Mitt Romney showed guts today when he spoke to the NAACP and, as Roger Simon noted at Politico, neither groveled nor pandered to a hostile African-American audience. He may show even more nerve soon naming his running mate well in advance of the Republican National Convention. That’s the way Reuters is interpreting a comment made yesterday at an appearance in Colorado when the GOP candidate was asked whether he would name the person who will fill out his ticket before such announcements are normally made. Rather than shoot down the suggestion or not answer, Romney simply said he hadn’t decided.
The article says Romney and his advisers are considering moving up the pick in order to help raise even more money for their campaign war chest. The suggestion is also made that naming his vice presidential candidate will help distract the public from the scathing attacks the president and his surrogates are making on Romney’s wealth and business career. But if he does pick early — which is still merely speculation — the thinking here is that it will not be in order to gain some temporary advantage that would soon be dissipated. Rather, it would be because Romney had completed the systematic evaluation of his potential running mates and thought there was no point in prolonging the process. If the talk about moving up the announcement is real it is because Romney has made up his mind.
Those who believe Romney is going to make a decision based on the ephemeral political advantages to be gained are forgetting that the Republican is the ultimate numbers-cruncher and specialized in mining the data exhaustively to make the right choice in business. He is probably conducting the veep search in the same manner he has made every other important business and political decision in his life, which makes the notion of moving up the pick merely in order to give him a couple of positive news cycles laughable. This is a man who is obsessed with long rather than short-term gains.
That is why it is likely that whoever he chooses will be someone he thinks can help him govern rather than someone who is, no matter how impressive, unlikely to be the difference in the fall election.
That is also why speculation on the identity of the choice is almost certainly worthless. Pundits who ponder the edges that people like Rob Portman, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan would provide the GOP ticket are probably not on Romney’s radar screen, as he is almost certainly viewing the question from a completely different frame of reference. Though most of the recent talk about the choice has centered on Portman, the only person who knows whether that is correct is Romney.
But whatever the outcome of the methodical process that Romney is pursuing on this question, it may be that once he has come up with his answer, the former business executive will probably not see much point in engaging in more public theater on the question. If so, then it is easy to imagine him just making his pick in a way that would allow him to get on to the substantive campaign work ahead with his ticket intact.
Whether that will help or hurt him, or as is most likely, have no effect at all on the outcome in November, is uncertain. But the guess here is that if he is thinking at all about naming his running mate in the upcoming weeks rather than waiting for the prelude to the convention, it will be because he has already made up his mind. As Romney showed today when he did not give an inch while speaking to the most hostile group possible to his candidacy, the Republican is going to stick to the plan he has set in his own head and won’t be asking the media for any help in narrowing down the field.