COMMENTARY | According to CNN, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is considering a woman for his 2012 running mate. Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife, revealed the strategy in an interview taped on July 4 in Wolfeboro, N.H., where the Romneys marched in the town’s Independence Day parade with New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, one of the female politicians who may be key on Romney’s veep list. Republicans may be seeking a female vice presidential candidate to woo women voters, a powerful demographic that has long tended to vote Democratic. Sadly, after 2008, a Republican woman vice presidential candidate may cue too many painful memories.
Romney’s strategy in seeking a female running mate is flawed because the last two GOP female presidential candidate powerhouses, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, were divisive figures who did not appeal to many voters. Palin, the controversial 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, exploded onto the national political scene as the relatively unheard-of governor of Alaska who was the surprise pick of Arizona Senator John McCain. While Republicans initially basked in the progressive glow of nominating a female veep, things quickly soured as Palin turned out to be controversial and seemingly unprepared for the rigors of a presidential job. Any female veep choice for the Republicans this time around will undoubtedly be scrutinized as either a cheap pander to women voters, especially in light of the alleged “war on women” by Republican lawmakers, or an unsubtle attempt by the GOP to make up for Palin’s divisive 2008 performance.
An additional hindrance to a successful female veep for the Republicans is the divisive 2012 run of Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota, a conservative Republican who supported the tea party movement. Bachmann was often seen as quite similar to Sarah Palin, creating a stereotype of Republican women as outspoken and ultraconservative. Any female Romney running mate will have to work to defy the stereotype that she is a Palin/Bachmann clone.
With sociocultural issues being big news this election cycle, especially immigration and gay rights, Republican attempts to make a woman as their vice presidential candidate will come off as a ploy to appear progressive, a tactic that failed in 2008. Coupled with the lack of success of Republican women in nationwide political contests, a pandering ploy to appear progressive will be a bane, not a boon, for Romney. He should pick a male veep.