After Mitt Romney won Republican primaries this week in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, most pundits said the race was over. I disagree. I think Rick Santorum will win many more states in the near future, but he won't get past Romney in the delegate count. Santorum will make things interesting, but Romney is going to get the nomination.
Turning towards the future and Romeys choice of picks for Vice-President, I will give you my own personal handicapping.
The junior Senator from Florida is the overwhelming odds-on favorite to be the choice for several crucial reasons. He's young and charming and charismatic. He's popular with the Tea Party. He's Latino, and that would probably draw Latino votes from all over the country into Romneys column. Most important of all, selecting Rubio would lock down Florida in the general election, as masses of Cuban-Americans swarm to the polls to put a fellow Cuban American one heartbeat away from the Presidency.
Rubio is smart and talented, and doesn't have much baggage. He's a great pick. An obvious pick. But he's not a 100% solid choice for Romney, yet. Because...
2. CHRIS CHRISTIE
The swaggering, brash-talking Governor of New Jersey is a good friend of Romneys and endorsed him early. Christie is popular in the GOP...so popular, in fact, that many preferred to see him run for President in 2012. Christie declined.
I actually don't think Christie will be the choice. Christie declined running for President because he said he "wasn't ready" and that he enjoyed being Governor of New Jersey. These same arguments could be used to defer a VP ticket invite.
I predict it won't be Christie.
3. BOB MCDONNELL
The Governor of Virginia has the right politics and the right resume to actually run for President himself. Virginia went for Obama in 2008 by a very small margin. Putting McDonnell on the ticket could probably take Virginia away from Obama in 2012. If McDonnell is the choice, Romney is playing it very safe.
4. PAUL RYAN
This election is going to be about the economy and jobs. Both of which are struggling right now. Paul Ryan has created a budget whereas the Democrats had three years to complete one and they didn't do it. If Romney wants someone out there on the stump explaining how bad Obamas policies are, Ryan might be the man for the job. Ryan also might be a good enough choice that he could flip the purple state of Wisconsin into the red column in 2012.
I would say that Ryan actually has the second highest chances of being chosen.
5. CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Condi Rice would be a "game-changing" pick for Romney. A talented African-American female for Vice President. Don't think Romney hasn't thought about it. Unfortunately, I don't think this choice has any chance of happening. I think she enjoys teaching at Stanford and is not interested in a draining political campaign for the White House.
6. NIKKI HALEY
This is my own personal "wild card" pick. A lot of pundits are bringing up Susana Martinez, the Governor of New Mexico because she is Hispanic, female, and from a battleground state. I don't think Martinez will be offered the slot, because she has already said publicly she would refuse it if offered. A reluctant candidate is never a good start to a campaign.
I actually think Romney might choose Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina. It does nothing for his Electoral College strategy, but makes a broad appeal to women, a voting bloc that Romney is having problems with. Haley is also a minority political figure, with parents who moved here from India to raise her in South Carolina. She's also very young...she just turned 40 in January. These facts might be able to draw some young, female votes away from Obama in the general election.
Overall, I give these candidates the following chances of being the VP pick.
Marco Rubio 2-1
Chris Christie 4-1
Bob McDonnell 6-1
Paul Ryan 8-1
Nikki Haley 15-1
Condoleezza Rice 30-1
"The field" 40-1