And so it's looking more and more like two other relatively contrasting politicos may be laying the groundwork for a similar "Odd Couple" tag team. On July 19th, 2008, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that John McCain and Mitt Romney have taken serious steps to reconcile their differences. From a tactical and strategic standpoint, a McCain-Romney tag team would clearly be the strongest possible combination to confront Barrack Obama.
Not that constructing the nascent alliance has been easy. The Tribune reminds us that serious differences existed between McCain and Romney during the primary campaign. To wit:
- On immigration, Romney derided McCain's failed immigration bill as amnesty, and said that all illegal immigrants should be sent back to their home countries before they are allowed to apply for citizenship; McCain said that they should be forced to pay a fine and learn English, but should be allowed to stay in the United States.
- On the environment, Romney scorned McCain's "cap and trade" proposal to limit carbon emissions, saying it would amount to an energy tax on families.
- On the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, which McCain vowed to close, Romney said at a debate: "Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo."
- On waterboarding, Romney declined to characterize that interrogation tactic, a simulated drowning technique, as torture. McCain chided him, saying that it was.
But aides to both men say they have worked to overcome any lingering hard feelings. And while McCain has a reputation for a short temper, he is also known for both seeking and granting forgiveness. After his own bruising primary fight against George W. Bush in 2000, he became a major supporter of Bush in 2000 and 2004. But Romney has not been idle. He has been serving as a "wingman" for McCain, appearing on a nunmber of talking-head shows where he promoted McCain's economic proposals. He has dutifully raised money for McCain. And Romney has also developed a reputation as a campaign surrogate who can talk fluently about the economy.
And the pundits are picking up on this change and reflecting it in their discourse. In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, who edits a political blog called "The Fix", posted his latest analysis of the VP sweepstakes. He rates Mitt Romney the number one candidate in the Republican "Veepstakes". Here's Cillizza's top five selections for each party, in ascending order:
DEMOCRATS: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Jack Reed, Tim Kaine, and Evan Bayh.
REPUBLICANS: Sarah Palin, John Thune, Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney.
And here's what Cillizza has to say about Mitt Romney:
A slew of national polls released in the last week all show Americans are deeply worried about the economy and that it will be their number one priority when they step into the ballot box in the fall. With the economy ascendant as an issue, Romney, a successful businessman who not only talks the talk but can walk the walk, just makes sense as the pick. Add to that his appeal in the swing states of Michigan and New Hampshire and his demonstrated fundraising ability and it seems like a no-brainer. Except that McCain -- more so than almost any other politician at this level -- prizes personal relationships. And, although the two men are not at daggers-drawn anymore, they will never be close friends.
While Cillizza is obviously not ready to pronounce marriage between the two, he is at least cautiously optimistic. A Los Angeles Times blog also addresses this issue, but provides some different analyses.
Unfortunately, Cillizza's short list for Republicans has one name that may no longer belong. It appears that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is slowly being engulfed by a scandal of her own making. One particular post on the Alaska Pride blog seems to sum it up.
On Friday, July 11th, before flying off to the Governor's Conference in Philadelphia, Governor Palin instructed her chief of staff to fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. However, the Palin camp initially refused to give a reason, simply stating that DPS "needed to move in a different direction". Then it came out that Palin has been pursuing a personal vendetta against Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, filing endless complaints against him before she was elected Governor in 2006. Undermining the veracity of the complaints was the fact that Wooten had divorced Palin's younger sister, thus it is believed that Palin was trying to get back at him by filing spurious complaints. Then reports emerged of Palin putting pressure on Monegan to fire Wooten, reports that Palin vociferously denied.
On Friday June 18th, Monegan dropped the bomb, claiming that the Palin Administration had applied serious and persistent pressure on him to fire Wooten. Oops, a bit of a disconnect! To get a bigger picture of this growing scandal, read this series of Alaska Pride posts, as well as key blog posts by former Alaska State Representative Andrew Halcro, HERE and HERE. All references also contain numerous Alaska media story links.
While Palin is probably in no danger of impeachment, state lawmakers are calling for an investigation, and her 85 percent approval rating has melted away overnight. Most importantly, McCain can no longer afford to consider her as a possible running mate.
Nevertheless, the possibility for a McCain-Romney marriage does exist, and could work. While Romney's Mormonism might still be considered a burden in Bible Belt states, the fact is that opposition to Romney's religion seems to have softened. Ironically, the FLDS may bear some responsibility for that change; many people, including evangelicals, were outraged at the ham-handed treatment dispensed to the FLDS by the Texas Child Protective Services agency. So even though there is no official connection between the FLDS and the mainstream LDS, the sympathy factor could help soften evangelical opposition to Romney.
One fact seemingly beyond debate - Mitt Romney owns Utah. See this companion Salt Lake Tribune story.