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 Arizonan’s immediate consideration.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, 63, would add considerable executive experience to a ticket headed by a legislator. Having managed a $40.2 billion government with some 216,000 employees would prove valuable for someone who would advise a president who mainly has written legislation, debated and voted on Capitol Hill since 1983. Giuliani’s counterterrorism credentials are sterling and would amplify McCain’s posture 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 with the free-spending bacchanal that Republicans hosted between 2001 and 2007.
Giuliani also could help make the state 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, thus melting his wax wings — Giuliani 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 Gov. Mark Sanford, 47, blends a socially conservative voting record as a three-term House member with a low-key approach on those 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 an 86 lifetime rating.
Sanford is bright, youthful and cheerful. He also won re-election 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-marketer 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.)
A native of St. Paul, Minn., site of the Republican convention, Cox was a member of President Ronald 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.
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.
“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.
Giuliani, Sanford and Cox are McCain’s most promising options to help him win the White House and, if necessary, fill his shoes.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)