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Mitt Romney needs to do something serious to break free of the narrative right now. He has a huge message problem; it's hurting him in the primary (more than he expected), and it's hurting him in the general (some would say dooming him, but whither Citizens United?); he seems to basically be a bored rich guy with no apparent core principles who has decided he really wants to be president but he doesn't particularly know why. Romney is a punchline; if nominated, he will be the most unpopular major-party candidate entering a general election in modern U.S. political history.

I've been thinking Romney's risk-averse nature is going to prod him toward making a bland, safe pick as vice president, someone like Sen. Thune (yawn), Gov. McDonnell (double yawn), or Sen. Portman (yawn times infinity). Then again, everything at this point looks like a transparent calculation for Romney. If he picks a woman, whoever she is will be compared relentlessly to Sarah Palin; if he picks someone like Gov. Jindal or Gov. Sandoval, he's going to be criticized for picking a candidate who isn't white but with whom only whites identify in meaningful numbers.

ETA - A "diva" pick, someone with a forceful personality and strong presence who is obviously just posturing for 2016 (say, Sen. Rubio or Gov. Christie, though neither seems very interested), or a "shotgun wedding" pick, choosing a rival or rival's son (Sen. Rand Paul, who is also a diva for that nice double-whammy) in order to win a potential convention floor fight, would just feed into the narrative that Romney is opportunistic, craven, and soulless.

There's not a lot Romney can do that would really be a "game change" just because the popular perception of him is so cynical. So what if he were to take the ultimate risk and make the ultimate pander - and completely turn this campaign inside-out?

Enter Gov. Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, who is currently running for reelection and trying to shepherd the Commonwealth toward a vote in favor of statehood this year.

Fortuño endorsed Romney in Florida back in January, and he's refused to rule out vice presidential speculation. He has strong conservative credentials; somewhat whimsically, George Will floated him for president himself a few years back. He's basically the Puerto Rican...well, if not their Gov. Walker, perhaps their Gov. Kasich or Gov. Corbett. This is a conservative guy. He just happens to be Puerto Rican.

Meanwhile, Romney is a vocal supporter of the Puerto Rico statehood movement (who knows what that means in terms of what he actually believes, but in other news, the sun will rise tomorrow morning). There are 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States, and about one-fifth of them are in Florida.

Romney is trying to argue that he will "restore America's greatness", whatever the hell that means. He boasts of turning around the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Olympics (well, aside from the scandals that occurred during his tenure, but ya can't get 'em all) and he talks about, in effect, building a nation out of the apocalyptic, dystopian hellscape that President Obama has reduced the United States to since seizing the reins of power three years ago.

By picking Fortuño, Romney nationalizes Puerto Rico. He turns it into a Republican cause celebre, a microcosm of how his administration will, like Fortuño (and, you know, all those other, more competent governors who came before him) has built Puerto Rico into a viable candidate for statehood out of being, presumably, a malarial jungle island where cannibals cavorted with pirates and ran around all in the nude. Or something.

And that's an argument that can be made. Yes, Puerto Rico has a lower per capita income level than any of the 50 states, but the gap has been generally narrowing, and quite significantly. The government remains corrupt, but Fortuño has adopted that quintessential and strangely popular Republican strategy of simply firing as many people as he can (including lawmakers; the territorial legislature is set for a significant downsizing next year, if voters assent) to "solve" that problem. The island has industrialized, and infrastructure projects are ongoing across Puerto Rico. Some are popular, some aren't. But it is developing.

So, what if Romney eschews what is safe or what is expected? What if he concludes his message problem really is a millstone to which he's bound in adamantine chains? What if he concludes, and probably rightly so, that a dull pick like Gov. McDonnell or Sen. Portman, or a gimmicky-but-predictable pick like Gov. Martinez or Sen. Ayotte just isn't going to pry those chains loose? What if Fortuño is the pick?

Well, it changes the game. It gives Romney a cause. And it just might net him Florida, which he needs to win, and repair just a little of the extensive damage the Republican Party has done to its relationship with Latinos.

And if Puerto Rico does become a state on the back of a Romney/Fortuño ticket revitalizing the status question as a priority for national Republicans, as it once was under the Ford, Reagan, and Bush I administrations, it might not end up being as blue as we expect.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    Democrat, OR-01 native, Swingnut for life, and keeper of the DKE glossary.

    by SaoMagnifico on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 06:50:57 PM PDT

  •  Wait is Fortuno (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    askew, James Allen, gabjoh

    even eligible? And talk about losing the base that already can't stand him

    Republican Family Values: Using the daughters from your first wife to convince everybody that your second wife is lying about your third wife.

    by jsfox on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 07:01:25 PM PDT

    •  Yes, he is an American citizen (4+ / 0-)

      He's natural-born under an act of Congress but can't vote in presidential elections under the Constitution.

      As for the base, I think Romney's problems with them are overblown. They hate President Obama; they're going to turn out to vote against him even if the Republican Party nominates Fred Karger. That's why Romney has net -30 favorables in Pennsylvania and not much better in North Carolina, but still polls within single digits of Obama in both states. Romney's biggest problem is his image, because that actually affects his crossover appeal and his appeal to swing voters.

      Democrat, OR-01 native, Swingnut for life, and keeper of the DKE glossary.

      by SaoMagnifico on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 07:07:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Best discussion on this in CRS report RL30527 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DuzT

      A copy of which is available from wikistor(Wikileaks)

      The conclusion drawn is that those in such territories as Puerto Rico are indeed eligible to run for President.

  •  I'm reposting my reply from Roundup (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tk421, askew, MichaelNY

    I was thinking about him as VP last night too.  

    I'd say there is really no chance of it happening but I mean who else can he pick that would help him?  He needs to excite SOMEBODY and frankly his two rivals wouldn't help him that much.

    Sandoval is being assaulted by Norquist, Jindal's star I think has faded nationally (for now), Jeb wouldn't want it & McDonnell literally ruined himself for '12 with his ultrasound bill.

    Christie isn't going to cut it, two Northeastern guys?  Dream on.  

    Rubio, I don't think at least, would want to be a VP and just decide to go after the Presidency in 2016.  He's young & is well known enough nationally (at least the beltway) to not need national exposure.  Susana Martinez is a shortlister I bet.

    No one would be excited by Pawlenty, Daniels, or similar boring Governors.

    His best chance to shake up the race lie in Martinez, Fortuno, or someone like Gary Sinise or something.

    This comment was also more exciting than Tim Pawlenty Follow me on Twitter @JoeD5k

    by RVKU on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 07:28:01 PM PDT

  •  Does he have strong conservative credentials? (0+ / 0-)

    From my brief reading about him he doesnt seem in the typical model of american conservatism (I imagine partly that is because the parties are different in PR)

    Though I could be wrong its just a general browse through of his history.

  •  I can't imagine the base of his party being (0+ / 0-)

    okay with a Puerto Rican as a VP pick or with a pro-Puerto Rico state movement position.  The party has really become anti-Hispanic.

    President Obama at Madison Rally 9/28/2010 - "Change is not a spectator sport."

    by askew on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:07:25 PM PDT

    •  Yet the GOP has four minority governors... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, askew

      And the Democrats have one. (We're still crushing them in Congress, though.)

      I think the base shows up come hell or high water. This strategy would be about changing the dynamics of the race, which look increasingly unfavorable to Romney as they are now, and opening up a new front against the Democrats.

      Democrat, OR-01 native, Swingnut for life, and keeper of the DKE glossary.

      by SaoMagnifico on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 09:11:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It would definitely change the dynamic of the race (0+ / 0-)

        I just have a hard time imagining the base accepting a Puerto Rican as a VP pick.

        President Obama at Madison Rally 9/28/2010 - "Change is not a spectator sport."

        by askew on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 09:16:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I totally disagree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SaoMagnifico, askew

          They'll accept a right-wing Puerto Rican. And besides, remember that the Democratic incumbent is black (or, worse yet for real racists, the product of miscegenation).

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 06:05:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I can see them accepting Martinez from NM or (0+ / 0-)

            Rubio from FL. I just can't see them accepting someone from Puerto Rico especially one that wants PR to become the 51st state.

            President Obama at Madison Rally 9/28/2010 - "Change is not a spectator sport."

            by askew on Thu Mar 15, 2012 at 08:20:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  This is really interesting and outside the box (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen, DuzT

    And that's why there is probably very little if any chance that Romney would actually do it. I think he will make a boring pick and continue to be a boring, insincere candidate who will say and do anything he thinks is most likely to get him elected, plus other stuff he just spouts off because he has the emotional intelligence of a toad.

    But I kind of hope he does do what you suggest, because I believe he'd still lose, yet by doing this, he would improve the national climate for Latinos and might advance the cause of Puerto Rican statehood, should Puerto Ricans choose to embrace it themselves. (I'm still concerned that, since Puerto Ricans rejected statehood in every other referendum, even if they approve it this time, they may regret it later, when there's no legal way for them to secede.)

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 11:34:30 PM PDT

  •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    but Romney won't do something bold.  A can of Pepsi is too bold for Mitt.

    I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate, perhaps that's what no one wants to see. -6.38, -4.15

    by James Allen on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 11:37:04 PM PDT

  •  What, and risk another Palin? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    OTOH as you say, who else can he pick?
    OTOOH look where going all Game Change got them last time.
    OTOOOH realizing that would be, y'know, reality-based ... not a Rethug strong suit.

    I'm out of hands. And I'd guess Mitt's out of options. Looks to me like popcorn no matter what he does. Whee!

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