The conventional wisdom about Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential short list, according to a handful of Romney insiders, may be wrong. Instead of picking a straitlaced Midwestern senator such as Ohio’s Rob Portman, or an outspoken northeastern Republican governor such as Chris Christie, there is a chance Romney will tap an evangelical from the South.
And the name on the lips of Romney friends and supporters isn’t a rising southern senator or a current Dixie governor. He has been out of office for five years, resides on a beach in the Florida panhandle, and hosts a television show. In other words, Mike Huckabee, the bass-guitar-playing former governor.
Yes, according to several sources close to the Romney campaign, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the vice-presidential search, the 56-year-old Arkansan may be included in the veep mix.
(...) For now, it isn’t clear whether Huckabee is going to be vetted, or that he’s anywhere near Romney’s short list. But he is, at the very least, being discussed. As one Romney ally puts it, tapping Huckabee would energize tea-party conservatives, evangelicals, and related voters who soured on Romney during the GOP primaries. He’s also not a sweat-inducing pick, since he was vetted by the Beltway press during his presidential run four years ago.
(...) The growing buzz about Huckabee within segments of Romney World delights social-conservative leaders and Huckabee allies, who have long hoped that Romney would reach out to the GOP’s evangelical voters with the veep selection. “If he’s not on the short list, somebody ought to put him there,” says Hogan Gidley, a former adviser to Huckabee. “He’d bring excitement to a ticket that’s lacking that, to some degree, right now. Beyond that, he’d bring a huge grassroots organization, and, to put it simply, the South.”
Veteran conservative activist Ralph Reed agrees. “Huckabee would be an outstanding and inspired choice,” he says. “He has tremendous support among evangelicals and conservatives, and he knows how to frame issues in a way that makes it clear he has core convictions and he does it in a winsome way.”
“Whatever differences Romney and Huckabee had during the 2008 campaign, and I don’t think they were significant, they have put that behind them,” Reed adds. “Governor Huckabee and Governor Romney, from what I can tell, have a good relationship, and each of them respects the work and views of the other.”
(...) Frank Tsamoutales, a Huckabee adviser and current director of HuckPAC, Huckabee’s political-action committee, tells National Review Online that the former governor is open-minded about his political future.
“He would certainly listen and entertain the idea,” Tsamoutales says.
“It’s a serious question and he’d take it seriously. Now, he is extraordinarily happy with the way things are going for him, but he also has the capacity and energy to transition into a presidential campaign as a running mate, should he be asked.”