Forget Ohio’s Rob Portman or Florida’s Marco Rubio, two Republican senators most pundits believe Mitt Romney will choose as his running mate. Think instead Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., or New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, or Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
That’s according to Joel Goldstein, one of the nation’s premier experts on the vice presidency, who dismisses the tired, old punditry Thursday in a guest column on Larry Sabato’s University of Virginia political Crystal Ball. His findings: modern-day nominees pick running mates either to shore up their week support in large regions, such as the south, or simply because they like their veep choice.
“One of the persistent ideas regarding vice presidential selection holds that presidential nominees seek running mates from large, competitive states,” said Goldstein. “The conventional wisdom regarding presidential selection practice encounters one significant problem: it’s wrong.”
Sure, it was the key from 1900-1956, but “it no longer is. Over the last 50 years presidential campaigns seem to have paid little attention to the home state size of prospective running mates in making their selections,” he said. Need proof: In the last close election, where there was no incumbent up for re-election, Barack Obama chose a senator from tiny Delaware and Sen. John McCain chose Alaska’s governor.
Goldstein finds that only seven of 27 VP nominees have even come from big states since 1960, and equal number from small states. And, yes, John F. Kennedy did chose Texas Sen. Lyndon Johnson in 1960, but he was picked to help JFK in the South, not Texas.
Turning to the key swing states of Florida and Ohio, which most pundits say Romney needs in his column to beat Obama, Goldstein, a St. Louis University School of Law professor, said that their past importance in veepstakes is irrelevant. Ohio, for example, hasn’t produced a veep nominee since 1944 and Florida has never had a vice presidential candidate.
“Recent history suggests that presidential candidates, to their credit, emphasize factors other than the number of electoral votes from the prospective running mates home states. Pundits and citizens should too,” said Goldstein.