Even after the dust has settled in a presidential election it’s hard to discern the impact of a vice presidential nominee on the outcome. Even those veep nominees who are generally seen as hurting more than helping are unlikely to have decided the contest. So the preliminary polling done to discover which of the potential running mates for Mitt Romney will provide the most help or at least do the least damage to the Republican ticket should be taken with a shovelful of salt. But the numbers provided by Public Policy Polling do provide good news for fans of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
PPP’s latest poll shows President Obama leading Romney by three points in a head-to-head matchup. This is not far off other polls that show the race to be a close affair with neither party holding a decisive advantage. They also show the likely GOP nominee’s favorability ratings starting to climb now that the bloody Republican contest is all but over. But the most interesting findings in the survey concern the impact of the veep possibilities. Pairing Christie with Romney would turn a three-point deficit into a dead heat while other vice presidential picks would not fare as well.
Of the others polled, Jeb Bush comes closest to Christie with a result that would be only a one-point edge for Obama. Both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee would produce a two-point win for Obama.
All of the others polled would increase the GOP’s problems. Ron Paul is shown as creating a four-point loss. Paul Ryan would make it five, Marco Rubio six and Sarah Palin comes in last with a seven-point disadvantage.
Given the fact that some of these people are better known than others, one shouldn’t give any of these figures too much weight. Common sense dictates that a lightening rod like Santorum would wind up being a much bigger problem for Romney than a less controversial pick. And an outlier like Ron Paul could single-handedly generate a Democratic landslide in November. That is why Romney would never consider him or Santorum. And the less said about a rerun of a Sarah Palin candidacy the better.
Ryan and Rubio each have strengths that would only register once they are better known. And it should be noted that one man who is all but certain to be on Romney’s short list of nominees — Ohio Senator Rob Portman — wasn’t even included in the survey.
Nevertheless, the numbers pointing to an edge for a Romney-Christie ticket will not go unread in Republican councils. The New Jersey governor remains a hot commodity in political circles, and while it is unlikely that even he could help flip the Garden State to the Republicans this fall, his dynamism is a factor that could give some much needed oomph to the GOP ticket.
That said, Republicans would be well-advised to concentrate their attention on building up the top of ticket rather than worrying about the bottom. No vice presidential nominee has ever won a presidential election, and this year’s contest isn’t likely to be the first.