Romney Seen as a Top Pick for McCain
By Mike Allen,
Posted: 2008-06-30 20:15:00
Filed Under: Elections News, John McCain
(June 30) -- Surprising many Republican insiders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at the top of the vice presidential prospect list for John McCain. But lack of personal chemistry could derail the pick.
“Romney as favorite” is the hot buzz in Republican circles, and top party advisers said the case is compelling.
Campaign insiders say McCain plans to name his running mate very shortly after Barack Obama does, as part of what one campaign planner called a “bounce-mitigation strategy.”
The Democratic convention is in late August, a week ahead of the Republican convention. That means McCain can size up the opposing ticket before locking in his own.
The McCain campaign declined to comment, saying McCain has made it clear they are not to discuss the matter.
One of the chief reasons the Massachusetts governor is looking so attractive is his ability to raise huge amounts of money quickly through his former business partners and from fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons.
McCain sources tell Politico that they believe Romney could raise $50 million in 60 days. One close Romney adviser said it could even be $60 million.
Romney’s other advantages, according to people involved in McCain’s screening process:
— Squeaky-clean and fully vetted by the national media.
— Has presidential looks and bearing and immediately would be a strong campaigner who could be trusted to stay on message.
— Family’s Michigan roots would help in a swing state that went Democratic in 2004.
But there’s one big problem: Despite the buddy-picture choreography of a McCain-Romney campaign swing, McCain remains less than enamored with Romney.
And it’s not just the candidate. Some of McCain’s closest confidants evince little enthusiasm for Romney, feelings that are owed in part to lingering bad blood from the GOP primary, a genuine skepticism that such a conventional pick could bolster the ticket in a grim year for the GOP and concerns about whether his Mormon faith could imperil McCain in Southern states that Obama hopes to put into play.
McCain sources also say he’ll pick his vice presidential candidate based more on ability to govern than ability to help in the election.
So two other names are in the top tier:
— Rob Portman, a former congressman from Ohio, member of House leadership, U.S. Trade Ambassador and White House budget director.
— Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who would delight conservatives and is at the top of the list of the party’s prospects for the presidential race in 2012 or 2016. He was described to Politico by a McCain confidant as a possible “compromise” if the senator can’t stomach picking Romney.
Then there’s a second tier of candidates who are less likely, but possible: former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who dropped out of the top tier because of recent revelations about his lobbying; Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is one of McCain’s most energetic and successful fundraisers.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is frequently included in veep news stories but was not mentioned by McCain insiders. Their view is that his youth would accentuate, not mitigate, the age issue.
Especially if McCain is far behind later this summer, he could do something truly unorthodox like pick his strong supporter Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate back in 2000.
Party leaders don’t expect that. But McCain remains, after all, a maverick.
Politico’s Jonathan Martin contributed to this story.