Stanford, Calif. — Now that he has embarrassed the “experts” and naysayers by clinching the Republican nomination and securing President Bush’s endorsement, Sen. John McCain can focus on picking his running mate. Three potential vice presidents merit the Arizona Republican’s immediate consideration.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, 63, would add considerable executive experience to a ticket headed by a legislator. His experience in managing a $40.2 billion government with some 216,000 employees would prove an invaluable complement to the political skills of a president who mainly has written legislation, debated, and voted on Capitol Hill since 1983. Giuliani’s counterterrorism credentials are sterling, and would burnish McCain’s reputation as a foreign-policy hawk who would fortify America’s national security. Giuliani is popular with fiscal conservatives, given his mayoral tax-cutting record, as well as his maintenance of city spending at 1 percent below inflation — an achievement that seems almost pious compared to the free-spending bacchanal that Republicans hosted between 2001 and 2007.
Giuliani also could help make New York and its 31 electoral votes competitive for Republicans, along with adjacent Connecticut and New Jersey.
Giuliani’s shortcomings are twofold: After his high-flying campaign plunged to Earth – as did Icarus after he soared too close to the sun, which melted his wax wings — Rudy no longer resembles the invincible political force he seemed just last November. Badly beaten in the primaries, Giuliani would have to work hard to overcome worries that he could be beaten again next November.
Also, some stalwart conservatives — already near mutiny over McCain’s victory — might find it hard also to accept Giuliani, given their suspicions about his views on abortion, gay rights, and gun control.
Meanwhile, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, 47, blends a socially conservative voting record as a three-term House member with a low-key approach on such issues that should comfort social moderates. He is an energetic school-choice advocate and one of America’s premier fiscal conservatives, combining an average 85 rating from the National Taxpayers Union with such legendary behavior as sleeping in his congressional office to economize tax dollars. The American Conservative Union gave him a lifetime rating of 86.
Sanford is bright, youthful, and cheerful. He also won reelection as governor with 55 percent of the vote in November 2006, a year when Republicans got bludgeoned from coast to coast. As an executive, he runs a $7.1 billion government with some 62,000 employees. Still popular, Sanford is from a state already likely to support McCain. But Sanford could help hold southern states that might waver, such as Virginia and Florida, where he was born in 1960.
Also appealing is Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox, 55. While he has not been the creative deregulator his admirers had hoped, Cox likely is restrained by the Bush administration’s terminal sheepishness. He was a far more courageous free-marketeer while a nine-term House member. Cox scored a 75 average NTU rating and 98 from the ACU. (McCain enjoys a 77 average NTU rating and 82 from the ACU.)
The Californian Cox is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota — site of the Republican Convention — and was a member of President Reagan’s White House Counsel’s Office. Fluent in Russian, he founded Context Corporation, which translated the Communist Pravda newspaper into English, delighting Kremlinologists in 26 countries. He was considered among the House’s most cerebral members, though he is telegenic and buoyant, not eggheaded.
“I have known Chris Cox a long time,” says Martin Anderson, a Hoover Institution senior fellow, veteran Reagan aide, and co-author, with Annelise Anderson, of a forthcoming Crown/Random House book about the Reagan presidency. “Cox is a great Republican, and I think that he would make a really terrific vice president who could help McCain a lot.”
With McCain, 71, from contiguous Arizona, and Cox from Newport Beach, a McCain-Cox ticket could place California in a pincer. Cox championed legislation to keep the Internet tax-free, making him a quasi-deity in vote- and cash-rich Silicon Valley. Energizing conservatives in southern California’s Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties could capture the Golden State’s 55 electoral votes for the GOP.
“I just want to compete in California,” McCain told CBS News on Tuesday. “I think as a western senator, I understand their issues. . . . I’m a free trader. California is vitally involved in the issue of free trade.”
Even if California remains in the Democratic column, Democrats will have to spend time, money, and muscle defending reliable territory. This will consume resources they otherwise would array against McCain elsewhere.
Rudy Giuliani, Mark Sanford, and Chris Cox are John McCain’s most promising options to help him win the White House and, if necessary, to fill his shoes.
© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.