal point for the nation – fully aware and in charge. Optics matter. And on this count, only Christie, with his unfettered personality, poses a real problem for Romney.

Fifth, the VP has to be a real partner to the president – keeping confidences and blocking any attempts from below to divide and conquer. Remember, the White House is an organization like any other, filled with politicking and intrigue. And, as in any organization, you cannot have a presidency where the VP’s office is a place to shop ideas or slip initiatives through. Even if they disagree in private – which they should – in public, the VP and president must stand as one. Again, Rubio, Portman, Ryan and McDonnell seem comparable on this front; Christie is just too used to being No. 1.

Finally, a VP should ideally help bring a critical constituency into the fold. This is an election, after all! That said, no one really knows if Rubio can capture the Hispanic vote in significant numbers, or if Portman can guarantee a return of Ohio to the GOP, or if Ryan and McDonnell can help in what will be very close races in their states. We’re not pollsters, but giving it our best guess: advantage Rubio.

Put it all together, and as you can see from the graphic, our criteria suggest that Rubio and Portman are the best choices for vice-president, but only by a fraction. If he picks from the current crop, we’d say Romney really can’t go wrong.

PHOTO: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (L) at an election rally in Sterling, Virginia, June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed


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Terrific scorecard.

The “true partner” category (in practice) has to include the VP’s considerable staff! If VP’s CoS doesn’t keep the staff on the correct page, the VP being a true partner isn’t worth enough to overcome the chaos.


Posted by DanFarfan | Report as abusive

Please don’t exclude a very capable and strong leader, Gov. Bobby Jindal!

Posted by anybodybuto | Report as abusive

This is well thought out and there is usually a fair amount of interest in running mate selection at this point in a campaign – but the interest usually fades and running mates generally do not make a difference in the electoral outcome. The one possible exception to that in the post-WW II era is 1960, where JFK’s selection of LBJ probably made a difference.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

Wouldn’t a VP for Romney have to be fluent in PowerPoint: the language of consultants?

Posted by RCLibarian | Report as abusive

Jack, how the heck does Marco Rubio get in there? Inspired oratory? That’ll impress the Chinese no end. This guy may be a future star, but he needs a few years in Triple A before we know what he’s made of. It’s not even certain he can deliver a majority of the Latino vote. I hope Mitt is using a different scorecard, one that emphasizes demonstrated expertise in budgetary matters, foreign policy, the workings of Congress and a few other items that might be nice to have if you find yourself suddenly in the hot seat. Would you have picked any of these guys to be your wingman at GE?

Posted by steve778936 | Report as abusive

“Wingman at GE”, now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

My instinct for a great partner and VP is immediately identified as CONDALEEZA RICE. She is very, very smart. She is experienced in diplomacy and every aspect of foreign relations. She seems to be the best choice for all..
My next choice would be Huntsman. They have not made your list..too bad for us.

Posted by niedermaierwest | Report as abusive

@SayHey (Willie Mays?): You don’t think Palin made a difference?

Posted by PCScipio | Report as abusive

While I see the value in all the criteria you have selected, I think their is one more critical area that Romney needs to focus on. He needs someone to be warm, and very persuasive. The future is going to be difficult. Romney will have to make hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. He will need all the help he can get in persuading the country to buy into his plans.

I would add another name to that list. Mike Huckabee. I have never been a Huckabee supporter in the past, but having watched him the last 4 years, I think he would be such an assest to the campaign and an administration. While he may not be Romney’s kind of guy, he fills a void many people find in the public Romney and the campaign. He has a warm sincere demeanor, yet is gifted in getting to the heart of an issue, and explaining it clearly to the average American.
He has the Power of Persuasion, and we are going to need a lot of that.

Posted by newsie50 | Report as abusive

To qualify he should have at least half a dozen offshore accounts, at least then he and Mitt would have something in common. Did I mention a history of outsourcing work overseas would be great followup?

Posted by lotuslandjoe | Report as abusive

@PC – Palin made no difference – any Democrat would have won in the 2008 perfect storm – Abe Lincoln as running mate would not have made a difference. Ironically, the only time McCain was ahead in some polls was right after the Palin selection.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

While I see the logic in your criteria, your list is too small, and has the fatal flaw I see in the campaign. For Romney to get elected he needs to broaden his appeal. He needs to be relatable to the middle and lower middle class regardless of party. He needs someone who is very persuasive. He needs someone to have the Anne Romney effect on voters.
He needs Mike Huckabee. I have never been a Huckabee supporter, but having watched him the last 4 years I think he would be such an asset to Romney in the campaign and the White House. He is a master at getting to the heart of issues, and explaining them in simple, straightforward language. And he would take the “Richie Rich” argument away from Obama.
He’s the ideal relatable persuader. Remember, he almost won 4 years ago.

Posted by newsie50 | Report as abusive

“A great person in the No. 2 spot can make the person at No. 1 decidedly stronger, smarter and more effective.” Ha! The GOPs number two is going to have to be a god. Stronger, smarter and more effective, that’s rich. I think first you need to find a number one who is at least somewhat strong, smart and effective. How about this, your number two will make Romney less weak, less stupid, and less ineffective. That’s at least a little more realistic.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The authors neglected an all-important seventh skill:

“Can operate an Etch-A-Sketch like a master”

This will be crucial in cleaning up messes after a candidate who has been all over the map on every issue since his early days in politics.

Posted by 4Sanity | Report as abusive

Jack and Suzy Welch do enjoy their drinking games.

Posted by Maxwells | Report as abusive

Please don’t exclude a very capable and strong leader, Gov. Bobby Jindal!

Mitt Romney has to stick to his White Power Base.

Posted by paganwt | Report as abusive

Huntsman would be the best choice because together they could move the federal government to Salt Lake City, Utah, to be closer to their true rulers and we will not have to complain about Washington D.C. anymore.

Posted by MartyKZ | Report as abusive

Go West

Posted by whyknot | Report as abusive

The most critical criteria for VP is the increase of votes in the swing states? Most VP after elections are in the shadows and placed in a dark corner at the White House. Often times the most experienced does not win the White House, generally is the contrary. Whoever has less experience with a limited record also has less blemishes and mistakes. That is why governors are great candidates, they do not vote on floor matters. They do not have foreign affairs experience,. They might have had affairs with foreigners but that does not count. The true workers of any organization are the ant workers. It is just that the vp , cabinet boards, and CEO set policies and they get all the credit and pay. The White House is no different.

Posted by odinn | Report as abusive

The selection of a VP is as important as the selection of a President. Thus, keeping in mind that success as good speaker doesn’t translate as a good statesman/politician/administrator or manager, I’ll keep out Mark Rubio. The gentleman has many good attributes but none of them qualify him to be a Senator and much less Vice President or President.

The U.S is suffering one of its worse financial crisis in its history. We need intelligent, capable and proven people at the top of our government. Mr. Romney pass the test with a generous C and Mr. Rubio …. well, he simply fails with a huge F.

Posted by ZAMORANO | Report as abusive

The most glaringly obvious requirement missing is that the Flip Flopping Liberal Lite Romney absolutely MUST have a Conservative in order to have a prayer of competing successfully

Posted by alanwillingham | Report as abusive

Marco Rubio is misguided out of the box. He’s an intelligent young man, but he is barely qualified to begin to learn the ropes in the Senate. He is far from being qualified to be President.

Also the XX for attracting the Latino/a community is misplaced on a Cubano.

Posted by JoeyTranchina | Report as abusive

Odinn wrote: “The true workers of any organization are the ant workers. It is just that the vp , cabinet boards, and CEO set policies and they get all the credit and pay. The White House is no different.”

That is not correct. As Jack Welch proved at GE, Eisenhower on D-Day & FDR in the White House, leadership is a job description. I believe President Obama has shown sufficient leadership to deserve a second term; he certainly does not deserve to be defeated by a man who has demonstrated himself to be notoriously unreliable on both sides of every issue. Technically, no one is qualified to be president — the job is too big for any man or woman. The one test is character, and, in my estimation Barack Obama, has that and Mitt Romney does not. No supporting cast can compensate for that deficiency.

After the Obama haters offer their best slander, and the Obama skeptics — of which I have counted myself as one — offer our strongest criticism, I think the majority of Americans will agree with me, that we have a person in the White House who has done a remarkable job under dire conditions. That president deserves to be reelected. We’ll see…jt

Posted by JoeyTranchina | Report as abusive

I agree that Governor Huckabee would be a great consideration and certainly a ‘cool’ head, but I do like Rubio. I think Christie is way off the grid. Just my HO.

Posted by moey | Report as abusive

Conde Rice, please

Posted by TexTide | Report as abusive

“Please don’t exclude a very capable and strong leader, Gov. Bobby Jindal!”

About all he’s competent at is pushing trough ill-advised tax cuts, giving tax breaks to corporations, and making massive and repeated cuts to health care and education. All this in a state that perpetually ranks near the very bottom in the health, income, and educational attainment of its citizens…

Oh, wait… I forgot. He’s also competent and handing out giant checks with his name on them — literally giant checks — that were paid for by the federal stimulus that he opposed so stridently.

Posted by mgear | Report as abusive

Meanwhile in the wings awaits everymans favourite, with a new heart. Cheney. Romney has just finished a fund raiser with Cheney and Rumsfeld is coming out of his self imposed shell again. Will the USA ever get a home coming queen. Americans for Americans?

Posted by diddums | Report as abusive

Can anyone remember when a VP pick made a significant positive contribution to a Presidential campaign since Kennedy-Johnson? And maybe even 1960 but I do think LBJ made TX a sure thing for JFK.

Posted by phoneranger | Report as abusive


Posted by WISEPAPA | Report as abusive


Posted by Bill26 | Report as abusive

It’s unfortunate that the majority of our population operates on a very high, superficial, emotional level when it comes to politics and choosing those who seek to hold high public office. With objective journalism having died a quiet death decades ago, most folks are left to grope through a “mainstream” agenda that only tells the hoi polloi what they want them to know. Dr. Rice for VP? Sure, why not. Then we can have another member of the Council on Foreign Relations directing traffic. While we’re at it, why not have fellow members and strange bedfellow CFR buds George Soros and Rush Limbaugh blended into the mix as well.

Posted by doclove | Report as abusive

Jack & Suzy: Your polling of Sarah Palin as a surprise should not be a surprise to anyone. She brings the republican, independent, & a good share of democrats into the fold. She automatically lends credibility to the ticket. Reasoning, she is the most sincere choice. The electorate is tired of leadership in it for money & power. This is what the men in contention convey. She made the last election take off or it would been have a total wipeout. The Democratic big wigs are scared of Sarah. She is not phony. She has made tough choices just like you Jack. She does not compromise her principles. In addition if Miitt adopts a consumption/investment tax plan, hence, eliminating all forms of taxes. Tax revenue generation will be realized beyond any expectations. Everyone’s tax liability will be less. This includes individuals & all companies.

Best regards,
Richard Fitch.

Posted by r.fitch | Report as abusive

It ought to be Sarah Palin. They make a fine pair.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

Romney will need to pick someone that can bring votes. This means a governor or congressman in a swing state, or someone closely aligned with an “interest” group.

Personally I think Condie would be the perfect choice.

Why? She would bring some black votes, she would bring many women with her as she is world respected highly intelligent and experienced.

No, she does not have some of that executive experience, but neither did Obama or Biden (actually, they still don’t).

As for leadership – Obama has proven that he does not understand the meaning of the word. From his constant blame, the unwillingness to take responsibility for anything, his gross misunderstanding of economics and his bully / nasty demeanor, he is the antithesis of leadership.

Posted by Paulii | Report as abusive

To me it is truly amazing that so many are overlooking Rep. Allen West. Do You not trust him because he is Black as is Obama? Gun shy? To me Allen West is an honest man and one who is on the Right side of the fence! He has government and military experience. Rep West should be the next VP!

Posted by dGeezer51 | Report as abusive

Mitt does not need Jack and Suzy’s help and he can make his own decision. If Jack and Suzy want to get in on the Romney presidential team to make more money and fortune,Suzy has a better chance. She will be a less risky choice for wiping out an economy at the expensive success of a corporation and personal loot. Mitton

Posted by slnsimhan | Report as abusive

Condaleeza Rice???? What I remember about her was that she never missed a photo OPP

Posted by Redintherainbow | Report as abusive

Romney can choose Jesus h christ and still loose he is not the right candidate in our troubled times.

Posted by politicaljunkie | Report as abusive

Romney should pick Sandusky and get Pen state university leaders/idiots in her staff.
Cows get very well along with other cows.
Sorry for calling him “her”. He speaks like Michel Bachman or Shara Pailin I cannot see any diference.
I think his mate should be lady gaga.

Posted by chalchi | Report as abusive

Sometimes a spread sheet can’t capture all the political nuances required to pick the best VP candidate. In this case neutron jack completely missed the obvious choice:


I say The Donald is the obvious choice because:


Additional reasons include, they’re both worth 250mm dollars, they both love to fire people, they’re both inveterate liars and finally it’s all about the Hair. Orange and grey is a marvellous combination.

Posted by UpToDate | Report as abusive

Partisans – on both sides – sound more and more like cultists, every day.

Posted by Overcast451 | Report as abusive

Condi Rice has stated emphatically that she does not want the job. I’d be very surprised if she were to accept. Huntsman is very capable, but… he is also a Mormon – how would that go over with the voters? Huntsman was my first choice during the primary season.

Tim Pawlenty?
Mike Bloomberg?
Newt Gingrich?
Bobby Jindal?
Eric Cantor?
Rick Santorum?
Rudy Giuliani?

Wonder how they would fare?

Posted by Moby | Report as abusive

Does this mean that Sarah is out?

Posted by Jim1648 | Report as abusive

This is all starting to leak out to the main stream media… finally. We just need to KEEP THE HEAT on them. We will soon be posting new petition and email campaign info as well as protest ideas. We just need more people following this group and we can use resources from the Tea Party, Occupy and other groups. THEY win as long as they can keep us arguing with each other.
WE need to come together with people we wouldn’t normally work with to bring these criminals DOWN! Spread the word, others have carried the load of exposing this activity. Now we the people NEED to come out and make it a major issue in the news and in this political cycle.
www.facebook.com/BankAndPoliticianFinanc ialCorruption

Posted by CoreyGTexas | Report as abusive

I think that the people would LOVE an unexpected new pick for presodent and vice president at the convention.

Call it…… unconventional!

Posted by skeeteril | Report as abusive

Although they are complete opposites, If Romney were to select Ron Paul as his running mate it would energize the base and help to unify the party. There has been so much infighting within the party that this could be the key to Romney skyrocketing in the polls and uniting the party. There would also be much more life and activism as Paul supporters are typically young, energetic, die hard and will work extremely hard at getting things done.

Romney/Paul 2012

Posted by ConfederateArmy | Report as abusive

Jack and Suzy, I like the list of criteria, but your reasoning for some of these candidates is in some cases based on personal traits that don’t apply to the job of VP, certainly not after the election… Ex: Rubio’s oratorical prowess. When has the VP ever been the primary message delivery person for the executive branch? For public speaking and on the international stage, the secretary of state is the role that requires this skill. If anything, the VP’s real job in office is to cover for the president with the congress and state government infrastructure. S/he is essentially the domestic secretary of state, with the constituency being the US government machine, not the public.

Indeed, Romney’s biggest problem is that he may very well be a better candidate for VP than chief executive. In times like these especially, America needs to feel comforted and encouraged by the president (this is what will make workers and consumers, who are still the largest driver of the economy, create economic growth). This is by far Romney’s weakest suit, whereas he would probably do quite well at decreasing the dysfunction of the government itself — something he did well in Massachusetts.

Posted by Vinocat | Report as abusive

There are a lot of good choices. Michael Bloomberg, Ron Paul, and Condi Rice are not in the group of “good choices”.

If you can’t see the brutality of the free MSM campaign against these three you need to wake up. Condi Rice would at least be qualified but she has no political experience at all. And the person selected must have strong campaign skills.

Michael Bloomberg and Ron Paul suggestions must be posts by strong Obama supporters. They guarantee an Obama victory as neither is a serious choice because of their political views. There are very few places people could be tricked into voting for these guys. Maybe New York or a college campus.

Posted by rgolds | Report as abusive

Helen Keller would have made a great Mitty VP.
She was honest, caring of people(especially the disabled) and would not be able to put her foot in her mouth.
All things Mitty isn’t capable of.

Posted by Doc62 | Report as abusive

Jack – Great article. But it’s actually simpler than that: Romney needs three things, which if he does not win, he will not win the election, namely, Romney needs: Florida, Florida and Florida. If Romney wins Florida, he has a chance. If he loses Florida, he has almost zero chance. This lesson was clearly taught in Bush v. Gore and in the Florida recount, otherwise known as the “saga of the hanging chads”. Bush won Florida by 537 chads and he won the 2000 election. This time Florida has even more electoral votes than its 25 e-votes during the Bush/Gore era. Since the foundation of our beloved country, there has been 270 e-votes needed to win the presidency, and Florida now has 29. The Associated Press predicts Obama has 242 already from heavily Democratic states. If Obama wins Florida, he gets the brass ring. 242 + 29 = 271. If Romney wins Florida, he makes Obama sweat. Most Floridians don’t feel comfortable about Obama, as shown because they keep asking and repeating the same questions about him. (i.e., What about the one-half of his family that is Muslim (i.e., his father’s side of the family is Muslim), are they extremist? What kind of extremist? Does he sympathize with them, even though he is Christian? Etc.). Sadly, Romney picked the one running mate -Ryan- who could get senior citizens even more worried, because of his past proposals on messing around with seniors’ medicine cabinets (Medicare) and bank accounts (Soc Security). And so Romney’s set himself up to either lose Florida by losing the senior vote, or set himself up to make it much tougher on himself to win their vote. Romney should fire his election advisors.

Posted by clarity123 | Report as abusive