As Troy Senik and I both have expressed strong support for the idea that Arizona’s Jon Kyl should be on Mitt Romney’s short list for vice president, it is worth watching this interview Kyl did on Fox News Channel the other night. The key thing isn’t the particular substance of the discussion, but whether or not Kyl comes across well: Does he communicate his point well, clearly, and understandably? Does he come across as reasonable, competent, knowledgeable, and likeable, all at the same time? The answers to those questions are all “yes.”
There are all sorts of ways a presidential campaign can use a running mate. One of the best is to let the top of the ticket hammer home one strong message, again and again, as the main theme of the campaign, while assigning the VP candidate the role of raising and carrying several secondary issues to continually put the opponent on the defensive and to distract the opposing campaign from its message of the day.
With Arizona being ground zero for the immigration-policy battle, and with Kyl occupying a moderate or middle ground as being critical enough of Obama’s lack of enforcement to satisfy hard-liners but open enough to fair-minded appreciation of some immigrants’ interests that he won’t scare off Hispanic voters, he could well carry the immigration message well as Secondary Issue Number One. As an expert on military and foreign affairs, he could make up for Romney’s lack of experience there and blast the heck out of Obama on those issues, making defense/fo-po Secondary Issue Number Two. With his experience on the Judiciary Committee, he could make judges and Justice Department corruption and politicization (Fast and Furious, Black Panthers, etcetera) Secondary Issue Number Three. Few potential running mates are as well equipped to carry multiple issues against Obama as Kyl is.