Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Election 2012: Running Mates for Mitt Romney

One of the most eloquent speeches I’ve ever heard concerning America’s ugly fiscal situation was delivered by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels at the 2011 CPAC conclave.

Daniels painted a dark yet vivid picture of the country’s financial state and the need for Americans to mobilize to tackle the new “red menace” with the same spirit and dedication that previous generations marshaled when fighting the Nazis and Communism.

Of the multitude of Republican presidential wannabes clamoring for attention and support from those in attendance, Daniels alone came off like a president and not like a cheerleader captain spouting off a canned speech laced with pithy partisan zingers crafted by a team of speech writers.

And unfortunately for the GOP and the US, Daniels abstained from a presidential run for familial reasons and recently shut the door as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney by agreeing to serve as Purdue University’s next president.

Daniels would have been a natural fit for Romney, a “safe” selection that would have brought fiscal cred and gravitas to the ticket without overshadowing the top name on the GOP marquee.

Sans Daniels, quality running mate options remain though none possess the same statesman-like quality the Indiana governor would have brought to the ticket.

Bobby Jindal- While I’m from Louisiana and have knew Jindal prior to his failed run for governor in 2003, I can objectively argue that he is the best option for Romney. The nation’s first Indian-American governor is a non-traditional Republican with tremendous appeal to the party’s conservative base. Jindal would be the first Roman Catholic on the Republican ticket in 48 years.

No other potential running mate is better versed on health care and Jindal’s selection would inject some badly needed young blood into the Grand Old Party. While the mainstream media has been hyperventilating about the critical Hispanic vote, Jindal could open doors to Asian voters, an often-ignored segment of the American electorate.

Susana Martinez- Florida US Senator Marco Rubio is the consensus choice for vice-president, but the governor of New Mexico would be a better selection. Martinez, America’s first Republican Latino governor, could be the surprise pick that reshapes the presidential race.

Though she has criticized Romney’s awkward “self-deportation” position, Martinez could be the Republican Party’s only hope of winning enough Hispanic support to tip the Democrat-trending scales in Colorado and Nevada while also putting New Mexico back in play. Differences between Martinez and Romney on a comprehensive immigration policy could be massaged. Martinez is pro-life and earlier this year lost her hair-stylist over her opposition to gay marriage.

A Romney-Martinez ticket could make some purple states red and turn Democratic spin-doctors purple, as it wouldn’t fit their “Republican war on Hispanics and women” narrative.

John Thune- Romney has often been described as a “central casting presidential candidate”. It could be said Thune would a “central casting running mate”. Thune is a telegenic, relatively young conservative who, like Jindal, would also be a fresh face for the party. Thune backed Romney early and stumped for him in the Iowa caucuses. The junior senator’s professed support for the Green Bay Packers will be of more value than his home state’s three securely red electoral votes.

Pat Toomey- If Romney were still struggling with uniting the conservative base of the party behind his candidacy or had Rick Santorum been able to drag the nomination battle into June, Toomey would have been the obvious choice to close the gap between Romney and Santorum vote. In addition to bringing in TEA Party stragglers, the Pennsylvania US Senator’s presence on the ticket would make the Keystone State competitive at a minimum.

Rob Portman- Pundits and politicos are betting Romney will choose for Portman for the veep slot for good reason. Portman is the ultimate safe pick combining his federal budget experience and hailing from a state that is the cornerstone of any potential Republican presidential victory.

The Ohio US Senator got behind Romney before the South Carolina primary and has campaigned at the nominee’s side and as a surrogate so there is a comfort factor. And while there’s no question that Portman is a good fit for Romney; the larger question is whether Portman can do as much for the Republican ticket as the aforementioned.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Election 2012: The Case for a Romney/Jindal Ticket

Conservatives attending a recent regional conference in Chicago voiced their support in a straw poll for Florida US Senator Marco Rubio’s selection for the bottom-half of the 2012 GOP ticket, which is hardly surprising.

Rubio is the closest thing the Republican Party has to a “rock star” politician. The young Cuban-American is for the GOP in 2012 what Barack Obama was to the Democratic Party after 2004.

Had Rubio sought the party’s presidential nomination in 2012, it’s very likely he would have been the de facto nominee before Saint Patrick’s Day.

Though unlike the president, Rubio doesn’t seem to be a young man in hurry.

Rubio has exhibited disinterest in the vice-presidency throughout the 2012 primary season and I think Republicans should take him at his word.

Rubio would be wise to shape his own destiny in 2016 or later than tether his fortunes to someone else.

If Romney were to lose this November, Rubio becomes frontrunner in the next election before the ex-Massachusetts governor would finish his concession speech.

Even if Romney wins in November, it’s hard to imagine Rubio not being considered the favorite for the party nod in 2020.

Besides, unsuccessful vice-presidential candidates tend to not do well when they run for the top spot on the party ticket the next go round.

Just ask Henry Cabot Lodge, Ed Muskie, Sarge Shriver, Bob Dole, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards how the experience helped their presidential ambitions.

In the case of Dole it took three tries and twenty years to win the Republican nomination after going down to defeat with Gerald Ford in 1976.

For those keeping score at home, Franklin Roosevelt was the last (and may be the only) unsuccessful vice-presidential candidate to later be elected president.

I am not of the opinion that Rubio would be the best possible running mate for Romney anyway.

That distinction goes to Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, though he is also unavailable by his own choice.

So with those two doors closed, the next batter up would be Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal.

Jindal brings far more to the table than Louisiana’s reduced handful of electoral votes.

Jindal has a largely pristine ethical record and has pushed through a number of political reform bills that provide an uncharacteristically favorable national narrative for a Louisiana governor.

Jindal would also be an articulate voice on the all-important issue of energy.

While covering the Iowa caucuses, I noticed how folks attending Rick Perry rallies seemed more interested meeting the Louisiana governor than the Texas governor.

Jindal also has impeccable social conservative credentials, solving Romney’s “Santorum problem” without having to pick Santorum.

Jindal’s selection would come with an opportunity cost.

Louisiana is already in the electoral can for Romney so the GOP nominee would be passing up the opportunity to go with someone from a marginal state that could make the difference in a tight election.

There are those in the party who feel that Romney should pick someone who is not identified with the party’s evangelical base in order to make a play for independents that are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. These are the same people who have preferred Lieberman to Sarah Palin.

And then there was Jindal’s universally panned response to Obama’s first State of the Union address.

That said, none of the aforementioned should be considered disqualifiers for Jindal.

Saturday Night Live might mock Jindal as geeky, but they won’t be able to portray him as stupid or incompetent, especially when the current vice-president has at times come off more like Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin character from the Naked Gun movies than a man who is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

During his White House bid, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tried to sell his candidacy by asking Republican voters to imagine a Gingrich-Obama debate.

I think a Jindal-Biden debate would be just as entertaining and one-sided for the GOP.

Fortunately for Jindal, voters in states with volcano problems tend to trend either deep red or deep red.

As he prepares to face off against one of the most charismatic politicians in American history, the politically wooden Romney needs to inject his candidacy with some excitement.

And an off-the-rack selection isn’t going to provide that.

McCain had successfully accomplished that task before his inept campaign staff badly bungled the media rollout of Palin.

In contrast, the Louisiana governor is already media savvy.

Jindal is a low-risk politician, non-traditional Republican with an impressive academic and administrative resume who will reassure social conservatives, exude ability to independents and signal a more youthful direction away from the Republican Party’s Grumpy Ole Paw-paw image.

Romney could do far worse than choosing Jindal.

Let’s hope he doesn’t.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Great Paulista Delegate Steal

Let me preface by saying the following:

First in no way do I intend to paint with a broad brush all of the supporters of Texas US Representative Ron Paul. Many of the Paulista delegates I spoke with at the convention had reservations about how the rump convention was handled and that the results of the Louisiana Republican presidential primary should have been honored. Furthermore, I recognize and respect their dedication and hard work that paid off with a major upset in the state GOP’s delegate caucuses.

Secondly, I want to state that I am writing this as someone who was involved in the Louisiana Republican Presidential Primary as former Senator Rick Santorum’s state political director, a participant in the state caucuses and finally a delegate to the recent state Republican convention.

The convention was marred with controversy and confrontation though the heart of the entire matter was this: whether the Ron Paul forces were going to successfully steal the ten delegates won by Santorum in the state’s presidential primary.


Everything else are sideshows amplified in the blogosphere to distract from the delegate theft by representatives of a candidate who received a mere 6% of the vote in a taxpayer-funded statewide election that drew a record number of Louisiana Republicans to the polls.

The state GOP’s supplemental rules did not deny the pro-Paul delegates anything beyond preventing them from raiding the fifteen delegates that were awarded in a primary that Paul fell 19 points below the threshold to qualify for.

And where the Paul forces failed to win through the democratic system, they have attempted to hijack through “an overreach” in the caucuses and the state convention.

Louisiana’s delegates to the Republican National Convention were to be divided in the following manner:

Three delegates were to be represented by the state party chairman and national committeeman and national committeewoman;

Twenty delegates were to be determined in the March 24th presidential primary with candidates required to attain a minimum of 25% to receive a proportional share;

Five delegates were to be determined by the state Republican leadership;

Finally, eighteen delegates were to be decided by the state delegates elected in the state GOP’s caucuses in late April when the race for the party nomination was already decided.

Only two candidates met the 25% minimum threshold for delegates in the primary, Santorum, who carried the state with received 49% in the primary and thus was to receive half of the twenty, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who ran a distant second with 27%, thus entitling him to a quarter of the delegates (5).

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed third with 16%, scoring twice as many votes as Paul through falling 9 points below the minimum to receive delegates from the primary.

The five unallocated delegates from the primary were to be decided at the state convention.

When the caucuses were held a month later, the race for the GOP nomination had ended for all practical purposes with only Paul seriously contending the state’s caucuses, which partly explains how the party’s de facto nominee ran a distant third.

Pro-Paul delegates swept four congressional districts (entitling them to twelve delegates) but lost out in the state’s other two districts (the 3rd and the 4th). These two districts would later figure prominently in the Paulistas’ brazen attempt to steal delegates through their “protest session” at the state GOP convention.

Soon after the caucuses, I spoke with the leader of the Paul effort in Louisiana, who assured me that the results of the state’s primary would be respected. However he was singing a much different tune days before the state convention when I was informed that I should have no expectation of Santorum delegates being seated since the Pennsylvanian was out of the race.

That his candidate (Paul) also effectively suspended his presidential campaign after a drubbing in his home state primary apparently didn’t matter.

When the Louisiana Republican leadership adopted supplemental rules to protect the results of an election that drew over 180,000 voters, the Paulistas cried foul, conspiracy, etc.

How dare these establishment types act to protect the will of the people and foil their attempt to steal the results of a statewide election!

Any other gripe issued by the Paulistas was meant to distract from this reality since the Paulista majority at the convention were still free to choose their people to take the seats on the national convention’s standing committees, claim 12 of the 18 delegates that were up for grabs through the district caucuses and grab the 5 leftover statewide delegates from the presidential primary.

The latter was not a bad deal for the Paulistas since they were scooping up five delegates after receiving a paltry 6% of the statewide vote while Romney needed to win over a quarter for his five delegates.

But 17 delegates were not enough for the 6%ers. They wanted everything.

They wanted Santorum’s ten and Romney’s five as well. In their mind, there was no problem with a candidate who received 6% of the vote receiving 70% of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention and totally disregarding the will of the state’s Republican voters.

I suppose those same people would think it fine if a Democratic legislature got to choose the presidential electors after a state voted for a Republican presidential candidate.

And then the state media started to poke into their scheming and their state leaders fumbled their convoluted justification for their mass delegate theft to the press.

All of a sudden the Paulistas became generous…with Santorum’s delegates.

According to the delegate list the “rump” Paul convention forwarded to the Republican National Committee, seven of the ten delegates Santorum was to receive from the presidential primary went to people who did not support him.

Six went to Paul supporters and the other went to State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who initially endorsed Texas governor Rick Perry and then Romney. Of the three delegates who were on the official Santorum list that were seated by the Paulistas, two had a previous professional relationship with the leader of the state Paul campaign.

Left out of the delegate list were a number of donors and volunteers who worked across the state for Santorum in the primary, including Bill Dore, an oil man who contributed over $1,000,000.00 to the pro-Santorum Super PAC and had raised money for Santorum’s presidential campaign.

Dore had been listed as the first delegate on the Santorum priority list but managed to only clear alternate delegate status on the Paul list.

The Paul-blessed alternate delegate list for the Santorum served as a “storage unit” for delegates confirmed by the official state party convention. In addition to Dore, two others were demoted from delegate to alternate delegate in a crass move to ensure that the Paul bogus “Santorum” delegates act as Paul delegates.

Santorum was to receive ten delegates and ten alternates from the primary, which is exactly what the official state Republican convention adopted. The Paulista protest convention gave Santorum three delegates and five alternates.

Those who screamed the loudest about process and democracy are guilty of stealing twelve spots in this instance, though their thievery continued elsewhere.

Paulistas decided to help themselves to delegates in the third and fourth congressional districts, where they blanked out in the former and were a minority in the latter.

Yet seize they did, and by default failing to recognize the will of those who participated in the caucuses in those districts. So much for the people, procedure, ethics, etc.

There are some other points of relevance that should be considered.

First, when the district caucuses were held at the official state Republican convention, the congressional districts where the Paulistas won in the April caucuses went unfilled with one exception, which I will go over in a moment.

Rather than take advantage of the Paulistas refusal to participate in the convention proceedings, the same state party leaders they have decried as autocrats respected the results of the caucuses and did not elect non-Paulistas to those delegate and alternate delegate slots, exhibiting better judgment, fairness and integrity than the Paulistas displayed throughout the entire process.

Secondly, one Paul delegate (Wallace Lucas in the second congressional district) recognized the legitimacy of the state party procedure by complying with the rules and was the one individual elected at the official state GOP convention in a congressional district caucus won by the Paulistas. His election by the delegates participating in the state GOP convention was unanimous.

Thirdly, the Paulistas operated in secrecy. At no point did they extend an invitation to other delegates in their carefully orchestrated “protest convention” nor did they inform any Santorum official about how they would address the ten Santorum delegate slots.

We found out about their delegate list days later.

Fourthly, the misinformation and propaganda offensive by the Paulistas has hit overdrive in the blogosphere, most notably through their attempt to make it appear that Romney’s camp has embraced their actions through spinning some pleasantries offered to them by Louisiana Romney leader Scott Sewell.

I would caution the Paulistas not to read too much into Sewell’s words as he was the very Romney official who “adopted” Santorum and Gingrich delegate candidates on to the official Romney caucus slate in a desperate attempt to stop the Paulistas from winning the April caucuses.

In conclusion the real stories of the contentious state Republican convention in Shreveport were not the “arrests”, rule supplements or the screaming and shouting.

The confrontations were an essential part of a Paulista strategy to create a fog of confusion to mask the wide scale delegate thefts by the Paulistas, which is what really mattered.

Through their actions, the Louisiana Paulista leadership demonstrated contempt and disregard for a presidential primary and the 170,000 Republican voters who did not vote for their candidate and the over 90,000 who voted for Santorum in addition to ignoring the results of the delegate caucuses in the third and fourth congressional districts.

The Paulista forces will have a tough time explaining themselves to not only the mainstream media (which hasn’t bought what the Paulistas are selling) but, in the event this schism plays out through August, to the national Republican committee that will decide which Louisiana convention delegation is legitimate and which is not,

Any investigation into the dual conventions will not only cover what happened in Shreveport but also the means by which people were elected through the caucuses, revisiting the matter of the fraudulent Paulista caucus ballot with Romney at the header and the other controversies that were swept under the rug.

From a practical standpoint of those looking to go to Tampa, resolution in advance of the convention would be positive since traveling to these conclaves is pricey.

Tampa hotels are demanding an upfront payment with a five-night minimum at $200 a day.

Delegates who were recognized by only one of entities risk spending a lot of money going to a convention where they might not be seated, thus making for an expensive week at Busch Gardens or the Saint Pete Dog Track.

A path for resolution is clear and relatively simple to achieve.

The Paulistas need to recognize that Santorum delegates to the convention should be actual Santorum supporters and not bogus Paulistas sporting “legalize freedom” t-shirts under sweatervests and that they recognize they had no right to arbitrarily appoint delegates in the third and fourth congressional districts, which they lost in the caucuses.

On the other hand, state Republican leaders should act to fill the currently vacant district delegate and alternate delegate slots with bona fide Paul supporters who have expressed an interest and willingness to attend the Republican National Convention.

Furthermore, state GOP leaders should extend to the Louisiana Paulista leadership a courtesy the Paulistas did not extend to the Louisiana Santorum leadership by ensuring that their leaders are seated as full delegates and not “half delegates” (alternate delegates).

I also think it would be reasonable for the seats on the national convention’s standing committees to be evenly divided.

It should be noted that Louisiana GOP leaders have already declared their intention to fill the vacant delegate and alternate delegate slots with true Paul supporters.

Going to Tampa with a divided house is in nobody’s interest and will only result in lasting acrimony and a number of awfully disappointed unseated delegates and alternate delegates who will be out a lot of money.