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Huntsman and Santorum Define VP Chasm

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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney greets supporters after addressing a primary night victory rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 10, 2012. (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney greets supporters after addressing a primary night victory rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 10, 2012. (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

As Mitt Romney easily won the New Hampshire primary, as predicted by most polls and pundits, the varied results of Jon Huntsman and Iowa darling Rick Santorum began to form the argument that will define the VP search for Romney.

2012 NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY: View Results

I realize that I am making a huge assumption that Romney will eventually be named the nominee. However, it’s not like I am betting the mortgage on 31 Red on the Roulette Wheel. The odds are with my assumption.

And based on that assumption, the only thing left to predict is how the rest of the primary fight will affect Romney’s choice for his Vice Presidential running mate.

The third place finish of Jon Huntsman showed that while the nomination is likely out of his reach, he was able to finally register a blip on the radar screen among Republican voters. That blip is important because like Romney, Huntsman has been criticized by the right wing of the GOP as too moderate. But also like Romney, Huntsman has a successful track record as Governor.

Meanwhile, the Rick Santorum rocket ship came back down to Earth as he vied for fourth place with Newt Gingrich. That finish also showed that while he was the darling of Iowa, his brand of conservatism isn’t the kind of Republican that a moderate state like New Hampshire wants to see as President.

These two also-rans will now define the upcoming race for VP.

South Carolina and Florida are the two major primaries coming up and will likely be the hardest for Romney to sweep.

If he trips in South Carolina and Florida, Romney may have to wait to be crowned the nominee for some time. That extended fight might force him to admit that the only way he can unify the party is with a conservative running mate.

While a conservative running mate, like Santorum, might unify the party, it would make Romney far less competitive against his real opponent, President Obama.

However, if Romney can pull off the sweep of South Carolina and more importantly, Florida, he may be able to confirm the coronation rather quickly. The quicker he can secure the nomination, the quicker he can go to the center and attract key independent voters for the general election.

If Romney is able to go to the center before he actually names a running mate, he would have the freedom to name someone like Jon Huntsman, a western governor and a moderate, as his running mate.

Right wing conservatives might cringe at the moderate nature of a Romney/Huntsman ticket, but frankly, that kind of ticket would give Obama severe problems in key western states like Colorado and Nevada.

A Romney/Santorum ticket might make evangelical conservatives happy, but that ticket would offer no advantage in key swing states that will lean independent and moderate.

If Romney keeps up his winning streak, he may be able to control his own destiny. If the conservative wing of the party catches him south of the Mason-Dixon Line, they may saddle him with a running mate that will make the primary fight look like a picnic.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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