Not This Time

In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made history when he chose then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate, making her the first woman on a national GOP ticket. 

But, just four years and a great deal of media fallout later, experts question whether Palin poisoned the well for another female Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012.

Several high-profile female politicians have reportedly been in the running, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

But as the vice presidential vetting process continues, experts agree the women trail behind  male front-runners, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), John Thune (S.D.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).

Ford O’Connell, chairman and co-founder of CivicForumPAC and a GOP strategist, concurs.

“Is there a chance of a female candidate? There’s always a possibility, but it doesn’t seem at this juncture to lean that way,” he told The Hill.

Up-and-comers like Ayotte, Haley and Martinez could appeal to Beltway insiders, O’Connell noted, but Romney’s vice presidential pick really comes down instead to providing potential voters with a level of comfort.

“In such a tight race, they don’t want to risk anything,” he said.

O’Connell noted that Palin’s status as a game-changing candidate ultimately had less to do with her sex and more to 

do with her background and abilities, something Romney’s campaign will focus on moving forward.

“I think the whole Sarah Palin situation makes [longtime Romney adviser] Beth Myers and Team Romney think twice about anybody they pick,” he said. “And I think a lot of that goes to making sure you’ve dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s with respect to vetting and also with respect to candidate comfort.”

O’Connell noted that many of the potential female VP candidates are “relatively unknown to a lot of people” because they have either never held office (Rice) or, much like Palin, haven’t been in office very long (Ayotte, Martinez, Haley).

“I’m not saying that they couldn’t go with a game-changer at the last minute, but I think whoever they go with is going to be well-vetted and somebody they feel comfortable with given what happened last time around [with Palin],” O’Connell said. “That’s what makes them cautious, not the fact it’s a female.”

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published this page in In The News 2012-07-17 21:30:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy