Saturday, March 15, 2008

Republican Veepstakes

With the Republican nomination well settled, I think it's an appropriate time to start guessing who John McCain may select as his running mate.  To help educate my guesses, I've tried to pull together data on which states are most likely to flip from the party they voted for in 2004.  Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post put together this list last week of states he thinks are most likely.  I've also used electoral maps from SurveyUSA which were constructed from poll data in each state.  Here is the map if Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee.  Senator Clinton's map is here.  The maps illustrate differences in the strengths and weaknesses between the Democratic candidates which should guide Senator McCain's Vice Presidential selection.

Senator Obama's strength is in the mid-west and south-west.  He has a much greater chance of flipping Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada than Senator Clinton does.  I also believe he has a realistic chance of flipping Virginia.  Senator Obama's weaker in some of the more moderate Democratic states; his nomination could put Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire at risk for the Democrats.  I also believe he has a reduced chance of winning Ohio.  While Senator Clinton is strong in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and Ohio, I believe her chances of flipping any other states are much less than Senator Obama's.  She is also at greater risk of losing Minnesota and Wisconsin, both of which voted for Senator Kerry very narrowly in 2004.  SurveyUSA also has her losing Michigan.

Against Senator Clinton, McCain would probably view Pennsylvania and New Jersey as lost causes.  He would also face a greater risk of losing Ohio and Florida.  Furthermore, I don't believe he'd feel as much pressure to select a social conservative for VP, as facing Senator Clinton would automatically energize southern social conservatives.  Therefore, I believe he would try to make up for the potential losses Ohio and Florida by selecting Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as his running mate.  Pawlenty would almost certainly deliver Minnesota for the Republicans (his approval is 59% there), and he may help in western Wisconsin enough to flip that state as well.  Together, those two states would probably be enough to seal victory for the Republicans.

Senator Obama would pose a different challenge for McCain.  He has done well in red state primaries and conservatives don't have the same distaste for him that they have for Senator Clinton.  He also did very well in the Wisconsin primary, making it less likely that McCain could win there, even with Governor Pawlenty on the ticket.  I believe the most effective running mate for Senator McCain against Senator Obama would be, as much as I don't like the guy, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.  While Santorum probably wouldn't be able to deliver Pennsylvania against Senator Clinton, I believe he could do so against Senator Obama.  He would energize the social conservative base of the party in a way that few swing state Republicans could.  In addition to carrying Pennsylvania, I think Santorum could help McCain hold Virginia and Ohio.  Santorum would hurt McCain in New Jersey and California, but I don't think he would end up winning those states anyway.

So those are my best guesses, I'm not going to dignify them by using the term "predictions."  If you have any other ideas or want to remark on my reasoning, hit the comment button below.

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