McCain needs a V.P. who reinforces his strengths

Published 3:59 pm Saturday, August 23, 2008

By By Tray Smith
Advisors to John McCain’s Vice Presidential search should ask the Senator this question: If you want a running mate who will help defeat Barack Obama in the fall, why choose someone you defeated in the primary? The logical answer to that question precludes McCain from selecting Mitt Romney as his running mate, and appropriately so.
Sure, Romney would help McCain shore up the support of the Republican base, which is only just beginning to solidify around McCain’s candidacy. Romney’s energetic appearance would also detract from concerns over McCain’s age. Romney’s experience in the business world would help erode McCain’s weakness on the economy, which is an large vulnerability. However, picking Romney to compensate for McCain’s weaknesses requires first admitting that McCain is weak on several issues. A Romney pick would be interpreted as a cowardly concession to the Republican base at a time when McCain should be reaching out to Democrats, independents, and, more specifically, disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters. Therefore, McCain should select someone who is more inspiring, more unconventional, and more acceptable to both conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats. McCain should select Condolezza Rice. And if she says no, McCain should insist.
Unlike Romney, Secretary Rice would not broaden the strength of the McCain ticket. Instead, she would deepen McCain’s strength and reinforce all of McCain’s positive credentials. Combing the resumes of a Naval Academy graduate who was tortured as a P.O.W. in Vietnam and has since spent 26 years in the United States Congress with a former Stanford provost who advised the first President Bush through the fall of the Soviet Union and has spent four years leading the Department of State would immediately eliminate Barack Obama’s ability to compete in this election. The contrast would be enough to destroy any Democrat campaigning in an America that, while exhausted from four years of prolonged war, is very conscious about the hostile global environment.
Furthermore, selecting Rice, an authority on Eastern European affairs, would highlight the importance of foreign policy expertise in an election season that has been jolted by Russia’s military incursion through Georgia. That incursion has already allowed John McCain to gain substantial ground against Obama, who is less appealing to voters looking for a commander-in-chief capable of resolving international crises. Russia’s actions have proven yet again how unpredictable the world is, and how dangerous our adversaries are. That unpredictability and danger would be a source of strength for the McCain-Rice ticket.
Rice does have several weaknesses, including her close ties to the current President. However, Condolezza Rice has consistently been the most popular member of this unpopular administration. She frequently appears on television leading the American response to global emergencies. As a well-recognized and well-respected figure, she would give the McCain campaign the star power it needs to boost its national standing.
As a foreign policy expert, Secretary Rice would not enhance McCain’s credentials on the economy. However, she doesn’t need too. While McCain may have proposed the best domestic policy program, as a Democrat Barack Obama has an overwhelming political advantage with voters concerned about domestic issues. Although a businessman like Romney would erase some of that advantage, McCain would be ill advised to play defense on the economy, an issue on which he cannot win. Instead, McCain should go on offense and make this election about national security, supplemented and not replaced by a clear commitment to pro growth economic policies.
There are many fine Republicans, and a few Democrats, who would be good running mates for John McCain. Gov. Romney is one of them. However, the political boost Rice would give the McCain campaign, the expertise Rice would lend to the McCain administration and the experience Rice would carry into an unfortunate ascension into the Oval Office combine to make her the best option. Hopefully, John McCain will reach that conclusion too.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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