Now that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama has selected Sen. Joe Biden to run with him as Vice President, the attention is turning to Republican Sen. John McCain and his pick. Much speculation has centered on former Gov. Mitt Romney. In this Guest Voice post, New York storyteller Saurabh Tak argues that Romney would be a poor choice and could be counterproductive. Guest Voice posts do not necessily reflect the opinion of TMV or its writers.
Why McCain Should Not Pick Romney For Vice President
by Saurabh Tak
Is it true that John McCain is getting ready to put Mitt Romney on his ticket? Well then he might as well start crafting the epitaph of his presidential ambition. Mark Salter can certainly help. Maybe McCain has lost his bearings after all…
McCain can’t find a better running mate than Romney? Only if he wishes to spit in the face of the three key demographics he covets the most this November: Hispanics, Independents and Evangelicals.
It’ll be natural for these voters to remember Romney from his primary campaign that ended only six months ago which was also Romney’s most conspicuous time in public eye.
It mustn’t have been for nothing that among the more serious contenders in the Republican primary Romney quickly became the darling of the anti-immigration reform crowd. Hispanics will wonder what Romney promised Tom Tancredo in their hour-long rendezvous to come out of it with Tancredo’s endorsement.
Or why would right-wing talk radio rally its listeners to get behind an inconsistent fiscal and social conservative like Romney rather than ask its audience to vote for a war veteran, or a 9/11 hero or a preacher?
Romney rightly calculated that for this crowd the fear and loathing of immigrants trumped its other pet causes. Starting from McCain’s comeback in New Hampshire and going forward Romney never stopped taunting McCain as ‘ pro-amnesty ‘ for championing immigration reform. Romney showed facility with the lingo of his ‘ anti-amnesty ‘ homies in berating ex New York City mayor Giuliani for once vocally welcoming undocumented immigrants to his ‘ sanctuary city ‘.
And he distinguished himself by pounding Huckabee for allowing in-state tuition in Arkansas for the US-born children of undocumented immigrants. Romney didn’t have to be the senator from a border state or the mayor of the largest American city to know that immigrants come here to work and without them the economy will screech to a halt. But tempering his hardline on immigration with that knowledge wouldn’t deliver him the nomination he so craved. Romney just mistook the racket of the ‘ anti-amnesty ‘ voters for their numbers in the Republican primary.
Romney’s divisive rhetoric endeared him to the gamut of anti-immigration reform folks from The National Review ( a publication that has quite a narrow view on immigration ) to the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. Romney wooed with gusto a bunch that has often portrayed the mostly Hispanic undocumented immigrants as illegals who effortlessly hop the southern US border to sponge off American welfare.
An Associated Press story by Libby Quaid from before the Iowa caucuses when Romney splurged on negative immigration ads quotes a state resident as saying, ” I like his ( Romney’s ) take on immigration.” “I’m on Social Security now, and I don’t like the idea that it’s going to immigrants when I paid in it all my life, and they just swam across,”.
The fact is undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for social security payments while most of them do pay social security taxes. Incredulous Hispanics see poor immigrants risking their lives to get to America and working at its most gruelling jobs. Many Hispanic citizens view the tough talk on immigration as less principled and more racist, designed to keep fellow Hispanic immigrants out of America. Democrats ( with an eye on the Hispanic vote too ) have already been alleging McCain has reneged on immigration reform.
Going by McCain’s warm reception recently at the League for United Latin American and La Raza conclaves it looks like the charge hasn’t stuck so far but once McCain picks Romney to be his vice president the accusation will be hard to deny.
Independents’ characterization of undocumented immigrants is much closer to that by Hispanics. No matter where in America one lives it’s hard to miss these immigrants toiling for a living while being thankful for the opportunity. Independents are amenable to earned amnesty.
What do they then think of Romney’s repeated vows during the primary to deport all undocumented immigrants? How about Romney’s thunder that he’d rather double the size of Guantanamo than close it? Or what to make of Romney beginning his speech at a CPAC gathering by gushing how happy he is to be going after Ann Coulter ( another extremist Romney fan )?
Wasn’t it the false chest thumping of a vote grabber who chose to be led by the baser passions of voters over courageously telling them the right thing to do?
It’s hard to believe that the Harvard educated ex-governor of progressive Massachussetts will condone the obstruction of kids’ education, would be in favor of America’s standards stooping to the level of its enemies and who can’t tell between free speech and Coulter’s often false one.
If McCain says he’ll always talk straight to voters even if it costs him an election, then why would he want to run with a man who has shown he’d say anything to win one?
But what if there’s any doubt Romney didn’t really mean what he said? Either way, Romney, who as the number two man in a McCain administration would take over the presidency in case of an emergency, sullies the ticket for independents.
\While the right wingers were swooning over Romney’s bluster and those on the left were busy following the Democratic primaries, Independents actually noticed the opportunism of Mitt Romney. During the Republican primary Romney defied independence of thought. When asked during the very first debate whether the constitution should be amended to allow a foreign born citizen to run for president, Romney tersely answered ‘no’.
That was the easy way out. A brave answer would have been ‘ yes ‘ like that of Guiliani or a thoughtful one like that of McCain who said he’d seriously consider it.
But Mitt ‘ we all love legal immigrants ‘ Romney had no problem desiring the endorsement of Arnold Schwarzenegger whose Austrian birth didn’t come in his way of governing the most populous American state and who was present during that debate.
When the airport bathroom scandal about Senator Larry Craig broke, Romney didn’t wait for facts or pause for compassion before calling this early supporter’s behavior ‘ disgusting ‘. And when Mike Huckabee did show some independence in calling out the Bush administration’s ‘ bunker mentality ‘ Romney ridiculously badgered Huckabee to apologize. It sounds like Romney in his zeal as a new conservative had taken Reagan’s eleventh commandment ‘ thou shalt not criticize a fellow Republican ‘ too much to heart!
But once Obama upset Hillary in Iowa where Romney had lost, Romney suddenly found a broken Washington that couldn’t be fixed by his very own Washington-insider nemesis McCain. Obviously Romney didn’t mean Washington’s disrepair was in any way due to the man who too like Romney had been an outsider and a governor before he took charge of that city for eight years.
If he had, we all know he’d have apologized to Bush for the rest of his campaign. Never the one to give up on his say-anything-to-win mantra, Romney finally snared voters in Michigan after his second straight loss in New Hampshire. When Senator McCain accurately told voters in Michigan that some of the state’s manufacturing jobs weren’t coming back, Romney, a longtime CEO of a major private equity firm jumped all over McCain for being hopeless. Yes, the same candidate who might as well have been rallying voters with a When-I-say-economy-you-say-Romney chant all January long!
But Romney’s campaigning wasn’t all about saying what he thought voters liked to hear, it was also about showing what he hoped voters would warm up to.
While other candidates and their spouses are joined by the rest of their families at a few select moments in a campaign, Romney’s prodigious and handsome brood would gratuitously find its way to every Tom, Dick and Podunk rally. Yes, we all know by now that in a time of war Romney’s five sons were serving the nation by helping him become the President.
If McCain’s VP pick is going to be a former primary opponent, then shouldn’t it be Huckabee rather than Romney?
Evangelicals find it grossly unfair that their favorite candidate Huckabee might be passed over for Romney. It was Mike Huckabee who won more states than Mitt Romney despite being heavily outspent and not the other way around. Romney lost either to McCain or to Huckabee in all the states except for in his home states of Michigan and Massachussetts, where he won. In addition to the latter, Romney also won in states like Nevada and Wyoming, mostly because he was the only one running in those states.
But you wouldn’t guess Romney’s hollow victories from his jubilation on TV where he crowed about yet another ‘ Gold Medal ‘. Unlike other pinched campaigns that could afford to compete in only the more important states, Romney’s personal cash saved him from skimping on any.
Romney used a good sized chunk of that cash to paint Huckabee as a conservative impostor. That charge directed at a steadfast social conservative by a certified flip flopper on social issues is what continues to rile Evangelicals. According to Politico.com, Elizabeth Sipfle, who chaired the Michigan effort of the volunteer “Huck’s Army ” recently told that website that picking Huckabee’s detested primary rival Romney would amount to a poke in the eye of Huckabee’s supporters.
The most common argument for Romney is he’ll bring important economic strengths to McCain’s ticket. But McCain’s list of his potential VPs already includes some successful CEO types. Besides, Fred Smith of Fed Ex, Meg Whitman of E Bay and Carly Fiorina formerly of Hewlett Packard don’t bring the crushing baggage of Mitt Romney.
It’s also ironic to count Romney’s fundraising chops as a factor in his favor. Who better to remind us that more money doesn’t mean more votes than Romney himself? McCain shouldn’t feel obligated to select Romney as his number two because Romney is raising cash for him. Romney is just being a good sport to voters nostalgic for Ronald Reagan who too worked hard for Gerald Ford after losing to him in a bitter primary. And though it can’t be said about Reagan but a projection of Romney’s tactics from his primary campaign tell us he is most likely looking at four years hence.
But should McCain lose sleep over the prospect of losing Mitt Romney’s diehard fans?
Well, they must go the way of one of Romney’s biggest fans – Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh recently told the New York Times that he’ll eventually vote for McCain because he hates Obama more than McCain.
Does John McCain in his right mind then believe that Mitt Romney’s undeniably good looks will win over the aggrieved Hispanic, Independent and Evangelical voters?
Saurabh Tak came to a small town in America from a small town in India un-chaperoned by anyone from the old country and unknown to anyone in the new. Tak gave up big dreams of becoming a star in Bollywood for bigger dreams of becoming a superstar in Hollywood. Several years later he remains a wide-eyed and self-deluded immigrant who wishes to parlay his storytelling skills into a rich and famous American Dream. Tak is a TNT sponsored Moth storytelling champion who has been featured as an alternative comedian/storyteller at Columbia University, Cornelia Street Cafe and at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC, at Cada Vez for Speakeasy DC in Washington DC and at the M Bar for Un-cabaret in Los Angeles. Tak has also had his short opinion pieces published in The Washington Post and in The Industry Standard.