A month removed from his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is back on the airwaves. Last night, Romney told Fox News that he would be “honored” to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee-a suggestion that has to leave just about anyone who followed the Republican nomination battle utterly perplexed.
After all, by all appearances, Romney and McCain detest each other, with the vitriol increasing as the two emerged as leading candidates in the run-up to Super Tuesday. Romney expended much of his personal wealth on attack ads, seeking to paint McCain as liberal. Meanwhile, McCain accused Romney of flip-flopping on key political positions, referring to him as the “candidate of change” during the New Hampshire debate. For those who have wondered how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could possibly coexist on the same ticket given their own heated nomination contest, a McCain-Romney ticket should be no less of a head-scratcher.
Of course, the obvious choice for McCain’s running mate is Mike Huckabee. During the nomination contest, Huckabee emerged as the consensus conservative candidate, assuming the place that was to be filled by Fred Thompson (remember him?) and directly challenging the original argument for Romney’s candidacy. Then, as the campaigns approached Super Tuesday, Huckabee teamed with McCain against Romney: Huckabee defended McCain against Romney’s barbs, while McCain urged his supporters in West Virginia to back Huckabee–critically thwarting an early Super Tuesday victory for Romney. Most importantly, Huckabee extended his campaign despite nearly impossible odds of victory, affording McCain the opportunity to appeal to voters in key states, including Virginia and Ohio.
Or, if McCain desires to maintain the moderate flavor of his campaign, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another strong option. Crist is viewed as a truly moderate Republican and as an environmentalist, and his endorsement of McCain was viewed as critical to McCain’s defeat of Romney in the January 29th primary. Moreover, his nomination would boost the Republicans’ odds of maintaining Florida’s red-state status, given Crist’s incredible 71% approval rating.
Ultimately, the Democrats’ decision regarding whether they will re-run primary elections in Florida and Michigan should determine whether McCain chooses Crist or Huckabee. Indeed, if the DNC fails to seat Floridian delegates at the convention, McCain would hardly need Crist to win Florida, and his attention might therefore turn to solidifying the conservative base via Huckabee. Meanwhile, previous bad blood would require McCain and Romney to defend their partnership, which would become a total distraction.