My Pick For Veep

A friend writes: "If you think a Romney pick would be a mistake and that McCain can do better, I think you have some obligation to give your faithful readers a name." Which is fair enough. Since I still think, even now that the polls have tightened, that the race is Obama's to lose, I'm in the camp that views "playing it safe" - whether Romney counts as "safe" or not  - as the wrong tack for McCain to take. For a few months now, I've inclined toward Sarah Palin as a gamble worth taking: She's a charming unknown with a great story, both politically and personally, and the potential upside of having the media fawn all over her for a week or two might outweigh the risk that she undercuts McCain's experience narrative and/or gets carved up by Biden in a veep debate. (Especially since I suspect Biden is more likely to come off as an obnoxious bully if he's up against a likable woman.) However, I assume that the possible scandal involving Palin's brother-in-law has taken her out of the running - if she was ever being considered at all - and I'm not sure that any of the other dark horse possibilities have nearly so much potential upside, not least because most of them (from Ridge and Lieberman to Meg Whitman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Condi Rice) are pro-choice or something like it. When I think of the veep pick purely in terms of the party I'd like to see the Republicans become, I suppose I'd be happiest with Tim Pawlenty or Eric Cantor, both of whom seem much more in sync with the broad thesis of Grand New Party than your average Republican pol, even if neither of them are running around screaming about wage subsidies or the weighted-student formula. So out of the options on the table, I guess I'm pulling for one of them. But from a purely political point of view, I think McCain could use a pick that sparks more media excitement than either Pawlenty or Cantor probably would; I'm just at a loss to come up with someone who fits that bill and passes my own ideological litmus tests.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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