Last month I was having yet another conversation with a friend who swears up and down that "if that woman is elected president, I'm leaving the country!" "That woman," is of course, the original mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.
Yet again I explained to said friend that it's highly unlikely that Palin would willingly give up the glitz, glamor and financial security she now enjoys in her full-time job of trying to turn her family into the Kardashians of Alaska, to return to the glamor-free role of lowly public servant. Too much of a pay cut and not enough fun for her tastes, I said. Not to mention the fact that, according to sources, the GOP is more determined to cut her presidential campaign off at the knees than Democrats. But in recent weeks the Palin presidential rumors have been bolstered, in part by her own willingness to help bolster them, and in part by some new poll numbers. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Palin is the current frontrunner in the upcoming GOP primary race.
So at this point I feel the need to officially switch tactics when it comes to consoling and calming my friends who fear a Palin presidency. For the record, I am still not convinced that she will run, and if she runs I am still not convinced she could actually win, BUT if she does, there is still a silver lining for those who fear Palin like poltergeist. We all know that she has a penchant for quitting jobs when they get tough, and I would venture to say that being president of the United States might be a little tougher than being Governor of Alaska. So rest assured, no need to worry about a Palin presidency because it wouldn't last that long. We're talking five, maybe six months tops. The bigger concern to those of you who care should be who would actually end up serving out most of her term, and the fact that the copilot she selects could do more to position her as a credible candidate during the campaign, than just about anything else at this point. So below, a rundown of a few potential Palin running mates, along with their assets and liabilities.
Maybe they will help you sleep a little better at night than the thought of President Palin.
But probably not.
1) John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, former Congressman
ASSETS: One word: Ohio. As governor of the state that has played a key role in too many presidential elections to count, including 2000, 2004, 2008, Kasich could play a crucial role on any GOP presidential ticket regardless of who the candidate at the top of the ticket is. With eight congressional terms under his belt, Kasich certainly has the federal experience that Palin lacks. And though a reliable fiscal conservative, he has been known to show flashes of independence throughout his career, most notably when he led a group of fellow GOP Congressmen in working with the Clinton White House to pass the assault weapons ban.
LIABILITIES: He helped lead a group of fellow GOP congressmen in working with the Clinton White House to pass the assault weapons ban. This is the kind of political independence that goes over great with Independent voters, but not so well with the Palin devotees who tune in to her reality show every week to watch her shoot guns and club fish to death.
2) Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and current talk-show host
ASSETS: If Palin is the Queen of campaign "folksiness" then Huckabee is the king. The man who's so charming that Joy Behar recently proclaimed him her "favorite Republican" can give Palin a run for her money in the "I'm a regular American just like you" department -- and he doesn't even have to rely on beauty queen looks, and incessant winking to do it. Huckabee could provide Palin with a much-needed boost among some key voter demographics. Huckabee fares better among Independent voters than Palin (and in some polls fares better with them than the current president). More notably, Huckabee, a bass-playing former pastor, also enjoys an advantage among evangelical voters. Palin, much like George W. Bush, enjoys a somewhat superficial relationship with the evangelical community. She and the former president are deemed acceptable by many evangelical voters thanks to their positions on abortion, but let's just say that no one would confuse them with Sunday school teachers.
LIABILITIES: Though there are theoretically many candidates in a primary, there are only a couple of real contenders. Romney, Huckabee and Palin are contenders, and at the top of the pack. But while Romney is seen as the go-to choice for white-collar conservatives worried about taxes (and other economic issues) Palin and Huckabee will likely be the go-to choice for blue-collar conservatives worried about abortion and other social issues. (This is without even mentioning the role that religion could, unfortunately play, among evangelical voters at the polls, to Romney's detriment.) This essentially means that amid a five to eight person race, Palin and Huckabee will find themselves in a two-person battle for voters, which is likely to devolve into hand-to-hand combat really fast. While two former foes suddenly deciding they didn't actually mean the mean things they said about one another and instead, want to be running mates, is nothing new (think Reagan and Bush), it's tougher when foes engage in the verbal equivalent of nuclear warfare throughout a campaign, and these two folksy conservative heroes are likely to do just that starting in a few months.
Which might make eventually campaigning as a team a little awkward.
Rumor has it that Huckabee harbors resentment that the less experienced, less disciplined, and in some eyes, less genuine Palin has been usurping his turf, and the only thing tougher than losing to someone you resent, is losing to someone you genuinely think you're smarter and better than and then having to turn around and defer to that person as your boss. Maybe Huckabee could take some pointers from Hillary Clinton, who seems to be handling it rather well.
3) Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator, Florida
ASSETS: The problem with being the hot, new up-and-comer is that eventually you will be replaced by a hotter, newer up-and-comer. So is the case with Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio.
Rubio -- who Palin once girlishly said she "loved" before adding "Call me" -- has become what Sarah Palin was two years ago: the baggage free, fresh-faced conservative voice who represents one of the GOP's greatest hopes for diversifying its national image. Much like Palin was selected for the 2008 ticket in part to challenge Democrats' traditional advantage among female voters, Rubio could certainly help give Democrats a run for their money among Hispanic voters. Rubio, a Cuban-American, won his Senate race with 55 percent of the Hispanic vote in the Florida contest, although critics are quick to point out that the support came primarily from Florida's conservative-leaning Cuban community while Rubio struggled among other Latino groups. But conservative insiders are already speculating about the likelihood of a Latino on the 2012 GOP ticket, and the handsome, charismatic Tea Party favorite is clearly at the top of any wish list. By the way, did I mention he represents the state of Florida? You know the state that's helped decide an election or two?
LIABILITIES: A Palin/Rubio ticket in 2012 is a bit like an Edwards/Obama ticket circa 2008 (pre-Edwards sex scandal). Two attractive-looking and sounding candidates who on paper appear a formidable team for these reasons, but who with barely one full term of a major office between them... well... aren't. Which brings me to...
4) Richard Lugar, U.S. Senator, Indiana
ASSETS: Ironically, if you Google the names "Dick Lugar" and "Sarah Palin" together one of the most popular results is this quote, in which he praises her 2008 rival:
"I congratulate Senator Barack Obama on his selection of my friend, Senator Joe Biden, to be his vice-presidential running mate. I have enjoyed for many years the opportunity to work with Joe Biden to bring strong bipartisan support to United States foreign policy."
The bipartisan bent displayed above is one of many reasons why Lugar would be a perfect compliment to a Palin ticket. Much like Cheney and Biden were picked in part to play the role of experienced grownup to their young princes, Lugar would perfectly balance out Princess Palin in the many areas in which she's lacking. While her foreign-policy expertise in the eyes of most Americans consists of seeing Russia from her house, Lugar is seen as one of the Senate's most respected foreign policy experts, even among those who don't always agree with him. While Palin is one of the most partisan and polarizing political figures on the planet, Lugar is known for challenging his own party when necessary, on issues as diverse as apartheid and earmarks. All of these attributes would make Lugar attractive to Independent voters.
LIABILITIES: Which is precisely why Lugar's one of the least viable contenders on this list. Palin's Tea Party base would have a coronary and Palin has yet to show that she has the political savvy or courage to stand up to her base when necessary, but if she finally did, these two could form quite a dynamic duo.
5) Joe Lieberman, U.S. Senator, Connecticut
ASSETS: Though vilified as "Traitor Joe" by the left, Joe Lieberman's willingness to not just cross party lines but to blow them up altogether has made him a darling of the right. The Democrat turned Independent hasn't just crossed his former party on policy, but in a presidential election, stumping for his old friend John McCain over Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2008. Like Lugar, Lieberman could also provide Palin with some much-needed foreign policy gravitas.
LIABILITIES: And like Lugar, Lieberman is about as likely to be picked by Palin as Christine O'Donnell. The reason? Though Palin choosing the guy whom she was selected over back in '08 to be her running mate would make for a hell of a compelling narrative, she couldn't afford to pick Lieberman for the same reason McCain couldn't. His positions on domestic issues ranging from "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and abortion simply wouldn't wash with Palin's most loyal followers and without them she loses.
Although as I said from the get-go, I think she loses anyway, but that's just my opinion (and the opinion of most pollsters so far). But what do we know?
Click here to see the Palin VP contenders who made my "Honorable Mention" list.
This piece originally appeared on TheLoop21.com for which Goff is a Contributing Editor.
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