In today's modern and interconnected world, many avid sports fans enjoy the thrill of pretending to manage their own teams in virtual leagues dedicated to "fantasy football" or "fantasy baseball" and other fantastical and fun venues for outguessing the professionals. Every four years, in the parallel world of politics, the pundits, prognosticators, and various other species of wonk join in their own imaginary gamesmanship, in what is known as the "fantasy veepstakes." Indeed, it is obligatory to write at least one breathless column on the vice presidential selection per election cycle, or they will kick you out of the "Pundits, Prognosticators, And Various Other Species Of Wonk Club."
In order to keep my own membership in good standing, today I am going to take a look at Mitt Romney's possibilities for a running mate to flesh out his ticket. Well, actually, "flesh" is the wrong word to use, because rather than engage in the fantasizing over actual veep choices, instead I am going to look at running mate possibilities from the world of fantasy. These "veepstakes" columns are boring enough, as a class, so we'd thought it be more fun to imagine characters for Romney's ticket, rather than writing endless paragraphs about the likes of Tim Pawlenty and his relative strengths over Rob Portman's budget experience... (ZZZZZ)... oh, sorry, I seem to have put myself to sleep, there. Anyway, you see what I mean. The real choices aren't that exciting to write about, so let's travel to the Land of Make-Believe instead, shall we?
Peering into this fantastical realm, a broad array of fictional characters immediately leaps to mind, any one of which might help balance a Romney ticket. The following list is roughly ordered from least-likely to most-likely, for no other reason than to build suspense and keep you reading this silliness until the end. Where, perhaps, you'll be inspired to make your own suggestion (in the comments) as to a favorite who was inadvertently left off my list.
Ready? Here we go...
"He Who Must Not Be Named" would, of course, make a dandy running mate for Mitt Romney, but this nomination has to be considered a scratch from the get-go. Not only is Mitt Romney the muggliest of Muggles (which would likely horrify Voldemort), but Harry Potter appears to have eradicated Lord Voldemort from this reality. Of course, there could always be a sequel where he springs back to life (see: Dick Cheney), but the chances are pretty dim for a Romney/Voldemort ticket this year. Even if he were, someone's sure to bring up the fact that Voldemort seems to be British, which would also tend to disqualify him.
Anakin Skywalker seems, at first glance, to be a prime candidate for vice president. After all, he has extensive experience in the role of second banana, after acting in Emperor Palpatine's shadow for so long. Vader also has a deep and commanding knowledge of Republican Party campaign techniques (a.k.a. the "Dark Side of the Force"), which makes him all the more attractive. However, upon closer examination, Vader seems to have a couple of major policy flip-flops under his belt, which would only serve to reinforce the image of Romney as "Mr. Etch A Sketch." Vader also seems currently to be a nebulous entity existing only in some shimmery pseudo-world (or "Jedi Heaven"), which would likely make him a good match for Romney, but then again there is that question of whether he's actually "alive" in this realm. Also, he seems to have compromised his conservative credentials a bit with the other Jedi masters he hangs out with there.
The background character from Popeye The Sailor Man's world has been getting a lot of buzz due to the recent Newsweek cover story, but also has to be considered a non-starter. His economic theory of "gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" is just a bridge too far for the central Republican Party stalwarts. So we won't have "Romney/Wimpy" bumperstickers to look forward to, sorry.
In contrast, we have a candidate from Springfield who sees absolutely eye-to-eye with Mitt Romney on economic matters, in Charles Montgomery Burns. But although Mr. Burns was briefly mentioned, his advanced age almost immediately disqualified him (his Social Security Number is reportedly 000-00-0002, for instance).
Sarah Palin's persona
The only entry on this list who is merely semi-fictional, it should be noted. Palin has existed mostly as a caricature pretty much since the day John McCain announced her as the winner of the 2008 veepstakes for Republicans, which we feel does indeed qualify her for consideration. Her carefully-maintained and managed media persona has, in fact, taken on a life of its own -- to the point where we all remember her most famous quote ("I can see Alaska from my house!") even though it was actually uttered by a spoof of her caricature, and not Palin herself. But Romney will not pick Palin, because he knows that her persona would absolutely dominate the race and overshadow his own candidacy (much as it did to McCain's).
Yosemite Sam was also knocked out of the early running, for his propensity to shoot first and ask questions later. If there's one thing Mitt doesn't need at this point, it is a loose cannon on deck. He's doing so admirably in the "loose cannon" department right now that he just doesn't need the help.
While Mitt has long admired Hook and sought to emulate him in his business ventures, and while having a handicapped person on the ticket might be seen as a bold move, there would just be too much resistance within the party for someone of such questionable presentation. One high-ranking Republican Party staffer was overheard saying: "He's a longhair, which the rank-and-file GOP voters just will not understand, and would you look at the way he dresses? Those hats? Can you even picture Hook in a conservative suit and tie? No thanks."
Dora The Explorer
The fact that this name is even being mentioned inside the Beltway shows how desperate a campaign can truly get. Briefly considered as a surprise move to entice Latino voters, Dora herself refuses to publicly join any political party, and has stated repeatedly (ever since her name first was floated) that she would refuse the offer if Romney extended it. Also, she's nowhere near the required 35 years of age.
Richie Rich, at first glance, seems to be too young as well -- but the comic has indeed been around since the early 1950s, so even if he doesn't actually ever show signs of aging himself, he does indeed qualify on technical constitutional grounds. If ever there was a blood brother to Mitt Romney, Richie Rich certainly fits the bill. The two shared very similar upbringings, and both move within the same circles socially. At this point, he has to be seen as a strong contender. Mitt Romney's team is reportedly doing a deep background check, in an effort to figure out what state Mr. Rich hails from. If this doesn't conflict with the four states Mitt has claimed as "home states" then Richie Rich could be a frontrunner.
While "Greed is good!" is certainly the mantra of the Republican Party -- and of Mitt Romney in particular -- sadly, Gekko's prison record has made him too radioactive for inclusion on the Romney ticket. Mitt was said to have personally recommended Gekko, telling his search committee, "The voters won't mind, they love Wall Street guys!" But, in the end, common sense won out and Gekko will not be getting the call.
Rich Uncle Pennybags
Otherwise known as "Mr. Monopoly" or simply "The Monopoly Guy," Pennybags is reportedly on the "very short" list for Romney veep options. On issue after issue, Romney and Pennybags are mirror images of each other. The two reportedly met while at a conference on avoiding property taxes and luxury taxes, and famously hit it off right away. Romney recently had high praise for Pennybags while on a visit to Atlantic City, New Jersey. "Everywhere in this town you drive," gushed Romney, "you are reminded of the power of my friend, Mr. Monopoly." The Romney campaign has even reportedly been polling and focus-testing a brand-new campaign slogan, should a Romney/Pennybags ticket be announced: "Bank error in your favor!"
Personally, I don't think any of the aforementioned candidates will be Romney's pick, though. Instead, beating out all the others named as longshots by the rest of the media (Daddy Warbucks, Dr. Evil, Lord Farquaad, Bane, Dr. Octopus, Fat Bastard, and Captain Nemo), this little-known character from America's comic past is quite obviously Romney's best choice. Mitt desperately needs someone who won't upstage him or cause him embarrassment out on the campaign trail, and Caspar Milquetoast absolutely fits the bill. Boring to the point of invisibility, Milquetoast will instead serve to make Mitt look exciting -- a trick not many could possibly manage to achieve. Caspar will also make Mitt appear decisive and bold by comparison -- a trick absolutely no one else could hope to pull off this year.
So, even though he hasn't been seen in America's comic strips for over a half of a century, and even though he seems the darkest of horses, the longest of longshots, and the farthest out of the far-out choices, I'm going to predict that Caspar Milquetoast will win the fantasy veepstakes, and that "Romney/Milquetoast" will be the Republican Party ticket this year.
Of course, I could be wrong. We'll all just have to wait and see, won't we?
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant