Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate could mean the White House will have its first VP from the U.S. House of Representatives in 80 years. In fact, only four sitting members of the House have even been on a Democratic or Republican ticket since 1900.
With such a sparse track record, it may look like Romney dropped the ball after choosing Ryan as his No. 2. But among the potential VPs, the seven-term representative from Wisconsin ultimately was the best choice. With his options for a potential running mate, the former Massachusetts governor had several avenues he could have taken.
After John McCain’s debacle with Sarah Palin in 2008, it seemed logical to go with someone who appeared knowledgeable and had been tested on the national stage. McCain plucked Palin from Alaska when she was essentially an unknown. Ironically, of the names being tossed around prior to Romney’s pick of Ryan, two female governors fit into the same untested category.
Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, and South Carolina’s own Nikki Haley were at one time listed as potential choices. Both are minority candidates that occasionally make appearances on the Sunday morning TV roundtables, but have yet to come close to facing the rigorous tests of being a vice presidential nominee.
Voters could easily chalk up first term senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire in the same category. Romney could have also gone the Obama route by picking a running mate that he went up against in the primaries. In 2008, Obama picked his one-time Democratic primary rival Joe Biden as his VP. Romney could have done the same, but he shared the stage with some rather lackluster opponents in 2012.
Still, two names were largely under consideration.
Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor, looks the vice presidential part, but is missing the passion. Already suffering a lack of enthusiasm, Romney would have done little to light a spark by picking Pawlenty. The selection of Rick Santorum, perhaps his fiercest rival during the Republican campaign, would have likely sent the worst message. The former Pennsylvania senator derided Romney throughout the primaries.
Some easily recognizable names, at least in political circles, were also on the list, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Christie can certainly play a room better than almost any other current politician, but is not as ideologically conservative as some Tea Partiers and far right voters would like. Along with Christie, Daniels was urged to run even when it was becoming apparent Romney would be the nominee. One on the superficial front, Daniel would never have stacked up. Short and balding, he would have looked out of place standing beside Romney on the campaign trail. With that said, he also served as budget director under George W. Bush, a name the GOP nominee wants to steer clear of.
By all indications, Romney was set to make his decision towards the end of the Olympic Games, when TV viewers and journalists would be turning their attention away from London.
He did that, but since the eyeballs were turning to him, he needed to at least make a juicy choice that wouldn’t be overlooked. He also needed someone that wouldn’t be second guessed in the credentials department. Rob Portman, senator from Ohio, matched the later, but was subpar in the first. He speaks straight forwardly and also comes from a swing state, but at the end of the day, most voters would be left asking “Rob who?”
In the end, the best choice was Ryan. Romney went with a young, telegenic Midwesterner that can help him make his case to the American people. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, he’s been in the fairly sizable Congressional spotlight, but we’ll wait and see how he does on a much bigger stage.