Being mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate is something like being nominated for an Oscar or an Emmy: One should sound flattered, but not too confident of being the ultimate selection.
So it’s not surprising that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an Eastern Washington Republican serving her fourth term, deflects questions about the frequent mentions in the political columns and blogs that she might be Mitt Romney’s running mate.
“I’m not seeking it. I don’t expect it,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s flattering to have my name mentioned.”
Pressed if she’d take the job if offered, she insisted it was “way premature,” adding: “I’d have to give that one a lot of thought and talk to my poor husband.”
Although many believe the odds are long that McMorris Rodgers will get the job offer – Intrade, a website that bills itself as the World’s Leading Prediction Market puts the odds at 100-to-1 – Washington state Republicans insist it would be a great choice.
“I think it’s natural for her name to come up,” said Washington state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur.
The two are compatible politically, he said. Although McMorris Rodgers is viewed as more conservative by some Republicans, she was one of the state’s first major elected officials to endorse Romney and serves as his state campaign chairwoman.
She would balance the ticket several ways, Wilbur and other Republicans said. First, there’s gender, if Romney wants to select a woman.
That possibility got added discussion after last week’s blowup over a comment by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen that Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mom, had “never worked a day in her life” – a comment that President Barack Obama later disavowed.
As the highest-ranking woman in House Republican leadership, McMorris Rodgers has been leading the counterattack that Democratic claims of a GOP “war on women” are just political grandstanding. She’ll be on CNN’s “State of the Union” today, where she’ll likely continue that argument and get more national exposure.
But in last week’s other gender-issue skirmish, a question of Romney’s support for fair pay provisions of the Ledbetter law, Democrats were quick to note that McMorris Rodgers voted against that law.
Beyond gender, she would balance the ticket on government experience because she has legislative experience that he lacks.
She’d also offer some geographic balance, being from a different side of the country.
“I think it would be a wonderful choice,” former Sen. Slade Gorton said. “She’s relatively young, but she has a great deal of experience, holds a tough job and is a mother.”
Gorton, a longtime supporter of McMorris Rodgers, said he was “mildly surprised” when she was first mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick about two months ago: “I had not thought of it myself, but she would be a great vice president.”
But others say the chances are slim that McMorris Rodgers will be the one to join Romney on the ticket.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics who recently wrote about the many names being mentioned as Romney running mates, put McMorris Rodgers in his fourth tier. On the surface, she meets what Sabato believes is the cardinal rule for a vice president: Do no harm.
As a relatively unknown woman politician, Sabato said she’d be tested right away by the national media to see what she knows about national and international politics. She might be grilled on her knowledge of the leaders of foreign countries or other issues not usually the province of members of the House of Representatives, he said. Some call it the Palin factor, a reference to Sarah Palin’s rough first few weeks as John McCain’s running mate in 2008.
“It’s not fair, but nothing in politics is fair,” he said. Americans want to know that the person next in line for the presidency is up to the job.
The geographic diversity McMorris Rodgers brings to the GOP ticket isn’t as great as a choice like Sen. Mark Rubio of Florida or Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Sabato added. Those two states have more Electoral College votes and are thought to be in play in the presidential race.
Having McMorris Rodgers on the GOP ticket could swing Washington state for Romney, Republicans contend. Washington hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
“It would put the state at issue for the first time in years,” Gorton said.
Sabato doubts that: “I could go with ‘a chance’ but not a likelihood.” One reason House members are rarely chosen as vice presidents is that they don’t run statewide and may not be as likely to deliver a state as a senator.
If Romney were to select her shortly before or during the convention in late August, when the pick is traditionally made, it would be a great source of pride for Washington Republicans, but also a problem. McMorris Rodgers must run for re-election this year, and the primary for that office is in early August. Under Washington law, she can’t run for two offices on the November ballot, so she’d have to withdraw from the congressional race after the primary, where the top two vote-getters advance to the general.
Few people doubt that she will be one of those two, but the other primary winner would likely be a Democrat. Republicans would have to find a way to get a strong candidate in that congressional race, possibly by a write-in. “We’d hate to give that district up by default,” Wilbur said.