Conventional wisdom has Mitt Romney’s top-tier vice-presidential picks as Sen. Rob Portman (OH), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Gov. Chris Christie (NJ), and Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA). All four prospects would strengthen a Romney ticket. But which of these contenders would help Romney’s campaign catch up to or overtake the momentous Obama fundraising machine?
John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin in 2008 proved to be a fundraising gold mine. In the two days following McCain’s announcement of his VP pick, the campaign raked in over $10 million. Palin opened up new fundraising doors and demographics for the McCain campaign, with women and small-dollar donors contributing at a level the campaign had never seen before.
Romney’s vice-presidential pick could change the financial landscape of the 2012 campaign, and the Romney camp should take this into careful consideration when selecting a running mate.
Marco Rubio: A proven fundraising all-star, Rubio would be an instant cash machine. He would allow Romney to tap into new donor demographics and outside spending groups that the campaign has thus far been unable to engage. Rubio’s greatest strength, much like Palin’s, is his ability to bring in small-dollar donations (< $200), which the Romney campaign has continually struggled to reach. In his 2010 Senate race, Rubio raised an astonishing $21 million, and of that, 34% — or $7.4 million — came from small-dollar donations. With his high name ID and proven low-dollar fundraising abilities, Rubio is a dream online and direct-marketing fundraising instrument. Additionally, Rubio’s popularity with outside groups such as Club for Growth and DeMint-backed super PACs would help bring in the conservative donors who have been sitting on the sidelines due to their concerns with Romney’s record.
Chris Christie: With his tenacious attitude and widespread appeal, Chris Christie would no doubt be a great fundraising tool for the Romney campaign. Often labeled a “fundraising genius,” Christie has an ability to charm a room and collect big-donor checks that is unparalleled in the current field of VP prospects. Christie also has an almost cult-like following, which became evident in the GOP primary when several major fundraisers, like hedge fund manager Paul Singer and Home Depot founder Ken Langone, insisted on staying on the sidelines until Christie either decided to run or endorsed someone else. Where Rubio’s strength is with small-dollar donations, Christie’s strength is his ability to captivate and excite the long-time major GOP bundlers, many of whom are not enthusiastic about Romney.
Rob Portman: While many believe Portman is the front-runner for the VP slot, of the four top prospects he would likely have the lowest instant effect on fundraising. Portman was able to pull in a rather impressive $16 million in his 2010 Senate contest, but of that, only 7% came from small-dollar donations. With Portman’s low name ID and “boring personality“ label, his announcement would fail to garnish the same small-dollar excitement of a Rubio pick or major-donor enthusiasm of a Christie selection.
Bob McDonnell: With his coveted position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, McDonnell has a large national network of supporters. McDonnell’s strong background on issues that are important to social conservatives, which may prove to be a political liability in the general election, could serve as a fundraising advantage by bringing in the pro-life donors and outside groups that remain skeptical of Romney. A McDonnell pick would also help Romney raise money in Virginia, a major source of funding for Republican presidential candidates; the McCain campaign raised more money from Virginia than it did from any other state besides California.
Caroline Wren is a national political fundraising consultant for Holloway Consulting. She has worked in fundraising at the presidential, gubernatorial, congressional, and local levels. Most recently, she served as the Southeast Finance Director for the Jon Huntsman for President campaign. She also worked in fundraising on the McCain/Palin ’08 campaign. Caroline earned a degree in economics and political science from Auburn University and is a native of Austin, TX.