Given his chances at the nomination, I suppose this is a more of a semi-serious question. But I started thinking about it when writing the “VP Romney” post and found myself surprised at how hard it is to come up with a good answer. So I put it out there on Twitter — and most of the answers that came back sounded implausible too. So now I’m putting it to you. Clear your minds and imagine a scenario where Rand, somehow, some way, manages to win the nomination. Maybe he coasts to victory with 30 percent of the vote after a long race in which the field’s split four or five ways, or maybe … I was going to say, “maybe he and Jeb Bush are the last two men standing,” but if that happened, Jeb would win on a hawkish “anyone but Rand” vote. Realistically, Rand wins only if the field starts divided and stays divided, despite immense pressure down the stretch among establishmentarians for mainstream Republicans to unite behind one champion in the interest of holding Rand off. Which is to say, “realistically” ain’t very realistic.
But ignore all that. This is a thought experiment. Who’s Rand’s VP if he wins? Benjy Sarlin offered an obvious pick:
@allahpundit Honestly, Justin Amash
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 2, 2015
Nah, c’mon. Amash may be the only man in Congress who’s more of a Ron-Paul-loving true-blue libertarian than Rand himself is. But Sarlin says, “So what?” If Rand wins the nomination, it’ll be a de facto libertarian takeover of the GOP, in which case why wouldn’t he also nominate a libertarian as VP? I think that assumption is wrong, though — even a Paul victory wouldn’t amount to a libertarian takeover of the party, no matter how hard Paul fans will spin it that way. You’ve still got tons of natsec hawks, you’ve still got plenty of social conservatives, and those wings will need to be appeased somehow to get them to turn out for Rand in the general election. But what sort of mainstream conservative candidate would want to serve as VP in a Paul administration and be forced to defend decisions on social issues and foreign policy that contradict his own views? A Paul/Rubio ticket, for instance, is unthinkable. A Paul/Walker ticket would be … a little more plausible, I guess, if only in the sense that Walker might not find Paul’s natsec positions quite as offensive? Rand’s dilemma is that he can’t afford to choose someone who thinks too much like him but he also doesn’t want to choose someone who thinks too differently. So who does he pick?
Matt Welch, editor at Reason and thus a guy who’s presumably devoted more thought to what a Paul administration would look like than most of America, offers this out-of-the-box solution:
Mia Love? RT @allahpundit Who would Rand Paul pick as VP?
— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) June 2, 2015
I could sort of see that 10 years from now. Love is very conservative, which puts her in the ballpark of what Rand’s looking for, and her status as Congress’s only black woman Republican would underscore Paul’s message that he’s building a new, more racially diverse Party. Obvious problem, though: Mia Love’s in her first term in Congress. Sarah Palin was derided as too green for having served only two years as governor when she was put on the ticket, but at least that was executive experience. Love’s had five months in Congress total as I write this.
A more obvious possibility:
@allahpundit Maybe Ted Cruz, but get the impression they really aren't going to like each other by the end of this
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) June 2, 2015
Cruz has been a Paul ally on most issues and picking him would please grassroots conservatives, who might otherwise be wary of Rand on foreign policy by the time the race is over. But GOP centrists hate Cruz. Paul would have an easier time picking someone like Jeb Bush and convincing righties to support the ticket in the name of beating Hillary than he would picking Cruz and convincing centrists to support the ticket for the same reason. How many GOP centrists, forced to choose between Hillary/Whoever and Paul/Cruz(!), would decide that Hillary’s probably centrist enough for them? Again, this is Rand’s dilemma. He needs to be seen simultaneously as an orthodox and unorthodox Republican to please mainstream center-righties and libertarians, respectively. How many center-righties would see a Paul/Cruz ticket as orthodox enough?
This is the only answer I’ve seen that seems kinda sorta plausible:
@allahpundit Raul Labrador
— (((Simon Blum))) (@sbpundit) June 2, 2015
Labrador was named chairman of Paul’s campaign in the western states less than a week ago. He has only a bit more experience than Mia Love, having served in Congress since 2011, but five years in Congress is more than Obama had when he ran for president in 2008. He’s made friends among grassroots conservatives by opposing the House GOP leadership repeatedly and his racial background would make the GOP establishment happy even if they’re not entirely comfortable with Labrador’s politics. He’s the frontrunner, I think. The only semi-plausible alternative is Mike Lee, who’s respected both by the tea partiers who elected him and the establishmentarians who like the sort of tax reforms he’s been proposing with Marco Rubio. But Lee also helped lead the 2013 shutdown that the donor class now hates Ted Cruz for, and he’s a bad “diversity” choice as a middle-aged white guy from Utah. He’s also soft-spoken, which makes him less than ideal for the role of VP attack dog on the trail. I think Labrador would be the guy in the end. Now all he and Rand need to do is figure out how to beat a field of well-funded Republican hawks.