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More on vice-presidential vetting

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The GQ story on vice-presidential vetting has a sidebar where I'm quoted about various hypothetical 2012 vice presidential candidates. What was published was a much shorter version of what I submitted to the magazine. As speculation increases (including my speaking on KPCC about the issue yesterday), I thought I might as well make the whole memo to GQ public, after the jump:

To: Jason Zengerle
From: Ted Frank
Re: 2012 Vice Presidential Vetting
Date: June 16, 2012

I have been asked to discuss vetting issues for the Republican politicians most widely speculated to
be in the running for selection for Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee. The short answer, of
course, is to vet every candidate for everything. But Romney's vice-presidential vetting team will
need to anticipate the opposition research President Obama's team is engaging in, and, to that
extent, will want to look especially closely at the following issues for the following candidates:

Tim Pawlenty: The advantage of selecting a candidate who has already run for president is that
they already have some experience with the scrutiny that comes with a national campaign. The
disadvantage, in the YouTube age, is that a candidate such as Pawlenty has given dozens, perhaps
hundreds, of recorded speeches where he might have spoken ill of Romney. This isn't fatal (recall
the first George Bush complaining of Ronald Reagan's "voodoo economics"), but the campaign will
need to be prepared for the inevitable viral videos. Romney already has the problem of threading the
needle defending his Massachusetts healthcare plan while opposing the federal Affordable Care
Act; Pawlenty previously highlighted that contradiction. How will Pawlenty respond when pressed
on his earlier comments? But the same things that make Pawlenty a good presidential candidate on
paper--a smart economically conservative blue-state governor with legitimate evangelical Christian
credentials, an inspiring biography, and a sharp-as-a-tack wife who'd appeal to women voters--make
him a good match for Romney's ticket. (Disclaimer: I co-hosted a couple of Pawlenty fundraisers for
his short-lived campaign, and donated enough money to pay for a handful of Ames straw-poll

Chris Christie: (1) As a U.S. Attorney, Christie negotiated at least one deferred prosecution
agreement where a corporate defendant gave money to Christie's alma mater, Seton Hall, and
avoided criminal prosecution. To date, there has been little fuss over this, perhaps because the
Obama Department of Justice likes the flexibility of being able to engage in similar slush-fund
arrangements that fund favored special-interest constituencies outside of the spotlight of legislative
appropriations. Will the rules change if Christie becomes a national political figure and opponents
(and journalists) look for scandals to create? (2) Mitch Daniels got lambasted by social conservatives
in 2011 for calling for a "truce" on social issues to focus on economic issues. But Christie, unlike
Daniels, actually proclaimed himself pro-choice in the 1990s. Will Christie's red-meat forthrightness be
enough to assuage social conservatives that he can be on a ticket with Romney? Dick Cheney got a
pass on gay rights but evangelicals were happy with Bush on the top of the ticket. Obama seems to
have done Romney a big favor by picking two fights with the Christian right this year, which might
permit Romney to lock down that vote without having to explicitly balance the ticket. (3) The
obvious one is health issues: does the 300-pound-plus Christie have the physical stamina to run for
vice-president? What do his doctors say?

John Thune: Like most Bush-era Republican Congressmen, Thune is going to have several budgetbusting
votes on his record that might make it awkward to attack President Obama's spending
record. I would expect the Obama campaign to use surrogates to attack Thune's membership in
"The Family," and, while the bipartisan Christian organization is almost certainly innocuous, a
Romney-Thune communications team will want to be prepared for questions and investigations on
the subject: Thune's stated "Christian worldview" may be too aggressive and polarizing for
independent voters. The selling point of Thune is that he can supposedly carry swing-state Iowa
votes from his next-door South Dakota base; if the Romney team is making that political calculation,
you would think a HBS-trained presidential candidate will want empirical proof of the proposition.

Rob Portman: Portman has never run in a heavily contested election, so will need closer vetting
than one would expect given the length of his political career. As with Thune, vetters will need to be
prepared to analyze potential attacks based on his Bush-era budget votes, especially because of
Portman's role on critical committees and as head of OMB. Portman worked for DC lobbying firm
Patton Boggs in his early career, and vetters will want to scrutinize his work there carefully. Romney
has hinted that he wants a running mate with executive-branch experience: does the Bush
administration Trade Representative count? Does Romney-Portman attract more swing-state Ohio
votes than Romney-Pawlenty?

Marco Rubio: High risk, high reward. The rules changed after Sarah Palin, at least for Republicans.
Palin got dragged through the cable-tv news mud because she knew details about Paul Revere that
the media didn't, but a Joe Biden still gets a pass for blundering about Lebanon in a nationallytelevised
debate. National Republican politicians without an Ivy-League pedigree are presumed by
the media to be of subpar intelligence, and are going to be held to an unfair double standard that
pre-Palin politicians weren't subjected to. The Romney team is going to want to know how Rubio
would respond to a Palin-level of scrutiny on policy minutiae. As I write this, Manuel Roig-Franzia's
unauthorized biography isn't out yet, but that's going to be a several-hundred page vetting report
(and opposition research guide) in and of itself.

Bobby Jindal: Bobby Jindal has surprising ties to Louisiana trial lawyers (butting heads with Louisiana Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce in defending certain abusive lawsuits) and vetters will want to look at those connections very closely lest he be embarrassed by a Dickie Scruggs type scandal. If Jindal runs for national office, Democrats will publicize his authorship of a New Oxford Review article about "spiritual warfare" and attending an exorcism, as well as his signing an anti-evolution bill as governor.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


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