The presidential campaigns will spend the time getting into the proper posture for the real race, which will commence after Labor Day. Speeches, bus tours, dribbled-out policy ideas and the like will only get the pundits so far. With little else to do, many will focus on one of the few true mysteries left in American politics — the selection of the vice-presidential slot.
Without an incumbent in the 2008 contest, the mystery was doubled. Barack Obama picked Joe Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware, who it was believed would add a little more seniority to a ticket featuring a politician who had been on the national scene less than 10 years.
John McCain threw a Hail Mary, introducing the nation to Sarah Palin, a fairly obscure governor with a knack for demagoguery and word-mangling.
Obama won, and except for a few ill-timed, foot-in-mouth remarks, Biden has been largely absent from the public stage. With her own reality TV show and a wealth of devoted Tea Partying fans who hang on her every Facebook utterance, Palin has in many ways been more visible than Biden.
The George W. Bush administration, when Dick Cheney took on a more significant role as vice president, is the exceptions to a pattern that calls for vice presidents to deliver key states during the election and then spend the next four years attending state funerals unworthy of a chief executive’s time.
Mitt Romney will have the field to himself this summer. The Republican’s pick for running mate is already a matter of vast speculation by the Washington press corps. Expect this banter to intensify as the rest of the political world hits its annual summer loll.
Each prospective vice president will be examined for what he or she will bring to the table — a key swing state, a much-desired voter demographic, an ideological bent that balances the ticket. The conventional wisdom favors a list that includes: Sen. Marco Rubio, a conservative from Florida; Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio politician who might deliver the crucial Buckeye State for Romney; Tim Pawlenty, the ex-Minnesota governor who brings working-class roots to the equation; and, of course, many others.
The possibilities are wide open, which is all the more reason political pundits will spend months speculating on Romney’s pick. The only relatively safe bet is that Romney won’t select Palin or anyone who even remotely resembles her style of politicking.