In my last post, I talked about why I thought that picking Joe Biden was both a smart hire and a poor strategic decision. I made the point that I think it’s left the door open for the Republicans to counter and make some pretty aggressive attacks against Obama and Biden’s records. So, how will John McCain react?
In short, I think he’s going to pursue the strategy and the messaging that the Obama camp could have used in selecting Hillary….
Let me explain
I think that McCain will be highly pragmatic and select Mitt Romney.
- Not because Romney and McCain work together well and have a lot of mutual respect
- Not because Romney brings an extraordinary amount of balance to the Republican ticket
But rather, because McCain knows that he needs to mobilize the “Republican base”. It is because he needs to fully utilize the “Fall into Line and do as we say” mentality that defines Republican politics. Often overlooked in the landscape of recent American politics is the stark contrast in discipline between our two major political parties:
- The Republicans make decisions from the top down and demand obedience. You’re either with them or against them. This is why the ongoing argument that McCain is a maverick is laughable; throughout the past 8 years he has consistently proven that he knows his political future rests on his ability to fall into line when necessary.
- The Democrats abhor that kind of homogenous philosophy and prefer to argue, in public, over their differing stances on major issues. Obama’s continued refrain about “change coming from the bottom up” really resonates with the party for this reason.
Both stances have their benefits and their drawbacks, but one thing is for sure: the discipline of the Republican party offers them a very substantial organizational advantage (I talked about this more in depth in my post about supporting Hillary in the primaries). When your political leaders can consistently be counted on to quote the party line, word for word, you have a lot more control over your message and the “brand message” that voters will consume. In politics, as in marketing, a consistent message is a VERY powerful thing.
So, what I expect McCain to do is the following:
- Pick a candidate with Executive experience (a current or former Governor)
- Pick a candidate with strong “Conservative” brand awareness. This will help round out the ticket’s image in Republican voters’ minds, given that McCain’s image is carefully crafted as a “maverick”.
- Pick a candidate who is known to be pro-business
The most likely candidates for this job, with those criteria, are Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Pawlenty.
I think that the McCain campaign will pick Mitt Romney and in doing so, say something along the lines of the following:
“American people, we heard you loud and clear during the primaries. You like McCain’s independence, his experience, his strong domestic and foreign policy capabilities. But you want us to remember our Conservative roots and to make sure we’re continuing on our path of building the American economy through the strengths of small business. Mitt Romney is here to tell you that those voices are heard.”
Now, let me re-state what I mentioned above: I think that this is basically the same messaging that the Obama camp could have used in selecting Hillary. The message could have been, “American people, you shouted at the tops of your lungs that you liked both of our platforms. So, it is natural that the strongest platform will combine the voices of your two public servants.”
Obviously, this isn’t the path that has been taken and I’m not going to cry over it, but I do think it leaves the McCain camp salivating over their ability to exploit the decision.
Let’s see how this plays out. In the best scenario for Obama fans, McCain’s camp will get too cute with its strategy and pick Joe Lieberman, trying too hard to woo the centrists and swing voters. I’m highly doubtful that’s what we’re going to hear, however.