Early VP Announcement Might Cost Romney More Than He Would Gain

First Read points out that if Romney announced his VP pick this week it was be far earlier than any previous candidate has done:

While we’re bracing for Mitt Romney to make his VP pick as soon as this week, here is something to consider: If history is any guide, Romney won’t announce his selection until next month. Indeed, in modern times, the earliest a pick was made — John Kerry tapping John Edwards in 2004 — was less than three weeks before the Democratic convention began. Outside of that, every other running mate since 1980 has been selected NO EARLIER than a week before the convention began, if not afterward. And right now we are out six weeks until the Republican convention in Tampa. So Romney could very well go this week, but he’d be making an earlier pick than any other presumptive presidential nominee in modern times. For his part,Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters yesterday that “no decision has been made” on vice president.

Team Romney would love to change the subject from Bain/Swiss accounts/Mitt’s tax returns. But there’s little chance they’ll be able to do that. Greg Sargent cites a report by Mark Halperin–surprise, he didn’t say this is good news for McCain!–that the Obama campaign is sitting on more material to use against Romney. That seems far from a newsflash; Romney’s business practices and personal finances are rife with examples of what Americans don’t like about the rapacious financialization of the American economy over the last three decades. So far the Obama campaign has focused mostly on offshoring, but there are probably cases where Bain companies exploited tax breaks offered by desperate local communities and nevertheless shuttered offices and factories, where it cut health care for employees, left pensions underfunded, and stripped bare a company’s assets and dumped it in to bankruptcy. And until he releases his personal taxes the bad news will continue for Romney; a VP pick won’t make the problems with his finances go away.

Rushing the VP pick and getting another untested and un-vetted liability like Sarah Palin would also be bad for Romney

But there’s another reason why Romney almost certainly won’t announce his VP pick yet: the moment he announces his pick everyone currently auditioning for the role will be instantly disappointed.

Sure, if he knows he’s not the guy–and sure, maybe it will be a non-guy like Kelly Ayotte, but probably not–Tim Pawlenty will probably still campaign for Mitt. What else has he got going these days? But what about those who still have day jobs, like Portman, Jindal, Ryan and Christie? Will they still raise money for Mitt with the same zeal as if they thought they still had a chance to be chosen for the ticket? Will they spend another day away from the state house or their DC office on the road in some battleground state not likely to be important in a future presidential primary? Will they be as willing to go on TV and defend Mitt’s refusal to release his taxes (aka, defend the indefensible)?

Romney must know he has leverage over everyone who wants to be on the ticket as long as they think they might get the call. But he must also know the moment the aspirants learn they’re not his pick that he loses a good bit of his leverage over them, that their incentive to help him has diminished. If Romney had a chance of actually stopping the stories currently tearing holes in the hull of his Swissboat, an early VP announcement might be worthwhile. But he doesn’t, so there’s not much to be gained by doing the VP early, so why should he end the auditions and risk getting less help from the guys hoping they’ll get Mitt’s call?

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