Friday, February 08, 2008

The GOP Veepstakes: The Winning Number is Three

The denial phase is soon coming to an end, and disgruntled conservatives (as well as "gruntled" McCain supporters) will be asking "who is the running mate?" The media speculation has already begun.

First answer: NOT Mitt Romney.

Second answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT Mike Huckabee.

So who?

Start with this premise: Winning as a Republican is going to be extremely tough in 2008. If the GOP does everything right, odds are they'll still lose. Forget the current "McCain's leading in the polls, while Hillary and Obama are still beating each other up." That will change.

The Democrats will unite behind a nominee (probably Mrs. Clinton). The media will turn on McCain. And the presidential race will be a state-by-state, door-to-door fight.

So who should be at McCain's side? Here's my three-point test. The VP nominee must:

1-Be perceived as "ready to be president" immediately. One of the major issues of the '08 general election will be John McCain's age. That Washinton Post story about McCain being required to get a special life insurance policy will come back in the fall, I guarantee.

2-- Add a state to the GOP column. If the GOP has any hope of holding the White House, it will likely involve state by state fighting and getting smart, lucky or both in one or two key states. A Great Lakes state maybe, or Florida.

This is mandatory, in my opinion, for any Veep choice: No potential state pick-up, no nominee.

I hope we've learned this lesson. In the summer of 2000 I told my listeners that Bush's choice of Cheney was a dumb mistake because it didn't help Bush close the gap in any state. Many Bushies dismissed my criticism...until the 2000 debacle. Imagine if a vote-getter like a McCain had been on the ticket (He wasn't an option). Imagine a Veep who brought Michigan or Pennsylvania into the GOP fold. The entire history of the past 7 years would be profoundly different if Bush had just won the popular vote.

3--Be a woman or a member of a minority group. It's tragic but true. 2008 is the year of identity politics. It is dominating the political conversation this year. Yes, Democrats should be embarrassed that their exit polls focus on race while Republicans focus on ideas and ideology. They should be embarrassed, but they're not. Neither are the race-obsessed media, who spend more time talking about skin color than the admissions office of Bob Jones University.

The GOP can complain and lose, or play and win. Is it fair? No.

But did your mom always tell you about life: It's not fair.

So forget a Veep who "adds to McCain's conservative credentials." If McCain is struggling for conservative votes in November, the election is lost anyway. A woman from Florida or Ohio who is ready to be president--that's the ticket.

The question is, does such a Veep exist? And if so, why isn't that candidate at the TOP of the ticket?