Picking a vice president

Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWe must all come together to overcome the opioid epidemic Senators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing Tax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo MORE, Bob McDonnell, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLobbying world Former Florida congressmen mull bipartisan gubernatorial run: report Winners and losers from Jim Bridenstine’s confirmation as NASA administrator MORE, Chris Christie, Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP Audit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years MORE and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans want Trump’s VA nominee to withdraw Senators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing House, Senate GOP compete for cash MORE have all been auditioning to become the vice presidential nominee — whether they know it or not. 

All would be excellent choices, better than the last choice made by a Republican nominee. 

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Picking a vice presidential candidate came under intense scrutiny over the weekend, as HBO premiered “Game Change,” a movie based on the book of the same name that gave an interesting tick-tock of the 2008 presidential election. 

Presidential contenders pick a running mate based primarily on one overwhelming factor: Will that choice help me become president?

George Bush the Second picked Dick Cheney because there was a perception out there that Bush didn’t have the necessary experience to be president. Cheney balanced the experience gap. 

President Obama picked Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDelaware lawmakers unanimously pass new gun control bill named for Beau Biden The Hill's 12:30 Report Biden to decide on White House run at end of year MORE to help with experience (theoretically) and to help with white ethnic voters. Joe can talk Irish Catholic with the best of them. 

The worst vice presidential picks lack a clear rationale. It is a mystery why Dick Nixon picked Spiro Agnew or why George Bush the First picked Dan Quayle. 

Picking a woman to balance the ticket hasn’t proven to be an effective strategy to get to the Oval Office. Geraldine Ferraro couldn’t stop Reagan’s landslide, and Sarah Palin, well, we all know about Sarah Palin. 

Jimmy Carter and Jack Kennedy picked their vice presidents to provide regional balance. Kennedy didn’t much care for Lyndon Johnson, and the hatred between the Kennedys and the former Texas senator only intensified after the president was assassinated in the vice president’s home state.  Fritz Mondale was more liberal than the Georgia governor, which probably helped above the Mason-Dixon line. 

Dwight Eisenhower had little regard for Richard Nixon, but put him on the ticket to shore up his conservative base. On several occasions, Ike considered kicking him out as his vice presidential candidate, including one occasion where Nixon had to give a national address citing his dog Checkers in a bid to save his place on the ticket. 

Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonShould Trump pardon Cohen? US liberals won't recognize Finland's pro-work welfare reform Trump denies clemency to 180 people MORE’s partnership with Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreNorth Korean summit calls for a hard line from Trump Mellman: Memories may be beautiful, yet… Hamas attacks Israel — and the world condemns Israel MORE was unusual. It didn’t provide much regional balance (Tennessee and Arkansas aren’t that far from each other), nor did it provide an ideological balance (both were basically centrists). Gore did have more federal experience than Clinton, but both were cut from the same cloth. 

Picking a vice president because that candidate can deliver a state or a region hasn’t generally been at the top of the reasons why candidates pick a certain candidate in the past several elections, with the possible exception of John KerryJohn Forbes KerryPrimary care is a home run for both sides of the aisle Mellman: Memories may be beautiful, yet… Lieberman: Senate should fulfill constitutional duty, confirm Mike Pompeo MORE’s pick of John Edwards in 2004. Delaware, Alaska and Wyoming don’t have too many electoral votes.  

That is not to say that Mitt Romney wouldn’t go there this time around. The most important states in this coming election are Ohio and Florida, which would lead to the conclusion that Rob Portman and Marco Rubio are high on Romney’s list. 

Portman has deep federal experience (serving on the White House staff, as the head of USTR and as OMB director), which would certainly give the former Massachusetts governor a leg up as he assumes office. Rubio is beloved by conservatives and would be the first Hispanic candidate on the ticket, which theoretically could help deliver an increasingly important voting bloc to the Romney ticket. 

Bob McDonnell is both a Catholic and a true red-state conservative, and Virginia went for Obama in the last election. Chris Christie would give the Romney ticket a passion that it currently lacks, although it is an open question if Christie could deliver New Jersey for the Massachusetts governor (not much regional diversity in that pick). 

Mitt Romney has said that his first criterion for picking a vice president would be that candidate’s ability to do the job as president, should the need arise. That would be a refreshing departure from the rationale employed by his rival in the last election, John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees GOP advances proposal to change Senate rules Julian Castro predicts Arizona will 'go blue' for Senate, presidential election MORE.

Feehery is president of Quinn 
Gillespie Communications and 
spent 15 years working in the 
House Republican leadership. He is 
a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com