Veepstakes: Will McCain prove he’s a maverick?

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey floats the names of five potential running mates for John McCain: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, and billionaire publisher Steve Forbes. The most viable name here is Sanford. He’s a youthful ...

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WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 29: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University October 29, 2007 in Washington, DC. Gingrich was promoting the new book, 'A Contract With the Earth,' he co-authored with conservationist Terry Maple. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey floats the names of five potential running mates for John McCain: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, and billionaire publisher Steve Forbes. The most viable name here is Sanford. He's a youthful fiscal conservative who could help McCain in the south.

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey floats the names of five potential running mates for John McCain: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, and billionaire publisher Steve Forbes. The most viable name here is Sanford. He’s a youthful fiscal conservative who could help McCain in the south.

Over at the Campaign Standard, Stephen Hayes and Fred Barnes add the names of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Ohio Representative Rob Portman, and Sens. Tom Coburn, Sam Brownback, and Richard Burr. These guys are all too obscure. McCain will need someone who is trusted, like Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and ready on Day One, as Hillary would say.

Perhaps even more improbable, all of these names assume that McCain is now magically going to suck up to bedrock conservatives after a 20-plus-year congressional career defined by upsetting them. I know it’s hard to swallow, friends, but the Karl Rove era of politics died along with Mitt Romney’s presidential bid. I don’t care how much chatter there is about McCain needing to “reconcile” with the GOP base. Anyone who has watched McCain during the course of his political career will tell you that he’s not big on, shall we say, accommodation.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One guy who’s bound to get a look is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s got a perfect blend of maverick and conservative credentials. Why would Gingrich do it, when he clearly has differences with McCain? Because he’s a party warrior. “I clearly have disagreements, particularly with Sen. McCain on key issues such as amnesty for illegal immigrants or tax cuts or what I thought was a censorship law that was unconstitutional, McCain-Feingold. But if I had to look at the record of Sen. McCain over his career, compared to the record of Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton, he is vastly better for America’s future than either of those two candidates,” Gingrich told Human Events a few days ago.

Why would McCain pick Gingrich? The war in Iraq, for starters. It may not be at the forefront of voters’ minds, if we are to believe the exits, but it still matters. Two thirds of Americans say they are against the war, no matter how well the surge is doing. McCain can straight-talk all he wants, but you don’t get elected by telling two thirds of the country that they are dumb and ignorant. So he needs someone who can reach out on the Iraq issue. Gingrich can do that, because he’s already been outspoken about the leadership failures in Iraq—and get away with it, because many in the party still harbor a touch of nostalgia for his role in taking back the House in 1994. Oh yeah, and as a former rep from Georgia, he’s got southern ties.

Of course, Gingrich would be a controversial choice. But that’s McCain’s style. And just to rile up the naysayers even more, here are some other provocative names who I think will almost certainly get a look: Sens. Lindsay Graham and Chuck Hagel. And you can bet your bottom dollar the McCain folks are drawing up a list of every woman and African American in the party…

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