Shortlist: McCain Edition

Adam Nagourney reports that during this coming three day weekend McCain will be hosting a private social event which is to include at least three people on McCain’s VP shortlist. Those three being former Gov. Mitt Romney, Gov. Crist, and Gov. Jindal.

While I think it’s far too early to start making speculative calls as to whom McCain’s running mate will eventually be, it is worth taking into stock what he needs out of a running mate.

Indeed, McCain’s weakness as a candidate is only highlighted once we start seeing all the areas that need shoring up by a running mate.

For one, McCain’s going to need someone who is strong on the economy. A rather late development in the presidential campaign has been the fact that the economy, due in no small part to the housing crisis as well as flirtations with recession (or actually being in recession, depending on your point of view), has superceded Iraq and foreign policy as the number one issue that voters will be contemplating in the fall.

McCain, who once admitted to not knowing much about the economy, is running on an economic platform that is quite parallel to Bush’s, and without economic expertise, Obama should be able to dance circles around him in the fall. He is going to need someone that will be able to frame the Bush-like approach to the economy in very non-Bush-like terms.

He’s also going to need a religious or social conservative. While his party may be coalescing around him to a degree, there still seems to be no indication that McCain has had much success, nor are there hints that he will in the future, in energizing and mobilizing the base. A key part of that will undoubtedly be making overtures to religious and social conservatives that simply do not trust him.

He will also need a young running mate. Actually, McCain’s age could end up being the trickiest aspect to picking a running mate of all the attributes that he’ll need to consider. On one hand, he’s going to need a running mate that people are going to be comfortable standing in as president. The question is always about who is one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, but in McCain’s situation, that will be an even more significant matter.

At the same time, we also have to remember how this is going to look. McCain is going to be running against a candidate that is two and a half decades his junior and looks every bit as young and full of vitality as one would expect. The danger that McCain faces in picking someone too young and too vivacious is that between Obama and the running mate, McCain may end up making himself look far too old and decrepit.

So a little needle threading is most definitely in order here. He’ll have to pick someone who doesn’t make him look too old, but he’s also going to have to pick someone that will alleviate concerns that the Presidency is in good hands should McCain’s health take a nasty downturn in the middle of his presidency.

Also, and I know we’re all a little tired of identity politics at this point, but McCain may want to also consider having a minority or a woman on the ticket. He’s going to face one or the other in the fall, and while his white male status is going to help him in some places, two whites going after a black man or a woman or both is going to hurt him in others. In other words, if McCain picks another white male, identity politics will become a major point in the fall.  However; if he picks a minority or a woman, that could take them off the table. Whether that would be to McCain’s benefit or not is unknown at this point, but it is worth taking into consideration.

And of course there are regional considerations to be made. One of the things that is interesting about McCain is that, coming from Arizona, he doesn’t necessarily represent a regional strength in and of himself. He’s hailing from the Southwest where maybe he can get a little local love from Texas, Colorado, etc. But he’s too far West to have deep roots in the Deep South, and the North East is not likely to be friendly to him. Given that Obama is showing stronger than Democrats typically do in the midwest and northwest, McCain is likely to find himself at a distinct disadvantage regionally with even some of the boundaries of the South chipping away in states like Virginia and the Carolinas. As a result, McCain’s going to have to look regionally at someone who is going to put the most electoral votes in play. Unfortunately, he probably has too many regions to choose from.

Interestingly enough, one of the areas that McCain will be weakest in the fall is also the one that he will not address; foreign policy. A full third of Republicans oppose the Iraq war, and a majority of Americans do. Those are bad numbers for an issue that is likely to remain in the top three come voting day.

McCain was elected as a representative of the neoconservative leg of the Republican stool, but that leg of the stool does not stand particularly strong at this time.

More at Memeorandum: The Swamp, NewsBusters.org, Marc Ambinder, Spin Cycle, Political Radar, Jonathan Martin’s Blogs, Donklephant, TIME.com and Hot Air

(edited by DrGail)

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