It’s pretty clear that John McCain has a lot of strategic thinking to do. He’s won the GOP nomination, but not the trust of most “movement conservatives.” He’s doing well in most trial heats against Hillary Clinton and (less so) Barack Obama, but he’s fighting an underlying Democratic wave. He’s benefitting from the extended Democratic contest, but is in danger of becoming somewhat irrelevant, and also has serious financial issues. He enjoys a lot of positive media, but has nowhere to go but down in that dimension of presidential politics.
Naturally enough, there’s a whole cottage industry of speculation about what McCain might do with the largest symbolic token he can offer to his own party and to the electorate at large: his running-mate–an issue his age makes especially compelling.
We’ve reported here repeatedly on the standard-brand, white-bread conservative options McCain can consider. But there’s an enduring theory, as popular among fearful Democrats as among hopeful Republicans, that McCain will do something unpredictable, particularly if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. And this theory often centers on Condoleezza Rice.
The New Yorker‘s intrepid Hendrik Hertzberg offers the latest argument for a McCain-Condi ticket:
If McCain really wants to have it all—to refurbish his maverick image without having to flip-flop on the panderings that have tarnished it; to galvanize the attention of the press, the nation, and the world; to make a bold play for the center without seriously alienating “the base”—then he can avail himself of a highly interesting option: Condoleezza Rice.
Hertzberg makes some sense. But the case he makes applies a whole lot more to another Hail Mary possibility, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Like Condi, Bobby’s non-white and crazy smart. Like Condi, he represents a great American up-from-adversity story. But unlike Condi, Bobby Jindal is simon-pure on every imaginable conservative litmus test–particularly tests associated with the Christian Right–and has the blend of federal and state experience, along with youth, that a McCain ticket needs.
The only real arguments I’ve heard against Bobby as McCain’s running-mate are that he’s so young he’d show up his boss’s age, and that many Americans would think he’s a Muslim (he’s actually a Catholic convert from Hinduism) or would identify him with the smart kids from the Indian Subcontinent who are allegedly hoovering up so many U.S. service industry jobs.
Well, sure, if McCain is not inclined to take risks, Jindal won’t be considered for the ticket, but nor will Condi Rice. There are plenty of conventionally conservative white men available, and he’ll probably pick one.
But I’d be surprised if Bobby Jindal doesn’t make the ultimate short list, and might actually be considered if the GOP goes into the general election on a wing and a prayer.
Jindal has two more advantages over Condi. First, he’s actually been elected to public office. Secondly, he isn’t associated intimately with Bush’s failure’s.