Romney Already Chose a Running Mate

Apr 17, 2012 5:00am

Lost in the frenzy of speculation about who Mitt Romney will pick as a vice presidential candidate is that this is not the first time he has chosen a running mate.

When he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney tapped Kerry Murphy Healey as his pick for lieutenant governor, a decision that may provide some clues into how he’ll handle the search this time around.

Beth Myers, who is running Romney’s VP search, was also advising the candidate back then.  She tells ABC News that gender was a factor — Romney put a priority on having a woman as a running mate — but above all, he was looking for somebody he could work closely with, on the campaign trail and in the office.

“They were absolutely running together,” Myers told ABC News.  “She partnered with him on everything [and was] integrated completely into our operation.”

It was a short and intense search process.  Romney jumped into the race late and had just three weeks before the state Republican convention to decide on a running mate.  At first, he said he would stay out of the process and accept the choice of the party convention.

But when it became clear the process would leave him with an unsatisfactory running mate — the leading candidate was a multimillionaire businessman named James Rappaport and Democrats were already deriding the possible team as a “Rolls-Royce ticket” of two rich white guys — Romney and his political advisers decided he needed to get involved.

There was no shortage of possible candidates for Romney to choose from:  The Republican leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives offered his services as did other Republicans in the state legislature.  So did one of President George W. Bush’s cousins and the sister of the man murdered by Willie Horton.

Romney didn’t have much time to get to know any of them well, but Healey, who was not lobbying for the job, had a head start.  As the new chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, she had flown to Salt Lake City during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in an effort to recruit Romney to run for governor.

Jane Swift, the acting governor at the time, was unpopular, and was planning to run, but party leaders were convinced she had no chance of winning.  Healey left Salt Lake City without a commitment from Romney about running, but she had clearly made an impression on him.

Romney’s political team also found much to like in Healey:  She was a Harvard-educated college professor who had spent nearly a decade working with the Department of Justice on criminal justice issues.  She wasn’t just a state pol, but had experience in social policy, which Romney was lacking.

With so little time to get his campaign up and running, Romney left much of the search process up to his closest advisers.  Healey tells ABC News that she had several meetings with Romney confidant Bob White, and political strategist Mike Murphy, but had only one or two meetings with Romney before he decided to anoint her as his choice for lieutenant governor.

Rappaport  denounced the move as “a cold political calculation,” and Romney’s team wasn’t shy about touting the political appeal of running with a younger woman candidate with social policy credentials.  As Romney adviser Ron Kaufmann told The Associated Press at the time, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that Kerry Murphy Healey is a better running mate … than two prosperous successful businessmen.”

But Mike Murphy insists “politics was a secondary factor.” He says the key to the decision was Romney’s belief that Healey could be a key part of his administration, not simply somebody put on the ticket to help win an election.

“The key factors were policy brains, ability to help enact his change agenda,” Murphy tells ABC News.

Healey says the most important factor for Romney was balance.

“I brought a different set of skills, a different set of expertise to the ticket and something he thought would help him govern well,” Healey tells ABC News.

Healey, who remains close to Romney, says she is convinced Romney will take the same approach in picking a running mate this time.

“I think he will probably look for somebody who brings something to the table that he doesn’t have, who would expand his reach,” Healey says.  “And I think that whoever it is, it is going to be important that they have a close working relationship.”

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