The political world "is consumed at the moment with trying to divine the identity of Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. "Travel schedules are pored over, public statements are parsed, Wikipedia is consulted," and campaign jets and tour buses are surveilled for telling new signage. But for all the ink and pixels spent on what amounts to bald speculation, there's the inconvenient fact that a candidate's "vice presidential pick — viewed through the lens of recent history — has almost no broad influence on the fate of the ticket." So will it really matter if Romney taps a "boring white guy" like Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) or a "bold" choice like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), or even a dark horse like Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)?
VP choices can only do harm: The main criteria for picking a running mate "should be 'do no harm' — or, to put it more crassly, avoid a Sarah Palin," says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. The pundits always push for bold or exotic choices, but Romney would be wise to ignore them and "go with experience and pre-vetted candidates" that won't blow up in his face. After a few days of buzz, the VP pick almost always fades into the background, anyway — "unless there's some sort of disaster."
"In veepstakes, vetting should trump message"
Actually, running mates can tip the election: "Romney should not expect any miracles from his choice of a running mate," but that doesn't mean his No. 2 can't help him get elected, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. By my calculations, Portman would boost Romney's chances of winning the White House by nearly 2 percent, as would Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.). That's not a lot, but "the election is close enough that these marginal effects could matter — and an extra point for Mr. Romney in Ohio or Virginia" could decide the victor on Nov. 6.
"How Romney's pick of a running mate could sway the outcome"
Romney doesn't want his No. 2 to matter: "In a contest as dull and static as this year's, everyone is rooting for an exciting," game-changing VP pick, says Joshua Green at The Boston Globe. Everyone, that is, except Romney. Dull suits him fine, as it allows him to "deflect, rather than attract, attention to the ticket itself." Romney's whole strategy is based on the idea that if he can "keep dissatisfied voters focused on the dismal state of the economy," and on Obama, he's got the election in the bag. If Romney goes bold, it means he's "suddenly worried about losing the race."
"On Romney's VP pick, think dull"
Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.