“Romtorum” and the GOP quest for a vice presidential running mate

“Romtorum” and the GOP quest for a vice presidential running mate

With the Republican contenders in the White House race taking radical positions on virtually every issue, few think that Romney, let alone Santorum, could individually garner the majority of votes in the presidential election this November. However, once the nominee has been chosen, there comes the moment when Romney and Santorum may join forces.

Asked about his position on the two main contenders in the Republican race for the presidential candidacy, an Ohioan voter on Super Tuesday said “I am not really convinced by either one of them. If there was someone combining the two virtues they stand for (economic expertise and a strong stance on conservative values), that person would be something.”

Well, while merging the two hopefuls into a sweeping Romtorum is at least physically impossible, voters might be presented with a satisfying alternative soon. When Republican delegates gather in the Tampa Bay Times Forum in late August, a number of predictors say they will choose Romney as their presidential nominee and Santorum as his vice presidential running mate.

Would this team be a game changer in the race for the White House, able to seriously challenge a weakened Obama in the November election?

The first question is whether they would actually make a credible team. I would think so, judging by their appearances and the lack of fierce attacks launched against each other – well, there has been the usual “He’s not fit for the job” palaver, but then again, Hillary Clinton said the same about Obama back in 2008 if I remember correctly, and we know how that worked out.

On the question of whether Romney and Santorum would be better able to capture voters together than either one with a different VP, the picture is less clear. Some commentators say that Santorum would be capable of winning back those parts of the Republican base that are alienated by Mitt the Liberal Massachusetts Mormon – a logic applied by McCain when he chose Sarah Palin as his VP in 2008 to quell voters concerned with his apostate views. At the same time however, Santorum’s image as a staunch conservative with extreme views on issues such as abortion and immigration will make him a risky choice when the aim is to win over swing voters, especially women and Latinos.

For precisely the latter reason, the most likely candidates for the vice presidential spot on the ticket have until recently been Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Rubio could harvest the Hispanic vote for Romney, who himself is extremely unpopular with Latinos. Unfortunately, Rubio’s prospects suffered heavily after having been identified as a former Mormon and a sponsor of a recent controversial contraception bill. McDonnell, a light version of Santorum in terms of values, saw his hopes being swept away when he endorsed and then suddenly backed away from a flawed abortion bill.

Thus, Santorum currently seems to be Romney’s most promising running mate. This appears to be the case simply due to a lack of better alternatives. But there are still a number of primary elections to be held, offering opportunities for Santorum and other candidates to fine-tune their profiles. And who knows, maybe we’ll see a complete unknown as the final pick. It’s not like anyone had the Alaska governor on the map in March 2008.

This is the first in a series of IFAIR blog posts on the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Upcoming contributions will deal with the external dimension of the race to the White House by focussing on the Republican contenders’ views on key foreign policy issues and perceptions of Obama’s efforts to shape a post-American world.

 by Lukas Keller