As chairman of the 60 Plus Association, the established conservative alternative to the liberal AARP, I’m often asked who seniors think Mitt Romney should choose for the ticket. Out of our 7.2 million senior citizen activists nationally, 60 Plus has some 790,000 seniors in the Sunshine State. Coupled with the fact I grew up in Florida and our national spokesman, legendary singer Pat Boone, was born in Jacksonville, there is a natural lean toward Marco Rubio. But setting aside my personal biases, below I offer the unofficial “Senior VP Sweepstakes” preview that reflects input I’ve received from seniors all across the country.
Shameless disclaimer: The following is pure speculation and conjecture — pretty much like most of the president’s budgets (couldn’t resist). So in the vein of laying my cards on the table and admitting like Sergeant Schultz of “Hogan’s Heroes” TV fame that “we know nothing,” I present, in no particular order, my thoughts on the contenders for riding shotgun on the GOP presidential ticket.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: Governor Haley is a tremendous campaigner, and if the Democrats attempt to re-dredge up their “War on Women” rhetoric, they’ll step on a landmine with Haley on the ticket. Democrats have already learned this with the governor’s successive triumphs against their perpetual campaign to pin her with ethics charges. With South Carolina a safe bet for Romney this November, the odds of a Romney-Haley ticket are extremely low. While the nearly 58,000 supporters of 60 Plus in the Palmetto State would like to see Haley’s combative, anti-establishment brand of politics on the national stage, chances are they won’t get their wish in 2012.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell: Having lived in Virginia for over 40 years, I’ve come to view Bob McDonnell as the perfect anti-Democrat, by which I mean his opponents target him with an ideological label, but in truth he’s a pragmatic conservative who’s extraordinarily gifted in reaching consensus across the aisle. This is in direct contrast to Democrats like Obama and our old pal Al Gore, who campaign as pragmatists but in reality are hardcore zealots. Governor McDonnell’s Democratic opponent tagged him as an extremist in the 2009 election, and didn’t reach 40% of the vote. If McDonnell is the choice, the 157,000 60 Plus seniors in the Old Dominion can only hope the Democrats dust off the “extremist” charge for old times’ sake.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice: Condi has taken the gloves off of late on the Obama administration, showing a different side to her cool, diplomatic persona that most Americans have come to know. We can only say — we like it! Another bonus: Her fluent Russian could come in handy when she needs to tell Vladimir Putin in words he can’t misinterpret that the days of America as a doormat are over. Further, having to debate her could cause cruel and unusual things to happen to Joe Biden’s brain. The Eighth Amendment aside, having a respected, national figure like Condoleeza Rice on the ticket would make 2012 a presidential campaign like no other.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman: This swing-state senator has gone from dark horse to seeming front-runner in recent months, with his name popping up on just about every list as a personal favorite of Romney. Many political spectators glued to the veepstakes consider Portman the consensus “boring” choice, and start to reflexively yawn before his name fully hits their ears. That can be both a blessing and a curse in 2012. After all, this election should be about Obama’s failed policies, not his challenger’s running mate. Portman is solid, reliable and respected, and 60 Plus’s nearly 304,000 supporters in Ohio would feel very good indeed with this pick, a man whom I’ve been friends with since his days in the House of Representatives.