Report card: Seven possible GOP choices for VP

Gov. Haley says Obama's record falls short of his 'soaring words'

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the Republican address to the nation, following President Obama's final State of the Union Tuesday evening.
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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the Republican address to the nation, following President Obama's final State of the Union Tuesday evening.

Nikki Haley for vice president?

Let the runaway speculation begin.

The governor of South Carolina leaped into the forefront of possible 2016 Republican running mates Tuesday with her address following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. And she told NBC’s Matt Lauer on Wednesday that while she’s not campaigning for the job, she would “sit down and talk” with any candidate interested in her.

Still, there are many possibles:

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio

Pros: Experience as White House budget director and U.S. trade representative. In 2010, the 60-year-old Portman easily won election to the Senate in a critical state. He’s considered a thoughtful center-right voice.

Cons: Quiet, unexciting, not conservative enough for the GOP right.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Pros: Was a federal judge, confirmed 89-0 by the Senate. In 2010, the 52-year-old Sandoval won the governorship over Rory Reid, son of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Easily won re-election in 2014.

Cons: Untested beyond Nevada, and unexciting. See Portman.

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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

Pros: The nation’s first Latina governor, the 56-year-old Martinez made Time magazine’s 2013 list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Re-elected last year.

Cons: Santa Fe New Mexican reported federal investigators are looking into campaign practices.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

Pros: Yes, he’s seeking the GOP presidential nomination. But if Rubio, 44, doesn’t win, and runs a credible race, he’ll get a look for the second spot. He’s young, Cuban-American, and from a pivotal state.

Cons: So far he hasn’t gotten much momentum or stirred much passion among Republicans nationwide.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire

Pros: Ayotte, 47, is respected in the Senate as a thoughtful voice on national security matters. Won a Senate seat in a swing state.

Cons: Not a strong public speaker and faces a tough re-election campaign this year.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota

Pros: A Republican hero because he beat Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Part of GOP Senate leadership, Thune, 55, is known as steady, thoughtful.

Cons: From a small state, doesn’t create much campaign excitement.

On paper there are lots of reasons Haley makes sense. Southerner. Daughter of Indian immigrants. A woman who would be on the ticket of a party badly needing help winning women voters. 43 years old. Second-term governor. Showed lots of grit last year when she led the move to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.

Haley won re-election by 14 percentage points in 2014.

Of course, this all assumes there’s logic involved in picking a vice presidential candidate. And there often isn’t.

Haley would face the same questions that surface every four summers, as nominees consider their running mate:

Can she get along personally and philosophically with the nominee? A conservative may want someone more to the center. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for instance, may want to soften the ticket’s image by going with the more moderate John Kasich, the governor of Ohio. Haley has a reputation as a tougher conservative. Flip side: Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner, may need someone such as Haley to counter his rough edges.

Will the vetters, the investigators who will scrutinize every second of her life, find enough to raise doubts in the nominee’s mind? Who knows?

Will the primary and caucus process produce a runner-up who does so well, and proves himself so battle-tested, that the nominee feels he’s got to put him or her on the ticket? It happened in 2004 when Democrat John Kerry chose Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Will the nominee want someone who can carry a swing state? After all, chances are South Carolina is going to be safe Republican territory in the general election. While geography rarely matters in these decisions (2008 nominee Sarah Palin came from Alaska), it still is in the mix.

David Lightman: 202-383-6101, @lightmandavid