For the next few weeks, Washington will be abuzz with theories of who will be picked to be Governor Romney's running mate. Rubio brings a critical voting bloc, Ryan budget hawkishness, and Portman a valuable swing state. While that choice is being made, even more important discussions are debated on what a future Romney presidency would look like. The pre-election transition begins early, but largely in secret. President Bush began his transition planning in 1999, a full year before the election, when he tapped his good friend, Clay Johnson, for the job. Johnson's work occurred mostly in private, as did the work of President Obama's team in 2008, overshadowed by the public cacophony of the campaign. Despite the quiet, who is chosen to lead the transition sets in motion hundreds of early decisions about personnel, policy, and organization that ultimately establish the contours of a potential Romney administration. So who will he choose? Here are five options:
William Timmons, founder of the lobbying firm Timmons and Company, is a logical candidate for the job. Timmons has served the White House since the 1960s for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Most importantly, he was the congressional liaison during the much lauded 1980 Reagan transition, and was later charged by Senator John McCain with planning for his unrealized transition in the summer of 2008. Timmons though was tarred with the tainted brush of lobbying by President Obama during the campaign, and this association would likely continue to trail him. His well-known work on behalf of Chrysler to secure federal loan guarantees in 1979 would also surely place him at odds with Governor Romney's vocal opposition to automotive bailout in 2009, as would his ill-fated association with the Saddam Hussein regime in the early 1990s.
A more timely choice might be Governor Romney's last standing opponent. Remember, Obama chose Clinton for his Cabinet and her transition advisor to run his transition. Speaker Gingrich has been a wonk's wonk since his time in the House, and transition planning is fundamentally about the minutiae of White House and federal government operations. Perhaps only Professor Gingrich would bask in these details. On the downside, Gingrich might enjoy this job too much and, never being known as one to keep his mouth shut, would chafe at the Washington mores for discrete pre-election transition planning. Jonathan Alter reported that Obama swore his legislative director, Chris Lu, to a super-secret pledge that precluded speaking about his transition planning with anyone, even his wife. Given what we now know about the Gingrich campaign, Calista Gingrich would certainly never stand for such a pledge.
Opting to avoid Gingrich's bombastic approach to policy planning, a more subdued choice would be Andrew Card. Card would bring years of D.C. experience to the job, first as Secretary of Transportation for George H. W. Bush, where he coordinated the transition-out of office for the father in 1992. He then was chosen during the transition in 2000 to be Chief of Staff for George W. Bush, where he managed the son's recount-shortened transition to power. Card would bring a home state advantage, born and raised in Brockton, MA, and years of work in the private sector, both which could endear him to Romney. Card now serves as the Acting Dean of the Bush School of Public Service at Texas A&M University and in the end that might be one Bush too many for the Romney team.
Romney could instead turn in the same direction as the president did in 2008. In May, President Obama tasked his Senate Legislative Director, Chris Lu, with beginning the planning for his transition. Lu, who Obama knew from his days at Harvard, ultimately worked in tandem with the eventual transition chief, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, who was heading the Center for American Progress, a leading progressive think tank. Romney could follow this model by choosing his own Harvard-educated, think tank-credentialed Policy Director Lanhee Chen. Chen brings policy expertise from his time at the Heritage Foundation, and his campaign experience from 2004 and 2008, proves that he isn't too wonky to get into the political muck. Chen, Harvard class of 1999, also holds a crimson-colored JD and PhD. Perhaps too much time spent in Cambridge?
If the men on this list don't fit quite right, Governor Romney could turn to the most qualified woman for the job. Condoleezza Rice knows the White House and the bureaucracy, having served in multiple administrations and as the Secretary of State. She would diversify Romney's base of advisors and bring him needed foreign policy credentials. Most importantly, while she gracefully turned down speculation of as vice president, Rice commented "I love policy, not politics." Dr. Rice, Governor Romney may have the perfect job for you!