Sunday, February 17, 2008

Blackburn? VP? O-M-G.

Congressman Blackburn is beginning to be talked about as a potential Vice Presidential nominee for Senator McCain. Here is a recent article from National Review that mentions potential Vice Presidential Candidates:

McCain’s Veep
The right No. 2 could help John McCain.

By Lisa Schiffren

Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a staunch budget-cutter, social and fiscal conservative, and attractive — with a slick website, to boot.

Because he is not the first choice of the conservative base, and enthusiasm for his candidacy is, to say the least, weak, presumptive GOP nominee John McCain should use the occasion of choosing his running mate to show us he cares. Instead of the verbal bouquets he’s begun tossing, the ideal Valentine should be something more solid — like picking a real conservative to round out his ticket. In the interests of balance, his running mate should not only be a staunch conservative: he or she should be younger; be more ideas-driven; boast an executive record; and — ideally — have the capacity to carry a major swing state or region. This year, race and gender could also be factors to consider.

What’s good for the GOP ticket today is good for America tomorrow. A running mate who performs well either becomes vice president — a job in which he or she may influence the administration considerably — or, if the ticket loses, becomes the presumptive candidate in 2012.

I asked Corner Readers to suggest “a rising star who is likely to be a good vote-getter, a solid conservative, and also good at the policy areas (at least a few of the central ones, like the economy) where McCain is weak.” I also urged that “it has to be a governor with some talent, charisma, and regional respect.” On second thought, it doesn’t have to be a governor — though they do get extra points. And, to quote a reader, “we don’t want two old white guys up against Clinton or Obama.” Nope. Sure don’t.

The biggest vote-getter was Bobby Jindal, after only a month in office as governor of Louisiana. As one reader noted, “Bobby Jindal fits your vice-presidential criteria nicely. He could even defuse the HillaryCare's centrally planned health care with his experience.” Another reader said he “would be the smartest guy at any meeting in the White House.” Almost everyone who mentioned him seemed certain that he will be president sometime soon. He is obviously a star, but he is young and should wait for a more propitious year. And let’s see how he does in Louisiana.

Governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Haley Barbour of Mississippi tie for second place, though Pawlenty is edging ahead even as I write.

Pawlenty supporters are convinced that he has a big future. One reader wrote, “He’s young, energetic, has a good grasp of policy, and won re-election in a blue state in 2006.” Another: “He appeals to the vast majority of the conservative grassroots while bringing in moderates, and he’d shore up support in important Midwest swing states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.” “He won’t alienate the media. He has co-chaired McCain’s campaign since the beginning and remained loyal in the dark days of autumn.” Furthermore, unlike McCain, Pawlenty is sound on immigration; and “his wife, an articulate former judge, is a Baptist and he attends her church.” (A professionally accomplished wife is a big plus in my book.) And “Pawlenty has held the line on fiscal conservatism and kept his ‘no new taxes’ pledge, vetoing more than 50 bills sent to him by a tax-and-spend Democratic legislature.”

As it happens, the current conventional wisdom among strategists is that Pawlenty is the man. To win this year, the GOP will need to hold all the states that Bush won — unlikely — or to bring over some that he narrowly lost. Minnesota tops that list. His downside is that he has no national presence. I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up. Now would be a good time for him to start raising his profile.

Another reader enumerates Haley Barbour’s assets: “He’s a bit younger than McCain, and is a southern governor with a strong pro-life record — and he was the only competent elected official in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. He’s also strong on taxes and spending: He balanced Mississippi’s budget, and he vetoed a cigarette-tax increase and vowed to veto others. Barbour would be a perfect balance to McCain by addressing his southern problem and his conservative problem — and he is credible enough that Americans would be comfortable to see him being one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.”

I, personally, have seen Haley practice the dark arts of politics up close, and emerged with great respect for him. He’s a Reaganite. He is also immensely charming (you can’t win if people don’t like you) as well as very smart. (Imagine if Trent Lott had been really smart.) Barbour may be top-of-the-ticket material in the future. The downside may be that this is not the best year for a lobbyist or a genuine (if upper-crust) good ol’ boy.

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina is a rock-solid choice. He is sound on all of the important issues, and has an extraordinary record on budget cutting. Corner readers described him as an “economic libertarian” — an excellent thing to be. In fact, in his three terms in Congress, he occasionally veered from the GOP majority to vote with Ron Paul. He has an American Conservative Union score of 92. Sanford distinguished himself recently by writing a moving op-ed about the burdens upon southerners on the matter of race. On top of that, he is young, with a young family, and — dare I say it? — good-looking.

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, who came to office in the wake of Alaska’s GOP financial-corruption issues, is certainly an intriguing option, and a potential GOP star. While Corner readers perceive her as a dark horse, she got as many votes as Mark Sanford, nevertheless. The “youthful, attractive, conservative, smart, and tough” 44-year-old is thought capable of “neutralizing Hillary.” In office, she has been a strong budget-cutter, and, like Sanford, is described as an economic libertarian. She is a member of “Feminists for Life,” and opposes gay marriage — but has been sensitive on other gay issues, including partner benefits. Palin’s husband is a commercial fisherman, they have four children, the eldest of whom recently joined the army. In addition, she was a former Miss Alaska.

This might not be her year, though. Like Bobby Jindal, she hasn’t been in office long enough to garner solid experience — and like Tim Pawlenty, she needs to raise her national profile. What’s more, her state is small and reliably Republican. But she should be on the short list of candidates to watch for the future.

The most surprising frequent mention was for SEC chairman and former California congressman Christopher Cox. Most Cox supporters skip the prose and just list his very impressive resume. “Joint MBA/JD from Harvard (and editor of The Harvard Law Review), partner at a respected law firm, senior associate counsel to Pres. Reagan (’86-’88), nine-term congressman from Orange County (lifetime ACU rating of 98), where he authored the Internet Tax Freedom Act.” A well-known free-market conservative, Cox was confirmed to head the SEC with little opposition. “He is so brainy, and so solid on conservative issues across the board — and so well and deeply versed on so many issues. On top of it, he comes out of the Reagan White House — a direct tie to the conservative movement’s happiest days.”

Chris Cox is fabulous. He should be president. The only negative — alas, a big one — is that he has never managed to generate real excitement, even when running what should have been sexy hearings on big issues. He is obviously very smart, and a true policy wonk — the sort of guy who usually runs big, serious, difficult government institutions or departments. Is he a vote getter?

Former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele got many very enthusiastic votes. He is solid, intelligent, and articulate — and black. Unfortunately, he lost his last election for a Senate seat. He certainly has potential, and lovely as it would be to scramble the race issue by putting a black conservative on the ticket after Hillary defeats Obama (think about that, for a second!), I think Steele could use another term in high office — or a Cabinet position — first.

Former Oklahoma congressman J. C. Watts, another solidly conservative African American, also got a lot of votes. He’s intelligent, a former athlete, and a successful businessman. Watts has made the point many times that the GOP does not reach out to black voters in a serious way — and he is right. While I think it would be good for him take another run at elective office before putting him on a ticket, he too would likely benefit from high-level appointment.

Like me, several of you remain loyal to the vision of former Texas senator Phil Gramm in high office. “I’d be pretty psyched at the prospect of Gramm having a strong hand in domestic policy, and I think it would be a choice that demonstrates that McCain thinks he can win and is getting ready to govern.” Gramm is the first candidate I ever wrote a large check for. Unfortunately, he was the Rudy of his year; lots of very smart policy, tough enough to whip Washington into shape — and no voter appeal. If McCain wins, a Cabinet position for Phil.

The GOP needs Ohio to gain the White House. With that in mind, several readers suggested former Ohio congressman John Kasich — who is articulate and smart, and who could help deliver the Buckeye State. (I think he is likeable but lacks magnetism.) Similarly, some suggested Congressman John Boehner of Ohio. (I say that he is needed desperately where he is.)

A few die-hard votes for Jeb Bush, and, similarly, for Fred Thompson. (Loyalty is nice, but get over it, guys.) And another few for always smart and interesting uber-pundit and former secretary of education Bill Bennett. Bennett has been highly successful as an author, radio-host and TV talking head — in fact, he’s indispensable in that role. He’s likely content exactly where he is.

Two to watch: Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a staunch budget-cutter, social and fiscal conservative, and attractive — with a slick website, to boot. Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, who is young, Catholic, handsome, conservative, anti-amnesty for illegals, and from a swing state (Wisconsin). Great on domestic policy — entitlement reform, earmarks, you name it.

A few Corner readers voted for Texas senator John Cornyn — though one of you would rather have him on the Supreme Court, if not providing leadership in the Senate, which is also important. Votes came also for Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn (not counting Tom Delay’s endorsement on Fox News last Thursday), who is as hardcore a conservative as there is, but counts as an “old white guy.” Retired general Peter Pace got some consideration — and he should be recruited to run for the Senate from Virginia. Whoever is in charge of these things should get on it now.

I don’t know about the rest of you — but this little exercise has cheered me up considerably about the post-2008 future of our grand old party, and our nation. Now let’s see what John McCain decides to do.