So you are Mitt Romney’s lead Veep vetter. (I wonder where Bob White and Ben Ginsberg these days?) How to get started?
It is a very good thing to have Marco Rubio’s endorsement. There are a few more out there that matter a lot –like Paul Ryan’s, Mitch McConnell’s and Jon Kyl’s– but Rubio’s nod is a big “it really is over moment.” Time for Governor Romney and his team to start thinking about Joe Biden’s debate partner. (Though I still think he will be over the side come September.)
So let the vetting begin. An early announcement of a Veep choice by Romney would mean draining some excitement from the Convention, but it would greatly increase small donor giving and fundraising generally, and there are other ways to boost enthusiasm as the fall campaign builds. To even have the option, though, very thorough vetting has to be done, and done quietly, at least so far as the campaign’s role is concerned.
One key step for this year’s vetting: The campaign should instruct the would-be Veeps that they have to arrange to do extended interviews with with hostile and friendly media. And that the would-be Veeps should ask their interlocutors to please slip the ritual of sticking with the news cycle and to go deep into bio and far-from-the-front-page news. (“Senator Rubio, what do you expect will happen in a post Chavez Venezuala?” “Senator Rubio, you know what the panther’s and sea turtle’s designation as endangered species have done to Florida property rights, how should the Endangered Species Act be reformed?” Etc. Etc. Etc.)
The campaign shouldn’t set these interviews up, just suggest they need to be done. Another good test of a candidate’s ability to think and organize with his or her staff.
When a Veep is announced, MSM will fall upon him or her with a frenzy as they did in 2008 on Sarah Palin. It is what they always do. Then after the announcement will come the big one-on-ones where the MSMers try to curry favor with Team Obama by slicing-and-dicing the nominee. Think George Stephanopoulos and contraception. Nothing is too absurd for an MSMer trying to help their guy in the White House.
The only way to know how that nominee is going to react to such questions/attacks is by asking them to go in the media’s harm’s way before the selection is made. Think of like the NFL draft, with its Combine and its work-out days. Sure, private interviews help, but those aren’t on the record interviews, with out-of-left-field-intended-to-injure questions. Layers and campaign consultants aren’t journalists, and they won’t think or act like journalists trying to generate headlines and :make news.” The only way to see how the would-be Veep will react is to see how that would-be Veep reacts in pre-announcement sit-downs. Lots of them.
Now is the season for testing the ticket’s potential members.