'Veep-Stakes:' Picking Romney's Dream Running Mate
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Veep-stakes speculation is in full swing - the question of who will be picked as a running mate for the probable Republican nominee, Mitt Romney. And we wondered if you could craft the perfect vice presidential candidate for the Romney ticket, what would you come up with? Well, we've asked Republican strategist Mike Murphy to help us with that. And Mike, we should mention you are not a Romney adviser now. You have advised him, I gather, in the past, when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, and in particular you helped him pick his running mate in that campaign.
MIKE MURPHY: True. Yeah. He's a good friend, but I'm not doing campaigns anymore, so...
BLOCK: OK. Well, you can help engage in some rank speculation here.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BLOCK: If we assume that the vice presidential running mate is supposed to be some kind of counterpoint to offset and maybe complement the presidential nominee, help us dream up a character who would be perfect alongside Mitt Romney.
MURPHY: Well, you know, I'm from the old school, which is first do no harm. So the worst thing you can do is pick somebody who sends a message that you're not making good decisions, or you frankly pick somebody who's a little more of a sparkler than you are and then you start suffering by comparison. So the incentives, when you're sitting around the convention thinking about it, is hey, we need a miracle pick, a wunder-vp(ph). We've got astronaut - you know, Jack bag of donuts here.
But the problem is you have two risks. One is, if they're not a professional politician, even in an anti-political year, they may not be very good at all the dinosaur wrestling you have to do to survive in the modern media environment.
So you want somebody with the skills of politics, somebody the media knows and, finally, somebody who's incredibly loyal and is not going to steal the spotlight from the star, which is you.
BLOCK: OK. Well, in the case of Mitt Romney, the rap on him is that he's too stiff, can't connect with people, would you want somebody looser or somebody who's sort of a cut-up?
MURPHY: Well, that's the problem. I mean, you know, the conventional wisdom, which gets people into trouble all the time is well, our guy is buttoned-down and not that exciting, so we ought to go to Vegas and see if we can get Wayne Newton or something to, quote, "balance the ticket."
But all you really do is make your guy look worse because of the comparison. It's like the old Hollywood agent rule. If I'm Robert Redford's agent and the studio calls up and says, hey, we're going to do a Redford movie and we know he's old, but he's great and one more movie, a cop movie. There's a sidekick. And guess what? Good news. We're thinking of Brad Pitt. If I'm Robert Redford's agent, I'm going to say, we're thinking of Ernest Borgnine because it's all about Redford, not the up-and-coming star next to him.
So you have to not, in my view, be too clever by half here. You want somebody who can do the job, who's loyal and who might help you win a key state. That's plenty, and if you overreach that you can get in trouble really quickly.
BLOCK: Couldn't the pick, also, though, send a powerful message, Mike? I mean, Mitt Romney is having real trouble, apparently, with women. There's a new poll out today that shows Barack Obama has a 14 point margin among registered women voters, a similar problem with Latinos. Wouldn't a woman or a Latino pick - or maybe someone who's both - send a message to those demographics saying he understands us, he gets it?
MURPHY: Well, historically, it hasn't worked. Remember Geraldine Ferraro? People don't really vote their gender. I mean, I think Romney has a gender problem, though I have to say I never hear about it when Democratic candidates don't do well with men, a men gap. It's always a one-way door on this analysis. But you can't be losing a vital demographic group by double digits. But only Romney can fix that.
BLOCK: A lot of voters in the primaries have been really concerned about whether Mitt Romney represents a conservative point of view. Is he a Massachusetts moderate? Should he be trying to pick somebody, do you think, to bring over those voters or would he be wiser to appeal to independents or try to find somebody who can do both?
MURPHY: I think a vice presidential pick all about appeasing the base is the dumbest thing he could possibly do. The base period is the primary. It's over. You put a harness on them now. You whip them hard and they pull the wagon, but that's not enough. You've got to add the voters outside the Republican process or you're not going to win.
BLOCK: In knowing what you know about Mitt Romney over the years that you've worked with him, Mike Murphy, you want to handicap any of the names that are floating around out there?
MURPHY: Well, Mitt's a grownup and he's going to want a grownup vice president who knows how to tame the explosive budget spending and get the economy going again. So, when you look at the names, you know, the usual suspects are Marco Rubio, Rob Portman of Ohio, maybe the governor of Virginia. You know, there are a bunch out there. Paul Ryan. I think, ultimately, Portman will be very attractive to him because he's a budget expert from the OMB, he has an Ohio background, he's competent and he's vetted and I think they get along well. You know, maybe Marco Rubio is certainly an exciting pick, but you get into the Robert Redford's agent/Brad Pitt problem there.
But, if I had to bet, I would probably bet on Rob Portman because, in many ways, I think that is a sensible pick that fits a lot of the things Mitt looks for, particularly, an adult who can do the job.
BLOCK: And to go out on a limb here, only time will tell.
MURPHY: Exactly. Only time will tell, but I bet it'll be one of those names.
BLOCK: OK. Republican strategist Mike Murphy thanks so much.
MURPHY: Thanks for having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.