Hutchison for Vice-President?
Fri November 30, 2007 12:28 am

This piece ran in "The Hill," a Capitol Hill newspaper, on Wednesday. It makes a case for Kay Bailey Hutchison on the Republican ticket. (Dewhurst will second that nomination.)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) is poised to win her nomination and she'll soon seal the deal by leveraging her gender in battling the Democrats' "boys club." Her position atop the Democratic ticket will force our (presumably male) Republican nominee to put a woman on the ticket to be symbolically competitive. So it's time to start vetting a few of our female vice presidential possibilities.

The most obvious choice is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). Her distinguished service in the Senate and balanced voting record will mesh well with any of the Republican front-runners. While Hutchison recently denied interest in being VP, her statement was not Shermanesqe. Most tantalizingly, Texas Monthly magazine quoted her as saying, "And I have told the candidates that I don't want to be vice president." Hold on! What candidates have been discussing VP prospects with Sen. Hutchison? Probably several of them.

While rumors are that Hutchison prefers to return to Texas to run for governor, there are tell-tale signs that she's not finished in Washington. Hutchison was first to announce a bid for chairmanship of the Senate Republican Conference. If Hutchison is already headed to Dallas, why would she bother? The bid for leadership advancement says she's open to a spot on the ticket. Even if she runs and loses, the national visibility will add luster to a bid for governor in 2010.

The sole knock on Hutchison is being a Texan. Some pundits think that profound Bush-fatigue nationally will handicap any ticket with a Texan. But as a Texan, personally, I'd relish having a fresh face like Hutchison's newly projecting Lone Star charm on the national stage.

Aside from Hutchison, there are few Republican female officeholders suited to the task. A liberal, East Coast candidate like Rudy Giuliani might benefit from the balance of a solid conservative Midwesterner like Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) on his ticket. As Michigan's secretary of state, she was once a top statewide vote-getter there, and her present representation of Macomb County shows she can court Reagan Democrats. A reserved and conservative Southerner like Fred Thompson might look at a lively celebrity Californian like moderate Rep. Mary Bono (R), who is marrying a Floridian (Republican Rep. Connie Mack) this month, creating a bicoastal angle. Mike Huckabee could balance his ticket regionally with Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell. But none of these possibilities have Hutchison's gravitas.

One of the more provocative choices for any of the Republicans would be Angela Braly, the new president and CEO of WellPoint, the country's biggest health insurer. The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Braley No. 1 on its list of "The 50 women to watch in 2007." Braly would be able to go toe to toe with Hillary in any debate on the future of American healthcare, a topic that is certain to be near the top of the issue agenda next year. While Braly is a native of Texas, she cut her teeth on political matters in the key hard-knock swing state of Missouri. That would stead her well. And her company's headquarters are in Indiana, the home of Sen. Evan Bayh (D), a potential running mate of Hillary's. So Braly's presence on the ticket might offset Democratic visions of stealing a red state like Indiana.

A ticket emphasizing security should consider retired Marine Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter. She was the first woman to hold three stars, the first qualified as Command Center crew commander at U.S. Space Command and the first of flag rank to command a major deployable tactical command. Why not add a resume line as the first female vice president? She has roots in Colorado and Indiana, two states where Republicans might need a bump or two. Aside from Hutchison, there are few Republican female officeholders suited to the task. A liberal, East Coast candidate like Rudy Giuliani might benefit from the balance of a solid conservative Midwesterner like Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) on his ticket. As Michigan's secretary of state, she was once a top statewide vote-getter there, and her present representation of Macomb County shows she can court Reagan Democrats. A reserved and conservative Southerner like Fred Thompson might look at a lively celebrity Californian like moderate Rep. Mary Bono (R), who is marrying a Floridian (Republican Rep. Connie Mack) this month, creating a bicoastal angle. Mike Huckabee could balance his ticket regionally with Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell. But none of these possibilities have Hutchison's gravitas.

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