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Presidential election years are fraught with traditions masquerading as “news” and Gov. Susana Martinez has been caught up in one of the most durable of them.
They take many forms, these traditions, and they assert themselves at different stages in the selection of the major parties’ presidential nominees. Their persistence, however, is because political journalists attached to major news outlets dutifully resurrect them on cue every four years.
With Mitt Romney having now nailed down the 2012 Republican nomination, we are once again at that point where the Great Mentioners of Mediadom entertain themselves with speculation about the putative GOP nominee’s options for a vice presidential running mate.
In the course of that speculation names galore are floated. The Associated Press even reckoned as how Romney might tap that old billionaire sour puss Donald Trump for the number two spot.
(There was a time when the Associated Press was far too serious-minded for silliness of this sort.)
But the fact that someone like Trump could make the list tells you a great deal about the zeal with which the Great Mentioners throw themselves into this quadrennial ritual.
This year, the Great Mentioners’ roster of vice presidential favorites include almost every top Republican office holder who can count to 20 without taking off his or her shoes, among them Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Two other Republican governors, both women, also get mentioned.
One is Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is less than two years into her first term. Despite Haley’s endorsement, Romney lost the South Carolina primary earlier this year by a wide margin to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Haley insists she’s not interested in the vice presidential slot, although reports have it that she devotes considerable time and energy to following Romney around the campaign trail.
And then there’s our own Susana Martinez, who also denies the slightest interest in the Republican V.P. derby.
Family responsibilities and her obligations as governor make it impossible for her to consider any offer Romney might proffer along those lines.
On the other hand, it is thought to be bad form and even worse politics for any would-be vice presidential hopeful to lust openly after the second spot on a presidential ticket, no matter how virulent that lust might be.
In any case, this time around the question is less whether Romney would like Martinez (or Haley, for that matter) as his running mate than whether he dare risk such a choice.
Those Great Mentioners who advocate for Martinez as Romney’s running mate note that New Mexico’s governor might strengthen the 2012 Republican ticket in areas where Romney is demonstrably weak, specifically with women and with Hispanics.
And, who knows? Anything is conceivable in American politics these days.
But even if he wanted Martinez, there are compelling reasons for Romney to look elsewhere.
Martinez (or Haley) would be the second first-term woman governor in a row to run as the GOP candidate for Vice President of the United States.
That fact, alone, would resurrect memories of what many political strategists, Republican no less than Democratic, consider to be John McCain’s signal political blunder four years ago when he picked as his running mate a woman governor with no experience in national or international affairs, who was still barely into her first term.
Simply put: The ghost of Sarah Palin would haunt the Romney campaign to the very end were he to choose either Susana Martinez or Nikki Haley for the number two spot on the GOP ticket.
Hal Rhodes, New Mexico News Service