McCain is set to announce his vice presidential running mate tomorrow. As far as we can tell, his short list is an interesting one. Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge, Tim Pawlenty and Joe Leiberman seem to be the most talked about possibilities. From my perspective, Tim Pawlenty carries with him the least baggage and is probably McCain’s safest pick in a political sense. While both he and Romney are the only ones on the short list who would make social conservatives happy (both pro-life while Ridge and Leiberman are not), Pawlenty doesn’t bring with him the trickiness of Romney’s Mormon faith. Romney is certainly a more seasoned politician with more experience in government and will also be a feisty debater and good attack dog for McCain. He’s also a stronger fund-raiser. The possible downside for Romney is how his faith will affect the votes of the conservative Christian base that McCain hopes to have behind him in November.
If it is Romney then it will be really fascinating to see how the religious right will respond. The question then becomes, “What’s more important?” Right religious belief or right socially conservative policy? If one takes a look at Romney’s policies in regard to the concerns of the religious right without knowing anything about his Mormonism, they would be very supportive. But while the “pro-life” and “pro-family” agenda are firmly supported by Romney, will conservative evangelicals be able to look the other way when considering his faith?
Will they respond they way James Dobson did in the primary campaign and just take their ball and go home feeling bitter and left out? Or will they keep their eye on the “pro-life” ball and take one for the team in order to win?
For most voters, I don’t think the VP selections really make a huge impact. But most voters don’t live in a isolationist, religious mindset that is constantly aware of the “false religions” who threaten to diminish their market share of American religion. Maybe these folks are too small of a minority to really make a difference in the end. Maybe McCain should abandon this whole issue and just pick Ridge or Leiberman in order to draw from the well of the independent voters?
Either way, I’m on pins and needles and hoping for some fireworks.