I've noticed several people have been weighing in on the possibility of Mitt Romney selecting Rand Paul as his running mate. As a native Kentuckian I am loath to beat a horse - dead or alive - but I can't resist.
Over at The American Conservative Jim Antle, Dan McCarthy, and Daniel Larison have all written about the possibility - with the caveat that we all know Mitt won't pick Rand anyway - and Conor Murphy wrote an insightful piece at The Washington Times as well. There can't be too much more to be said, but alas . . .
Romney has spent this entire election cycle running away from his experience as governor of Massachusetts and therefore emphasized his time in the "private sector." Although the establishment candidate this time around, let's not forget that Romney is not actually a creature of Washington and has only spent a grand total of four years in elected office. He is going to balance the ticket with a wonky Washington vet to reinforce his own image of competence.
Before he became the most powerful VP in history, Richard B. Cheney's reputation was one of calm competence and experience. He was a safe pick to strengthen the neophyte Bush, who like Romney, clearly didn't know anything about foreign policy although Romney is more likely to pick a domestic version like Mitch Daniels or Rob Portman.
Romney won't pick Paul - Ron or Rand - simply because he doesn't need to. Romney won the nomination without conservatives and owes them nothing. And with the exception of us fringe whackos there won't be many Republican primary voters upset enough at Romney to abstain from voting for him against Obama. Republicans are tribal and when the political bullets are flying during the heat of the general election it's safe to say that they will come home to defend the tribe. Anyone who truly thinks Romney must pick a conservative is dreaming because he knows he already has them.
The so-called secret meeting between Romney and Rand Paul that has fueled much of this gossip is more likely just to discuss what the Pauls' asking price is for an endorsement. It's just the culmination: Romney has been sucking up and angling to get Ron Paul's supporters for so long that we had to endure the science fiction that the two were in cahoots. Romney recognizes we are a different breed and are motivated by more than this particular election.
According to Timothy Stanley's biography, when Pat Buchanan challenged sitting president George H. W. Bush in 1992, as much as 20% of Republicans were willing to sit it out rather than vote for Poppy and so the Bush people went to Buchanan's sister Bay to get their asking price. In exchange for an endorsement, it was a prime-time speaking slot at the convention that became known as the "Culture War" speech.
With cable news and the internet such a podium isn't what it was 20 years ago but this is what I imagine took place between Mitt and Rand. What will it take to for either Ron or Rand Paul to publicly endorse Romney? Ron Paul won't but Rand has already all but endorsed him if only as an alternative to Obama. That may be enough to get the Kentucky senator a speaking slot at the convention, which for someone who may have his own presidential aspirations, is a practical way to endear him to regular Republicans who are still too afraid of Ron Paul.
The vice presidential pick is too important for Romney, who has to appeal to more than the nearly two million who have voted for Ron Paul, to risk giving it to an even greater neophyte than himself.