CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
May 22, 2008 – 12:55 p.m.
CQ Politics VP Madness: And the Winner is.....
The polls have closed, the votes have been tallied, and it’s a landslide: CQ Politics readers think Arizona Sen. John McCain should pick former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as his vice-presidential running mate.
Huckabee was the winner of CQ Politics’ inaugural “VP Madness,” a college basketball-style tournament that whittled a field of 32 potential McCain running mates that were selected by CQ Politics editors and reporters. Visitors to CQ Politics could vote once in each of five single-elimination rounds spread out over three weeks. The voting ended Wednesday at noon.
Huckabee, who was a McCain rival for the presidency before endorsing him in early March, crushed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the final round, 72 percent to 27 percent. Some blogs even promoted the selection of Huckabee and Palin.
Huckabee’s backers have touted his executive experience — he served more than a decade (1996-2007) as governor of Arkansas. He’s articulate and likeable, and he campaigned respectfully against McCain and eschewed scorched-earth tactics. McCain has made it clear that he’s looking for a much younger ticket-mate, and Huckabee will turn 53 a few days before McCain turns 72. Huckabee’s social-issue conservatism could help McCain assuage some activists on the political right hold about the independent-minded Arizonan.
Huckabee’s social-issue conservatism could be a minus, though, if McCain and his advisers think that selecting Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, could turn off political independents. The Club for Growth, a group that emphasizes tax cuts, restraint in spending and free trade, has described Huckabee’s fiscal record as “mixed, at best.” And the quick-quipping Huckabee had to apologize for making a joke at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting about someone trying to shoot Obama.
Other Republicans who performed well in the VP Madness were Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty , who lost to Huckabee in one semifinal, and Rob Portman, a former Ohio congressman (1993-2005) and former Bush administration trade and budget official who lost to Palin in the other semifinal.
Meanwhile, the real vice-presidential vetting process has begun. At least two of the final eight choices in VP Madness — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist — plan to meet with McCain this weekend at his Arizona home, according to press reports. So will former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney , a former McCain rival for the presidency who lost in the second round.
McCain’s campaign is describing the meetings more as social visits and less as auditions for potential running mates. McCain will select a candidate before the Republican convention in St. Paul the first week of September.
Stay tuned for the Democratic version of “VP Madness” in the coming days or weeks — or whenever the Democrats settle on a nominee. Feel free to use the comments section to opine on who you think that McCain and the Democratic nominee should — or will — select as their running mates.