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Joan Vennochi

McCain and Romney: Mitt's moment - at last?

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / March 23, 2008

I COULD see it.

A McCain-Romney ticket makes political sense for the GOP.

John McCain and Mitt Romney fought bitterly as presidential candidates and don't seem to like each other very much.

But, to quote Vice President Dick Cheney in his recent interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz: "So?"

A presidential nominee doesn't need another best friend. He needs a ticket-balancer - and from the ridiculous to the sublime, his ex-rival fits the bill.

Romney has hair; McCain has much less; Romney is robotic; McCain is temperamental. Romney shifts positions with enthusiasm; McCain does it without any. Romney is a very wealthy man who invested $45 million of his own money in his presidential campaign; McCain is rich, but not that rich. He took out a $3 million line of credit to subsidize his campaign.

But seriously - and I mean it - Romney offers much to McCain's presidential bid.

Conservatives love him, even though he is at best, a recent convert to their most fervent dogma. They trust him more than McCain to hold the line on taxes, especially taxes on the wealthy. Putting Romney on the ticket would also put conservative pundits and talk show hosts behind it, with passion instead of resignation.

At 61, Romney is a decade younger than McCain. He's a tireless campaigner, a good speaker, and strong debater. He dominated several of the showdowns between Republican contenders, and won their last debate in California.

McCain spent his entire political career in Washington and the US Senate. Romney's first and only elective office is governor of Massachusetts, a job he won on the strength of his private sector credentials.

At a time when the economy frightens everyone from Main Street to Wall Street, Romney has the most extensive and successful business background of any candidate on the national stage. McCain admits that economic theory is not his strong point.

The Arizona senator jokes that he bought Alan Greenspan's book, but hasn't had a chance to read it. Romney could write his own business book. In fact, he already did. Called "Turnaround," it chronicled his success in turning around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

McCain's foreign policy credentials are his strong suit, although they will be challenged if he makes more mistakes like his recent misstatement regarding Iran and Al Qaeda. In an interview, McCain said, "Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and is receiving training. . ." Iran is a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim country, and is working hard to close its borders to Al Qaeda fighters of the rival Sunni sect.

Whatever the topic, foreign or domestic, Romney exudes focus and discipline. And with that focus and discipline comes a huge wallet. His wealth was estimated at more than $250 million during the campaign, which means there's still plenty left. How much more might a man as ambitious as Romney be willing to spend as a VP contender?

Vice presidential candidates are expected to deliver their home state on Election Day. Massachusetts is rightly considered hostile territory for the GOP. Still, the most recent poll by Survey USA shows McCain tied at 47 percent with Barack Obama; Hillary Clinton beats McCain, 55-42.

The Bay State voted twice for Ronald Reagan. Today, Massachusetts has fewer than 400,000 registered Republicans. Yet on Feb. 5, 497,000 voters turned out for the Republican primary, which Romney won.

Even if Massachusetts is more than a long shot, Romney might help McCain snatch New Hampshire from the Democrats. Romney could also be helpful in Michigan, the state where he was born and beat McCain; and in Nevada, which has a large Mormon population

I haven't changed my mind about Romney. He's a smart, ambitious, and overly opportunistic man who believes in family and himself. Beyond that, he has no demonstrable core beliefs. He tailors the product/campaign to the consumer/voter. In 2008, he misjudged the market. He tacked sharply to the right on social issues, undercutting his strength on fiscal issues.

But, if he's the vice presidential candidate who puts all his focus on the economy, I could see him helping McCain in November.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is vennochi@globe.com.

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