Thursday, July 24, 2008

Conservatives Fear of Obama Gives McCain Room for a Bold VP Choice

The choice of who will be the Republican Vice President nominee will likely be unusually important this election cycle. Typically the mantra is "do no harm." This year, because of the incredible move of the Democrats with Obama and the very boring presence of McCain, Republicans better go bold. The question is, how bold? Will that be measured by ethnicity? Gender? Skin color? Religion? Those are the questions Republican strategists should be asking. However, the list of most commonly mentioned candidates for the VP post makes me wonder.

My favorite choice, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, has largely taken himself out of consideration. It is too bad, because he did so much for McCain. He is charismatic, young, being the first Vice President born in the 1970s, very conservative (shoring up an area McCain has proven to be weak), he would make history as the first Indian American and Asian American elected to Vice President. In spite of his young age, he actually has a more substantial career than Barack Obama. I do believe he can be persuaded. I hope that happens.

Another often mentioned choice is Mitt Romney, who knows how to spend money for votes, but doesn't appear to know how to collect them. I don't think I have ever see a candidate spend more per vote and have less to show for it. Romney is charismatic and financially very successful, but he has "matured" in his political thinking too late for most conservatives. In his first Senate race against Ted Kennedy he was a liberal Republican. When he ran for Governor, it was as a moderate. Now, he tries to position himself as a conservative. The reality is, Romney brings very little to the ticket. Conservatives and Evangelicals seem as suspicious of him as they are McCain because of his Mormon beliefs and shifting philosophy. The only conservatives that seem passionate about Romney are the same ones who wanted McCain to lose if he received the Republican nomination. The choice of Romney would essentially guarantee that.

Many conservatives look at McCain in a similar way as they did Bob Dole in 1996. Not a person to get excited about. However, Dole was running against a moderate Democrat in Bill Clinton. A person who "ended poverty as we know it" and in that policy achievement found at least a small spot in the hearts of hardened conservatives. Barack Obama, on the other hand, brings absolute fear in the heart of most rank and file Republicans. It isn't because of his race, his questionable religious background, or even his age and inexperience that they worry. Instead, it his "embarrassment" of the way the US is viewed by the rest of the world and his wife's view that the US is simply mean and for the first time now deserves her being proud of it.

I believe McCain can safely assume he will get conservative voters no mater who he has as Vice President. This is radical coming from me. I strongly wanted a true believer on the top of the ticket, so giving up both spots shows how desperate the situation has become. But it is just that. McCain needs to make some history of his own. Here are a few people that could help him do just that:

* Colin Powell. The former General and Secretary of State would give the American people a leader who inspires respect and authority, taking away some of Obama's thunder. He is "blamed" for the evidence that led to the war in Iraq, but he is respected by liberals and moderates alike. I believe the biggest concern that potential Obama supporters have is his inexperience. Colin Powell allows voters to have their cake and eat it too. With a respected and experienced black leader like Powell.

* Senator Joseph Lieberman. The American people have grown exhausted over the political division in Washington, DC. Lieberman, who would be America's first Jewish Vice President, is now considered an Independent, but has decades on his biography as a Democrat. I have little doubt that he would jump at the opportunity. On the down side, he is not particularly young or charismatic, but he is well like and would offer an opportunity for national unity (verses mere party unity) that we haven't seen in years.

* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. For conservatives, Rice is fairly solid on foreign policy and an unknown on domestic policy. She is attractive and articulate. She is black and female and would be a huge attraction for Clinton supporters who believe their standard bearer was mistreated. Meanwhile, blacks who have been concerned about how prepared Obama is would find Rice a safe bet. In fact, Rice could seal the deal for the huge percentage of female voters who say they won't vote for Obama.

If McCain is going to play it safe, he need to consider Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Huckabee would help shore up conservative voters (although he is no Reagan conservative) and did the best job of any candidate on his vote per dollar ratio. He is an excellent grass roots organizer who would do a great job in the McCain effort.

I hope McCain goes bold and electrifies his ticket with a VP who could mobilize the many independents who are planning on voting for the first time. He needs to go bold and go deep, his electoral success depends upon it.

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Kevin Price is Host of the Houston Business Show (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at HoustonBusinessShow.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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