Ask any two Republicans who their choice is for president in 2016 and you’ll get three answers; but when it comes to the GOP choice for vice president, there’s an emerging sense of agreement, especially in the establishment wing of the party: Senator Kelly Ayotte.
The field of potential top of the ticket candidates include a wide range of possibilities: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Mike Pence, and many more. Any of them could benefit from sharing the spotlight with a conservative woman rising star who has real national security bona fides and hails from the state with the first primary elections in the 2016 cycle.
“Her prospects are good. Why not Pence-Ayotte or Walker-Ayotte?” said Weekly Standard Editor and conservative power-broker Bill Kristol. “Defense and foreign policy will be a big issue, and she's a leader on that. And since she’s already on the vice presidential short list, she might want to look at running for the top job.”
Compared to some of the other prospective candidates, Ayotte’s resume stacks up. Ayotte, who is also up for reelection in 2016, came into the senate at the same time as Paul and Rubio and has two years more experience as a legislator than Cruz. Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCain's 2008 presidential bid, said that the other GOP senators vying for national office all have huge flaws whereas Ayotte does not.
“There are fundamental questions around their electability and around Paul’s ability on some issues to navigate himself toward the majority opinion of the GOP. Cruz is toxic and has no chance of national electability. Rubio damaged himself during the immigration debate,” he said. “The reality for Republicans is that it couldn’t possibly be more open.”
Ayotte is also one of the only female GOP top personalities that could counter a Democratic ticket with Hillary Clinton at its top, and at a time when the Republican party has been reeling from a number of scandals that have left the party vulnerable to the accusation that they are not savvy at courting the women’s vote.
Schmidt, who was instrumental in the choice of Sarah Palin to be the GOP’s last female vice presidential candidate, now says that the lesson of the Palin episode is that national candidates – especially national female candidates -- have to be able to convince the voters they are ready to be president on day one.
“Ayotte could turn the ‘war on women’ narrative into a punch line,” said Schmidt. “In the category of those really talented women who can really break into the next level, I think Kelly Ayotte stands out. She has a lot of skills. There's no on-the-job training and she’s clears that hurdle.”
He also agrees with Kristol that if Ayotte wants to be considered for vice president, she might consider exploring a run for the top job.
“The best way in a year when the field is as open as it is, the best way to be picked as vice president it to mount a presidential campaign. Show you can navigate that, sharpen your skills, and see how far you can go in that process,” he said. “Kelly Ayotte has every potential to be able to do those things, but as of yet she has not yet been tested on the national stage.”
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