Dark Horse Convervative VP Candidates

Cross-posted on the primary RedState page

Let’s be perfectly frank with ourselves, here – the list of John McCain’s VP candidates that is being tossed around in the media is filled with people who either are not popular with large elements of the conservative base, or just aren’t conservatives, period; have little or no experience in government; have little national exposure; or would likely prove to be more of a political liability than a benefit to the Senator, once they got on the trail.

It’s time to throw a few more names out there. More below the fold.This field of candidates suffers from the same underlying problem that, I believe, was responsible for the way our primaries went down – a farm team of solid, up-and-comers never really fell into place over the past eight years. Indeed, all of our next-generation leaders who came onto the national scene over the past 8 years were critically-flawed in some way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, is the Republican governor of the largest state in the union, and rose to office in an historic recall election. However, he turned out to be a populist rather than a conservative, and he’s also foreign-born, and therefore constitutionally ineligible to become President. Sen. George Allen would likely have been the conservative candidate in the primary (and may have also been our nominee), but spectacularly fell apart in 2006 with his Macaca Moment. Gov. Jeb Bush, also, would have been a great conservative candidate, as he was a great conservative Governor of Florida, but America will simply not vote for another Bush right now, and may never do so, again. Mitt Romney, though adopted into the movement at CPAC, this year, suffered from that infamous YouTube clip of him, and never really got any traction outside of the states that he had strong ties to in the primaries. And, while Mike Huckabee ran a tremendous campaign based effectively on evangelical identity politics, his sense of humor, and a Blackberry, he also is anathema to fiscal conservatives, and an absolute joke in foreign policy.

So, the GOP did what it nearly always does, and gave the nomination to the guy that’s next-in-line. In this case, that’s Sen. McCain.

The problem, though, still remains – no viable up-and-comer to bring into the fold, get seasoned, and bear the colors in 2012. I think it’s time for conservatives on the the interweb and in the media to largely (Gov. Mark Sanford of SC would be a great choice, IMO) go beyond the short-list that we’ve seen bandied about, and start to raise the profile and buzz of better candidates.

In this spirit, and to start the ball rolling on discussion, I’d like to offer two alternatives – Congressman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and former Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri.

Rep. Blackburn has been the congressman from the 7th congressional district of Tennessee since 2003 (and has two years up on Sen. Obama on the national scene), and (IIRC) has a 97% rating from the American Conservative Union. In her time in the Tennessee legislature, she led the effort to prevent the establishment a state income tax. As her wikipedia page mentions, she’s received enormous praise from many leading conservative orgs like the FRC, ATR, and NRLC. She’s younger than McCain, older than Obama, and plays to identity politics. She can help Southerners get fully behind the ticket, and also can serve as a party-unifier, as she was in the camps of Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson in the primaries.

Sen. Jim Talent, I think it’s clear, got screwed in 2006 in his loss to now-Sen. Claire McCaskil. Like Congressman Blackburn, he ranks very high in the ACU ratings (93%). Other conservative groups also give him high praise, like the NRLC and the Republican Liberty Caucus. He’s 51 years old; still older than Sen. Obama and younger than McCain, but at the right point in which experience and youth balance-out. He spent 8 years in the House of Representatives, and 4 years in the Senate. He’s a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, where he focuses on national-security issues. (On a personal note, I had the opportunity to talk to him a few months ago, in that capacity, and I can assure you that he knows his stuff, converses and communicates well, and is conservative to the core.) Likewise, he can also help unify the party, as he was one of Gov. Romney’s principal advisers, and can possibly help out in the Midwest, given his regional affiliation.

Temprementally, he’s everything you’d want in a VP – young, incredibly smart (graduated from Harvard Law), a master of all issues, helps offset any weaknesses at the top, can possibly help put states in play, can take over should anything happen to the President, can plausibly be the candidate next time, and a team-player. I don’t know how he and McCain regarded each other when they were both in the Senate, but he hasn’t been sharply critical like Rick Santorum has been, and doesn’t have as much recent bad-blood between them like with Mitt Romney.

Any others come to mind that you’d like to float (and are plausible as a VP candidate)? Is my analysis and speculation wrong-headed and absurd?