Historically, there is no end to the political speculation and strategic reasons why presidential nominees decide on their vice presidential running mate, almost all of which are calculated to add a winning strength to the ticket.
Geographical and political balance, ideology, age, race, gender, vitality, government experience, perceived electoral attractiveness, religious or moral clout, the personal candidate relationship or the ability to appeal to a particular voter group are factors that make for a complex decision formula.
For presumed Republican nominee John McCain, the most important factor must be overcoming McCain's admitted weakness on economic issues by enlisting an able partner to the team.
For six reasons, that person is Mitt Romney.
First, Romney's demonstrated strength of financial leadership is unequalled among oft-named possible running mates — in either major party. The slogan of the 1992 Clinton campaign, "It's the economy, stupid," will again be a foremost determinant for voters.
America is in the early stages of challenging economic times. The dollar has fallen to record lows against the euro, gold has soared to record highs, oil now tops $110 per barrel and retail sales are plummeting.
Home prices are falling and foreclosure rates are accelerating. The so-called subprime mortgage finance crisis is just beginning to unravel. Collateralized debt obligations of all kinds show signs of severe weakness, Americans have more than $2.3 trillion in consumer debt and every indication is the worst is ahead. Just this week Bear Stearns, the nation's fifth-largest investment bank, narrowly averted bankruptcy, and banking experts are predicting bank failures.
As an admirably successful business executive, governor and leader of an imperiled Olympics, Romney revealed his dazzling ability at financial transformation. To entrust something as significant as fixing our national economic mess to lesser talent is just not smart.
Second, Romney understands the compelling need for prudent government fiscal behavior. Federal spending is out of control, gigantic entitlements including Social Security and Medicare remain massively underfunded, and Iraq-Afghanistan war costs are expected to exceed an unbudgeted $3 trillion. Unrestrained debt spending is financed by a voracious demand for foreign capital as federal financial obligations to unfriendly governments are mushrooming.
Third, Romney grasps the subtle intricacies between public policy and its hidden costs. The implications of unmanaged immigration, the mounting radical Islamic fundamentalism and unprecedented terror threats against America, and our unquenchable oil dependency on unstable nations each endangers our national economy.
Fourth, Romney has a proven ability to achieve bipartisan progress. Washington today is gridlocked in endless partisan discord across entrenched political divides, crippling any sense of unity or harmony. As governor of a state where legislative accomplishments were dependent on cross-aisle accord, Romney was repeatedly tested and proved that cooperative results are possible when civic decency and the public good are placed ahead of personal political gain.
Fifth, Romney not only emanates competence and dynamism and comfort with himself, but he has the necessary personal vitality and vigorous good health. He is comparatively youthful and is equipped to succeed the president.
Sixth, Romney's values are good for America. A candidate of character and principle to whom personal morality does matter, he has proven himself acceptable to social conservatives on moral issues, revitalized the Founders' belief that in America liberty is inseparably bonded to religious faith, and reminded us by example that the family is the fundamental cornerstone of civilization.
At a time when our homeland security, economic health and national condition are being daily assaulted, who McCain picks as his running mate really does matter. Romney strengthens not only the Republican ticket but a McCain presidency as well.
Stephen M. Studdert, a resident of Alpine, is a former White House adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.