Thursday, August 28, 2008

McCain's VP Selection Box: Leiberman, Romney, Pawlenty

Perhaps the most brilliant thing about choosing Biden as his VP: Obama's really put McCain into a selection box.

Biden had one liability: he wasn't Hillary. Republicans jumped on that. But he was a strong enough candidate, and the Clintons were savvy enough politicians, that that liability could be easily closed by the convention unity. Day 3 of the convention: the Clintons have brought their supporters on board, and Biden proves his worth. So Obama-Biden is ready to go, and Obama is able to have the best of both worlds on this one: a high-minded campaign complemented by a well-liked and respected attack-dog who connects with the key, swing constituency in this election.

McCain would love to have the same. But now, all his choices look problematic.

His best swing-constituency attack-dog pick - Joe Lieberman - would alienate the right-wing base. Unlike with Hillary supporters (who were signaled LONG in advance that their gal wasn't going to get it), it would take a while to repair the damage. That could be devastating.

The favorite of his Rovian strategists - Mitt Romney - would shore up McCain's economic credentials and bring needed finances. Strategically, this looks sound (and is his most likely choice). Romney could hold his own against Biden. But even though Romney doesn't alienate the base, he doesn't excite them, either. And the "Two White Rich Men" meme gives the Democrats good amo against the swing vote. And does McCain even want Romney hanging around the White House? The strategic pick here has no heart in it...and heart could be what this election turns on.

The outside-the-box up-and-comer pick, Pawlenty, can speak to middle-class voters as well as connect with the conservative base. So far, so good. But Biden would chew him up and spit him out. This is where Biden has boxed in McCain: Pawlenty would be the natural fall-back, but now looks hazardous. McCain may still decide that the VP debates don't matter (think Benson/Quale) and that he can take on Obama on his own. But this isn't a ride-the-coattails election. This is a change election being fought tooth and nail. He'll need the extra help from his VP. Is Pawlenty ready? Many think not. Especially comparing him to Biden. That undercuts McCain's big message about Obama, that he's not ready.

So the odds:
1. Romney
2. Pawlenty
3. Lieberman

But all of them bring lingering problems, where Biden has essentially sealed the deal.

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