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July 31, 2008 7:46 AM CDT

McCain's VP Choice and Sketch of Presidential Race after Obama's World Tour


This week speculation has been rampant on Senator McCain's Vice Presidential pick. Some reports have indicated he could pick a running mate as soon as today. I don't believe that he will, but the campaign was wise to try to get some attention from the national press during their love-fest overseas with Senator Obama. That said, I think that the selection has boiled down to just a few likely choices listed below. I'll add some long shots and reasons why each might be the choice.

First, the list of likely choices:

Former Governor Mitt Romney
He is the easy pick and has been fairly well-vetted because of his run for the nomination. Romney's strength is economic policy which can augment the campaign. He's a very wealthy former governor with tremendous fundraising contacts that could help McCain and the Republicans offset Obama's huge fundraising advantage. He was governor of Massachusetts, which neighbors New Hampshire and could help swing New Hampshire back to the RedState column. Also, there are heavy concentrations of Mormons in heavily targeted mountain states. New Mexico has been won or lost by less than 3,000 votes in the last several elections. Colorado is dead even and Nevada is very close. All three have moderately large concentrations of Mormon voters. McCain could certainly use some help in that arena.

Former Governor Tom Ridge
Speculation early was that he was out of the running because of his pro-choice stance, but he has recently made movements to align himself close to McCain on social issues. If selected his positions will move closer to McCain’s, much like George H.W. Bush did in 1980. He is an extremely popular governor of a state the Democrats must win that is tight currently, but with him on the ticket could easily swing to McCain. Pennsylvania’s twenty-one electoral votes in the Republican column would give McCain the White House. He is a blue-collar Vietnam War hero who was elected and re-elected in a tough state, and his homeland security credentials are better than anyone being considered on either side.

Governor Sarah Palin
Tremendously popular anti-corruption populist blue collar incumbent woman governor. Conservative on social issues.

Former Congressman Rob Portman or John Kasich
Both have tremendous amount of experience on budgetary and economic issues; both are popular in their former districts in Ohio. If either one can make a strong case that they would put Ohio in McCain's column, they could be the choice. Portman's only weakness is his closeassociation with the Bush Administration.

Governor Tim Pawlenty
Fairly popular governor of Minnesota in a state that recent polls have shown to be very close. He has a blue-collar, ‘regular guy’ background that independents in his state love. He was re-elected by a close margin in 2006. I believe that he needs to make a strong case that he can carry Minnesota.

Governor Charlie Crist
Wildly popular in Florida and from a blue-collar ethnic background. Most pundits believe that Florida is learning hard toward McCain which may hurt his candidacy. Conservative bellyaching about his personal life may also prove detrimental to his chances.

You'll notice on my favorites that they all have one thing in common: They're perceived as DC outsiders with the exception of Portman. The following ‘long shots’ are made up of DC insiders:

Senator John Thune
Wildly popular among the base for being the "dragon slayer" after defeating Majority Leader Daschle in 2004. Is a young, energetic conservative. His setback is that he is from a small state and has no executive experience.

Congressman Paul Ryan
Very popular with both fiscal and social conservatives. Young, energetic, great speaker from a targeted state. He has a blue collar, Irish Catholic background. Catholic voters are an important swing constituency this cycle. However, he looks younger than he is and has no executive experience.

Congressman Mike Pence
Would be a huge hit with social and fiscal conservatives, very articulate and great on the stump and on TV. Would put Indiana firmly in McCain's column. His problem: Dan Quayle comparisons. No executive Experience.

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Great on foreign affairs, short on most other issues. Strong, articulate African American woman who could generate excitement around the McCain campaign. However, she is too connected to the Bush Administration.

Michael Steele
Loved the conservative base, great on the stump, energetic, but only four years of elected experience as Lt. Governor of Maryland.

Carly Fiorina
Great business background, a strong and articulate woman but never held elective office.

State of the Race

Obama is wrapping up an international trip that took him to Afghanistan, Iraq , the Middle East, and Western Europe. His coverage has been nothing short of the three networks coming out and endorsing his campaign. If he doesn't receive a significant bounce out of this trip, it will further show that he continues to have problems closing the deal with the American people despite his built-in advantages. The last two weeks have seen his lead in national polling tighten to anywhere from one to three points. Several targeted state polls have shown considerable tightening as well despite constant positive coverage of Obama and mostly negative coverage of McCain.

Currently I feel that Obama is slightly ahead. I'll be very interested to see what polling will be like the middle of next week and if he received a significant bounce out of his glowing coverage.

About the Author

Matthew B. Keelen, founder and President of the government affairs firm The Keelen Group, is a widely known and highly regarded lobbyist and political strategist with experience building relationships with key figures and a reputation for consistently delivering hard-earned victories. Acknowledged for his innate ability to establish and develop long lasting political relationships, Keelen has dozens of time-tested relationships with Members of Congress, including many who are in positions of considerable influence today. To learn more about The Keelen Group, visit


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