This afternoon on Special Report with Brit Hume, the panel, consisting of Bill Kristol, Jeff Birnbaum, and Charles Krauthammer discussed the rumors swirling around that Senator McCain will announce his vice-presidential pick this week. None believed that the announcement would come this week. Conventional wisdom lately is that Mitt Romney is the most likely pick when the decision is made. Krauthammer reiterated this belief, but Birnbaum and Kristol had interesting takes. Kristol outright predicted that former Pennsylvania governor and first Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge would be the pick, while Birnbaum said he definetly was near the top of the list. I have heard this speculation in the past, but all the talk as of late was centered around Romney.
The main attraction with Ridge is the possibility that he helps carry Pennsylvania. A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that having Ridge on the ticket would be a huge help in winning the Keystone State. For a Republican to win Pennsylvania, they must rack up large majorities in the bitter areas, the rural central and western parts of the state. These are areas that President Bush did exceedingly well in 2004 when he lost the state to John Kerry, 51%-48%. These are also areas where Hillary Clinton embarrassed Barack Obama in the state’s April primary. While it is virtually impossible for Senator McCain to do better than President Bush in these places, it does seem likely that he will be able to at least roughly maintain that level of support, especially with Barack Obama as his opponent. To win, McCain needs to improve in the Philadelphia suburbs where President Bush lost 59%-41%. This area is increasingly trending Democratic. McCain’s independent streak should allow him to do better in this area than Bush in ’04. Having native son and pro-choice Tom Ridge on the ticket should especially help McCain compete in these crucial areas, the thinking goes. Ridge’s pro-choice positions should also help reinforce McCain’s appeal to independents and moderate Democrats across the nation in other key states.
Ridge’s pro-choice stance could be just as much a liability as an asset. Evangelicals, already unenthused with Senator McCain, could choose to just sit out the election. Obviously, this would be devastating to Senator McCain’s chances. Their votes are crucial in key states like Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. If Barack is actually able to make a serious play for the South like the MSM keeps telling us, then evangelicals would be essential to hold those states as well. Another possible negative aspect of Ridge is his old position in the Bush Administration. Bush is political poison, and having anybody on the ticket connected to the administration may help reinforce the McBush idiocy.
I think it is pretty fair to say that Ridge would help in Pennsylvania. And not just because he is a native son (I tend to think that vice-presidents are generally overated with regards to helping in their own states). From everything I’ve heard, he seems to be genuinely well-liked in Pennsylvania and would aid in carrying the suburbs that are critical to winning the state. The question is if his pro-choice stance is a net plus or a net minus and whether or not his association with Bush is dangerous enough to harm the ticket.