Green Room

Why Pawlenty would be the best pick for Veep

posted at 2:47 pm on August 2, 2012 by

Naming Tim Pawlenty as the best choice for Mitt Romney’s running-mate will sound crazy to some, but bear with me for a bit. Most of the media pieces about Mitt Romney’s veepstakes are geared to figuring out who Romney will pick. That is mostly a fool’s errand, especially for GOP VP picks. It may be more revealing to project ourselves to the moment after the pick is made to examine what the pick might say about how Team Romney sees the race.

Romney’s selection process is likely driven by two fundamentals — the fundamental of VP picks and the fundamental of his campaign. First, political scientists tend to think that the VP pick may be be about 2 or 3 percentage points in the VP’s home state, with even more marginal effects nationally (and those national effects of 1 or 2 points could be positive or negative). Enough people see 2012 as a close election that Romney is likely to take these nominally small effects seriously, beyond the question of basic qualifications for a veep.

Second, the fundamental point of the Romney campaign is to keep everyone focused to the maximum extent on Obama’s record, particularly on the economy. Romney should be most likely to pick a running-mate who gives Team Obama and the media the smallest opportunity for changing the subject.

Accordingly, I tend to agree with Ross Douthat that Romney will go for a boring choice, but disagree with his discounting of Pawlenty. As Sean Trende has pointed out, Pawlenty has most of the positives Romney is looking for and almost none of the negatives. Douthat and Trende sort of agree that Pawlenty’s biggest negative is that he is not exciting… but if boring is what Romney wants, this is a feature, not a bug.

By my analysis, Pawlenty’s potential negative is that he probably does not put Minnesota in the Romney column. However, if Romney picks Pawlenty, it would suggest that Team Romney feels confident Mitt can win without the sort of home state boost others might provide. In contrast, if Romney picks Marco Rubio, Rob Portman or even Kelly Ayotte, it would suggest Team Romney harbors various levels of concern about the Electoral College (and perhaps concern about Romney’s standing with Hispanics or college-educated women). If Romney picked someone like Paul Ryan, it might suggest Romney wants to change the subject from Obama / the economy and a certain level of panic in Romneyland.

I might prefer others on Romney’s likely short list as a veep pick. The electoral map may well push Romney to one of those choices. But picking Pawlenty — bland and unlikely to help politically in a swing state — may speak volumes about how Romney views his odds of victory in November.

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Crazy is not the adjective I would use.

Dante on August 2, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Go Team Stupid Party!

Watching Joe Biden (unintentionally) make Tim Pawlenty cry during a debate would be, uh… well, it’d be something, all right.

Jeddite on August 2, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Not “crazy”; lame and boring. I’m not saying he needs to pick another Palin-type person, but going for the most unoffensive lackluster VP pick he can find is not exactly what I would want to see from Romney. I like Romney. He’s got the lackluster (and sometimes boring) part down already. No need to double-down on those qualities. If he picks Pawlenty or Portman, the non-establishment base will be yawning through the rest of the election. Romney would still win most likely, but victory with meaning is much better.

Cary on August 2, 2012 at 3:46 PM

None of the “exciting” choices are exciting in a way that is exciting to independents and/or Democrats, and since the everyone from 1 micro-unit right of center over already isn’t voting for Obama, I think the “exciting” choices don’t move the ball towards 16OO Penn. Ave. On the other I think Portman, however smart he may be, seems un-national-media tested; I’m not even positive I’ve ever seen him on tv or heard him on radio. and he has Bush baggage.

I like TPaw. His speeches and various center-right small and big time radio shows show he’s down to earth, low-ego, and communicates very well. He has Midwestern cultural appeal. His religious background balances Romney.

T-Paw would be a very good VP. And yes, he might put MN into play, as well as help with WI and Iowa.

ParisParamus on August 2, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Pawlenty committed far too many gaffes in his presidential run to be chosen. I liked him originally, but he proved himself a spineless man.

We absolutely need a VP with an adamantium spine. And Paul Ryan is the only one with a track record of getting through the knives and venom without any harm to himself (he’s been better for it.)

BigWillieStyles on August 2, 2012 at 4:19 PM

We need someone smarter than Pawlenty. Pawlenty swallowed hook, line and sinker, Al Gore’s global warming “crisis” and the left’s wet dream global warming fix of massive new taxes and new regulations over ever facet of our lives.

Anyone who would swallow that isn’t one we want fighting for us in Washington D.C.

RJL on August 2, 2012 at 4:40 PM

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Allahpundit on August 2, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Romney is on the edge as far as conservative, taxpayers are concerned. If he picks a silksuited, Republican insider,or a PC group of one or the other, we are done. He needs a tough, smart, in your face, VP, or we are screwed.

frizzbee on August 3, 2012 at 8:57 AM