Every four years, pundits love to predict vice presidential selections. But if Mitt Romney is the nominee this time, one obvious choice has escaped mention:
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.
Romney needs help with disaffected evangelicals and social conservatives, and he could use a Southerner to balance the ticket. Huckabee checks all of those boxes.
An ordained Baptist minister, Huckabee was only the fourth Republican since Reconstruction to win statewide office in Arkansas, which tilts Democratic for in-state races. He was lieutenant governor and then governor for 10 years. And he rose to Chairman of the National Governors Association.
After running for the presidential nomination in 2008, he hung up his campaign shoes to host a top-rated show on Fox News. (Though he did make a cameo at this year's Iowa straw poll, playing electric guitar in the tents.)
The argument for Huckabee is not that the conservative base will go to Obama. It's that he can change their tone on Romney by uniting them.
First, Huckabee can draw evangelicals and the Religious Right to the ticket. Evangelical voters propelled Huckabee to a come-from-behind victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. He "quotes Scripture so often," Newsweek reported at the time, "that his stump speeches themselves could be mistaken for sermons."
Second, Huckabee, who will hold an "abortion forum" next month, can shore up base voters skeptical of Romney's past support of abortion rights. Romney will appear on Huckabee's show in December to discuss this issue. The last time Romney was on the show, he agreed to support a Constitutional amendment defining life at conception. Huckabee defended Romney's change of position afterwards (noting that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush changed their positions too).
Third, he could help boost the Northeasterner Romney in the South -- in battleground states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida where Obama won last time.
Finally, he has something no other Republican can match: Huckabee is incredibly likeable. He lost 110 pounds and took up marathons, inspiring Arkansans to adopt healthy lifestyles. His Veterans Day TV special was the latest example of his broad appeal. Huckabee, who never served in the U.S. military, graciously thanked veterans and those in active duty.
So when the Obama re-election team attempts to frighten suburban voters and women by painting an uncompassionate picture of the conservative platform, the charming Huckabee can help blunt the attack.
Speculation has focused upon a trio of other VP potentials: Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.,, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.. All are Roman Catholic and would undoubtedly receive enthusiastic support from their party. But evangelical voters, already disquieted by Romney's LDS faith, may long for one of their own: Huckabee.
Four years ago, it would have been laughable to suggest this ticket after the bad blood between their campaigns; they now have a dA(c)tente.
Here's some advice: Gov. Huckabee, you'll need to sharpen your economic message on jobs, the bailouts, and the debt. Shake off your electoral rust. And convince the GOP establishment and donor class that you'll campaign seriously.
In so many ways, Huckabee complements Romney like Laverne & Shirley. Now, this 44th governor of Arkansas could help unseat the 44th president.
One can already picture placards being handed out on the national convention floor in Tampa -- reminiscent of Eisenhower in 1952 -- which say "I Like Mike."
Of course, any time a candidate is so perfect for VP, it doesn't happen. If you read this, Mitt, don't say we didn't tell you.
Adam Silbert, an attorney, was a deputy field organizer for the 2008 Obama campaign.