Thursday, May 22, 2008

It’s Just Lunch

John McCain has invited some folks out to his place in Sedona, Arizona for the weekend.

Senator John McCain is planning to meet this weekend with at least three potential Republican running mates at a gathering at his ranch in Arizona, suggesting that he is stepping up his search for a vice president now that the Democratic contest appears basically decided, according to Republicans familiar with Mr. McCain’s plans.

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a one-time rival for the Republican nomination, have all accepted invitations to visit with Mr. McCain at his ranch in Sedona, these Republicans said.

The McCain campaign is denying that these guys are out there for an audition — “‘We don’t talk about the V.P. selection process,’ said Steve Schmidt a senior adviser” — but it’s assumed that’s what’s going on.

As has been noted by others, these three each bring their own qualifiers and disqualifiers:

Gov. Crist is very popular here in Florida because he’s not a right-wing nut job, and he would probably help get the state to go Republican in the fall election, but not being a right-wing nut job is a drawback for a presidential candidate who is still viewed with deep suspicion by the hard-core conservatives. And then there’s the delicate matter of Mr. Crist’s marital status: he’s single, and rumors still drift around that there’s a genetic reason for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but the Religious Reich might have issues with it.

Gov. Jindal, as I’ve said before, would be a pretty radical choice by breaking the color barrier in the GOP. Mr. Jindal is a comer in the conservative wing of the party, but there’s the fact that at 36 he is literally half as old as John McCain, and barely old enough to constitutionally qualify as president. It would be interesting to see how the GOP could campaign against Barack Obama as being too young and inexperienced if they have someone ten years younger than him on their ticket. (I know; double standards are the lifeblood of the GOP.)

Mitt Romney is being invited probably to round out the seating arrangements. There’s not a lot of love lost between McCain and Romney, and besides, GOP candidates rarely pick a running mate who is seen as being as equal in stature as the top of the ticket. They usually choose someone who will willingly take a back seat and become the president’s Wormtongue: think of Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, and Dan Quayle. (Dick Cheney is the exception that proves the rule.) Romney’s flip-flopping on the issues such as abortion and health care still rankles the right wing, and besides, McCain’s the one who has already done enough for both of them. And then there’s the appearances. Mitt Romney looks so healthy and vigorous compared to John McCain that it might look like strange casting to have a matinée idol up there with someone who looks like he could be his dad.

It’s interesting to note that one of the other attendees at this little holiday barbecue will be South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, whose relationship with Mr. McCain is described as “his frequent traveling companion and probably his closest colleague in the Senate.” Maybe Mr. Graham is angling for the job of VP himself, but, like Charlie Crist, he’s also single, so maybe they can hang out together by the pool.