With an unemployment rate over 8% for 42 straight months, anemic growth, a devalued dollar, a foreclosure crisis, and a cascading national debt that threatens to bankrupt our government and country if not addressed, many Republican strategists believe President Obama will be defeated as long as Mitt Romney and his campaign “don’t screw up.” I view it differently. Despite the poor economy, Barack Obama will be reelected unless Mitt Romney boldly makes the case why he should be president, and articulates a clear and compelling vision that communicates how Americawill overcome its challenges.
No other factor will impact Romney’s ability to make that case more than his choice of a running mate. So for Mitt Romney, it’s time to be bold or go home. If the former governor’s choice for running mate is anything less than someone drenched in bold vision and unapologetic leadership, a person with the courage of his convictions who is not afraid to make the hard decisions that must be made to save America, undecided voters will remain unmoved, the GOP base will be uninspired, and Mitt Romney will be unsuccessful.
The 2012 election is not just a referendum on how President Obama has handled the economy, it is a choice of competing visions. Americans now know what Obama believes in—a western European styled socialism of larger government, more entitlements, more regulation, higher taxes, growing deficits, and a world where America sits at the table of nations as an unexceptional partner. Where does Mitt Romney stand? Is he bold, or milquetoast? Does he want to achieve something as president, or just be president? Is he willing to make the hard decisions to make us great again? A “first do no harm” pick for a running mate will portray Governor Romney as anything but bold.
So who should Romney select? Bob McDonald, Rob Portman, and John Thune would each make an excellent vice president, but they are safe picks. Jeb Bush would be both bold and prudent, but he seems uninterested in the job. Condoleezza Rice would be a bold pick but not for the right reasons. This election is not about foreign policy and her alleged moderate views on social issues would upset the base and risk throwing the convention into a tailspin. That leaves Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan. Of these, Rubio and Ryan are the best choices.
Marco is the most inspiring, and for those of us who know him allegations that he has not been sufficiently vetted are simply not true. He has served in the crucible of state politics in a mega-state, run for and won a U.S. Senate seat, and would add a huge jolt of enthusiasm to the Republican ticket, let alone Hispanic voters. Paul Ryan is the real deal, too. With the exception of my former colleague U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Paul Ryan knows more about the fiscal problems of Washington and how to fix them than anyone I have ever met. He is not afraid to lead, and adding him to the ticket would demonstrate to the American people that Mitt Romney understands not only that America is in trouble, but that he has the courage to solve our problems.
Americans don’t want to be coddled; they want a leader. Be bold, Mitt. Be bold.
LeMieux is a Republican and former United States Senator from Florida.