Power Play: No Hurry for Romney on VP Announcement
By Chris Stirewalt
“That’s not meant so much as a criticism of Governor Palin as it is that I just thought it was not — the process didn’t meet the standards I would like to see our candidate pursue when they pick a running mate.”
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who also led the vice presidential vetting process that resulted in his selection by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, on “Hannity” walking back comments made last week to ABC News calling Sen. John McCain’s 2008 selection of Palin “a mistake.”
Mitt Romney has 18 days in which to announce his choice of his running mate, and you can bet he’s going to milk as much from the topic as is humanly possible. So what’s the advantage in stopping the fun early?
Romney is prepared to tantalize the press pool with another round of house calls on top-tier contenders starting Saturday as he takes bus tours through Virginia (Gov. Bob McDonnell), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio) and Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman).
The idea here is to ramp up the speculation to the most furious levels possible – to get reporters and Republicans totally immersed in the quadrennial parlor game of running-mate speculation.
For months, Team Romney has hinted that the running mate announcement would come early so as to create more buzz and give the duo more time to campaign ahead of the convention. But does that really make sense?
The primary alternative narrative from the reporters in the press corps is about how Romney mistreats them and has a bad press operation and struggles with communications. (Nothing will get a reporter’s creative juices flowing like the chance to do a story about how a politician is impeding the vital work of the fourth estate. Or if there are no chocolate chip cookies on the press charter.)
Also available to Romney are stories about his tax filings as the Obama Democrats continue to pour out venom on the former Bain CEO’s income tax filings. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid having set a new baseline for acceptable attacks, others will feel emboldened to make slightly less shocking claims.
If Romney were to announce that he were picking McDonnell at a rally in Manassas, Va. On Saturday, that would leave more than two weeks before Republicans convene in Tampa. That’s plenty of time in the modern media blender for the excitement to be all gone and the discussion be back on Romney’s 1040 forms or a media dissection of Romney’s handling of the media.
Plus, it would give the press corps and the Obama campaign more than two weeks to splurp out all of the juicy tidbits for any running mate’s past. By the time he took the stage on Aug. 29, the story could be about McDonnell’s graduate dissertation on gender roles in the family, rather than the speech itself.
You can imagine the news lead “Amid swirling controversy surrounding his controversial writings, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell looked to quell concerns in his convention speech…”
The same would be true of any of the other two of Romney’s bus buddy. Given the harshness toward Romney already exhibited by those who cover him, both Portman (Bush budgets) and Rubio (personal finances) would be immediately shoved into a defensive crouch. It might fade in time, but not before Tampa.
Especially if Romney is going to go bold in his choice – Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Chris Christie as the most plausible long shots – the same would be true of the next two weeks.
If Romney wants to make the most of his convention and the 10 weeks that follow, why leave a veep on the shelf for two weeks to be pecked at by cranky crows in press corps? As much as Republican operative may complain about the selection and preparation process for Sarah Palin, at least give John McCain this: she came out with a bang.
Why not cut short the scavenger hunt and wait until the week of the 21st and barnstorm into the convention?