Empty Suits

You know you’ve got a slow week when Veep speculation tops the political news two straight days in June. Lord, what is mid-August going to be like? (Okay, I’ll stop complaining about it, I promise).

Anyway, yesterday’s report that Marco Rubio wasn’t even getting vetted produced enough angst that Mitt Romney himself had to come out and say Rubio was too being vetted, which didn’t much convince anybody, so today the buzz is all about the guy who makes Rob Portman look exciting: Tim Pawlenty. Seems he’s got some kind of high honky chemistry going with Mitt, and has nothing better to do these days than jet off at a moment’s notice to serve as a Romney surrogate in low-priority states, which is probably what he’d be doing as a running-mate.

An otherwise meh report on T-Pawmania from NBC’s First Thoughts has this interesting rationale for the choice:

If Pawlenty becomes the pick, Romney and his team would be sending this fairly implicit message: T-Paw should have been the VP choice four years ago. It also highlights just how differently Romney and McCain go about making decisions — Romney: data-driven; McCain: gut.

Are presidential campaigns really so obsessed with sending “messages” to media elites and party poohbahs that they’d place someone “a heartbeat from the presidency” just to make a comparative point about their candidate versus the last guy? Hard to say, but this conjecture does serve as a reminder that Pawlenty was indeed the Last Man Standing before McCain gave the world the inestimable gift of a nationalized Sarah Palin. The story as related in Game Change is that T-Paw did not move any arrows in polling. This seems plausible enough, since the Minnesotan’s perfectly positioned presidential campaign this cycle expired very early due to his inability to inspire a few thousand people to show up and take a prepaid ticket to the Iowa GOP Straw Poll in Ames, just down I-35 from his home state. No one is ever going to call T-Paw a gosh-darn barnburner. But he also won’t cost Romney any votes, and won’t overshadow The Boss. Perhaps that’s all Romney requires, and after all, he is constitutionally disbarred from running with a literal, as opposed to a virtual, empty suit.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.