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Archive for July, 2012

While I stick to my earlier post on likely Vice Presidential nominees, two others from the Upper Midwest may be worth mentioning.  The current press gallery favorite, Tim Pawlenty, does have a decent shot, aided by his decade of gubernatorial experience.  So does another midwestern governor who is almost never mentioned. Terry Branstad has been a governor for 18 years.  First, he was governor from 1983 until 1999, taking over a state with a budget deficit and 8.5% unemployment and leaving it with 2.5% unemployment and a record budget surplus.  Then after a 12-year hiatus, he won the governorship again in 2010.  The Tea Party folks may not be big fans of Branstad, who is more of a pragmatist, but since be 66 on Inauguration Day and unlikely to run for President in his own right, perhaps they’d be willing to swallow hard and support the ticket, knowing they get a clear shot at being Romney’s successor.  Romney and Branstad can point to having extensive successful executive experience.  Obama and Biden?  Not so much.

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Heard a bit of Mitt Romney’s speech at the VFW Convention last week. While some of it was hardhitting and effective, a bit of it was that nervous inflection Romney occasionally gives in front of large groups. This was troubling to me because it plays into Obama’s main advantage, his calmness under pressure. He tries, and succeeds to some point, in coming off as a modern day Sheriff Andy Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show. After 9/11, George W. Bush had an approach to Iraq and Homeland Security that some detractors saw as “shoot-first , ask questions later” – given the inevitable distortions an opposition will make of the President, he came off looking like Sheriff Taylor’s exciteable, incompetent deputy Barney Fife. Then the Republicans nominated John McCain in 2008. He’s a genuine American hero, but his wild approach to the financial meltdown made him look a bit like Barney Fife and sank his chances of winning the presidency. Governor Romney cannot afford to look that way. He’s a man of rare accomplishment in business and government; he needs to give off the air that the job won’t be too big for him. He needs to speak calmly, smile and basically be the engaging guy he reportedly is when he’s just around a few people.  He needs to not try too hard.

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Here’s something I’d like to know but probably never will:  did the President know that Chief Justice Roberts was struggling over the health care law?  If so, who told him?  The timing of the President’s comments about Chief Justice Roberts during the Obamacare deliberations was too perfect to have just been a blind shot.  If it was, then well played, Mr. President.  I think it’s considerably more likely that somebody tipped him off that Roberts was wavering.

There will be no investigation of this so we’re likely to never know, but it’s likely the leak would have come from someone either excited that Roberts was considering voting with the liberals or worried that Anthony Kennedy was trying to bring Roberts back to the conservative side.   None of the four ‘no’ vote offices had any reason or inclination to leak to the White House.  So let’s look at the ‘yes’ side.  It just doesn’t look like something Ginsberg would do, and I don’t know that Sotomayor is that political, although it’s possible.  If I were to bet, I’d look at someone in Justice Kagan’s office.  She was the justice most politically involved before her appointment.  Breyer would be my next guess.  Or, oddly enough, it feasibly could even be someone from the Chief Justice’s office in the unlikely event he felt the President could give him political cover.  Again, I know of nothing.   And even if the President learned of it, that’s not the President’s fault.  It would be a gross breach of protocol on the leaker’s part, however.  That leaker (my Roberts hypothesis aside) would most likely have come from the liberal side of the bench.  Keep that in mind next time you hear someone on the left bemoaning a so-called partisan court.

1TF

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There is a lot of chatter about the possibility of Mitt Romney choosing Condoleeza Rice for vice presidential nominee. Let me pose a question: What are the odds that a Republican nominee who already is not trusted by his party’s base is going to choose a running mate who hails from a state he can’t lose, lives in a state he can’t win, is pro-choice, has nothing in her record to assure the base she favors small government and was intimately involved with the Iraq War? The question answers itself. It’s not going to happen.

1TF

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Mitt Romney should be choosing his vice presidential running mate in the next month or so. Speculation swirls around Senators Rob Portman and Marco Rubio and Governors Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal. It won’t be any of them. Rubio and Jindal are just a little too young. Portman is too closely tied to the George W. Bush Administration, which is still a political liability. Chris Christie, while seen by many as a potential president, isn’t really a #2 kind of guy.

I suspect the real attention in Romneyland centers on four candidates. In alphabetical order, they are:

1) Rep. Marsha Blackburn, 60, Tennessee – Smart, experienced and maybe the most conservative of the four. Would bring a historical element to the ticket. She would attract Tea Party support without losing the votes of suburban women to the degree Palin did. The story of how she led a conservative revolt against an income tax plan by a Republican governor will be gold to Tea Partiers, but it’s also a lesson in sunlight in politics that ought to have some appeal to moderates and independents.

2) Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee, 55, Arkansas – He’s already been vetted via his 2008 run. Would connect with evangelicals in a way Romney can’t. Problem is Romney and Huckabee appeared to dislike each other in 2008. Huckabee stuck around long enough so Romney couldn’t coalesce the anti-McCain vote to himself. Considering no Republican was going to beat Obama after the September 2008 financial meltdown, Huckabee may have done Romney a favor.

3) Gov. Bob McDonnell, 58, Virginia – Steady, competent, likeable. Has managed his state to a continued enviable business record. He is the only one of these four from a battleground state. His 21-year Army Reserve career gives him more military experience than the entire Obama national security team combined.

4) Sen. John Thune, 51, South Dakota – If Romney think he needs someone who intimately knows DC, the tall, telegenic Thune, having spent most of the past 25 years in the circus on the Potomac, fits the bill. Socially conservative, but may not be greeted with open arms by fiscal conservatives, since he voted for TARP and has requested a lot of earmarks. However, he does know a thing or two about running in tough races, having lost a Senate race by an eyelash in 2002 and coming back to beat then-Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004.

Any of these four would be a solid nominee. More importantly, any of them could more than adequately fill the role of President should, God forbid, it become necessary. This is Romney’s first real Presidential decision. He needs to consider not just what is good for him in the political short-term, but what is in the long-term best interests of the country.

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Mitt Romney will be meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Israeli opposition party leaders. In doing so, he’s playing a dangerous game. American Jews don’t vote solely or even mostly on Israel; like most Americans, their main concerns tend to be domestic. And it may have the unintended consequence of encouraging the Iranians to rattle their sabers again. Iranian leaders may want to keep ‘the devil they know’ – President Obama, whom some (erroneously in my view) see as weak on Iran after he did not actively support the opposition protests in 2009. If so, they can hurt Romney’s campaign by ramping up their war rhetoric, making him look like he has stepped into something he doesn’t understand and causing a bigger problem. As an added bonus, it’s also good for the Iranians politically to be talking about something other than their own flagging economy.

The vast majority of Americans still remember the Bush Administration’s handling of America’s role in the world; most don’t want Romney emulating the Bush model. Romney cannot afford to look ham-handed in dealing with the Middle East. He will need an excellent performance to justify this trip; right now, it appears to be a whole lot of risk for not much reward.

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Nobody has commented on the irony that then-Senator Obama opposed John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court, and did so simply to advance his own political career. Obama believed Roberts was qualified and reasonable. However, after being told by his political aide Peter Rouse that voting for Roberts would hurt his chances for the Democratic nomination, he opposed Roberts. The press ought to ask the President what he thinks of his opposition to Roberts now.

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