Romney’s VP options: Exciting vs. boring

For Democrats, the third week of June 2012 was a good one, as Republicans floundered over their Vice-Presidential sweepstakes. Consciously or sloppily, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney eliminated Florida Senator Marco Rubio as a potential VP nominee. When Latino forces joined by the few other Republicans who support diversity voiced racism on the part of Romney, the former Massachusetts governor switched gears in less than half a day.

However, Rubio does carry some baggage. He has not been forthright about his lineage, having said that his parents fled Cuba following Fidel Castro’s revolution. He was off by three years; they left prior to Castro’s revolution. Rubio also has been charged with using a state credit card for his own personal purchases when he was a member of the Florida House of Representatives.

There have been worse transgressions by candidates for executive office (see Spiro Agnew), but what we know about Rubio could be gateways to other more serious offenses. Furthermore, Republicans present themselves as those who are most morally virtuous, religious, and straight arrows. We know from recent history that this is not true, particularly in Florida, but this does not stop the GOP from trying to perpetrate this misperception upon the public.

With doubt now cast about Rubio, one of the names that became a more likely candidate was former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty is not exactly Mr. Excitement, and during the 2011-12 race for the Republic nomination, he distinguished himself by withdrawing from the campaign before he could even lose a real race. Four months prior to the Iowa caucuses, he  was roundly defeated in the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, finishing third behind his fellow Minnesotan, Michele Bachmann. This clearly indicated that he did not have a chance to win or even perform well in the state just south of his own.

Pawlenty may have the charisma of Agnew, with more integrity. In his case, integrity may have negative components. There seems to be nothing exciting about him; no panache; only the straight-arrow personality that a bland mother would want in her most precious son. Minnesota has a rich history of engaging politicians including Paul Wellstone, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, and even Walter Mondale, who while not Mr. Excitement at least passionately held values and ideas that advanced the quality of life for middle and low income families in America. And who can forget one of the most outrageous yet semi-effective politicians of the past half-century, the former wrestler independent-Democrat Jesse Ventura, who truly shook things up in defense of civil liberties and the best interests of those in need.

There was a theory that Nixon chose Agnew because he wanted someone who was not as good looking as him and who generated less excitement. Pawlenty might fit such a bill for Romney. While more honest than Agnew, he just “doubles the fun” to the ticket by being another bland white man. If Romney doesn’t want to take the risk of running with Marco Rubio, surely there are other Republicans who either represent diversity or have the appearance of it. He need not go to the extreme and find a Sarah Palin clone. He merely needs to find a vice-presidential nominee who can successfully mix it up with Joe Biden and appear to be someone who has lived the life of middle income families; the life that is terribly distant for Romney.

Whatever Romney does in selecting a vice-presidential nominee, it will indicate one of two things. Either he will want someone less exciting than him and thus ensure his position as top billing on the ticket. Or, he can add excitement to the ticket, a play that will seem as disingenuous as the rest of Romney’s platform. He’s in a no-win situation. Joe Biden can handle just about anyone in a debate and on the roads of America. While many observers are pessimistic about President Obama’s chances of winning reelection, another major advantage that he will have will be his vice-president.