Published for The Washington Post, August 13, 2012

As conservative leaders gathered at Sea Island in March for the American Enterprise Institute’s World Forum, former Vice President Dick Cheney was asked to look into the crystal ball and predict who Mitt Romney would choose as his running mate. With Paul Ryan and Rob Portman a few seats away, Cheney leaned into the microphone and declared: “The next vice president of the United States is sitting right here in this room, and his initials are ‘R.P.’ . . . but not necessarily in that order.”

As Cheney made clear, Romney could not have gone wrong with either man with the initials R.P. And Romney clearly saw what Dick Cheney saw in the young Congressman from Wisconsin — a candidate who could bring both energy and intellectual heft to the GOP ticket.

Cheney caused a stir a few weeks ago when he said that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin was a “mistake” because she wasn’t ready for the presidency. Cheney’s real point — though he is far too modest to put it this way — was that Romney needed to pick someone like Dick Cheney.

George W. Bush didn’t put Cheney on the ticket in 2000 because of Wyoming’s 3 electoral votes. He picked Cheney because he was both a strong conservative, and someone who was ready to govern from Day One. That was precisely the kind of running-mate Romney needed: someone who, like Cheney, is seen by conservatives as one of their own and would energize the base; and someone who, like Cheney, would be taken seriously from the get-go as a potential president of the United States.

This is particularly important in 2012, because President Obama has settled on a strategy of tearing down Romney and painting him as an unacceptable alternative. We see that strategy in the Obama campaign’s charge that Romney potentially committed a “felony” in his SEC filings on his tenure at Bain Capital; in Harry Reid’s baseless claim that Romney paid no taxes for ten years; and in last week’s scurrilous ad charging that Romney killed a woman. Obama and his Democratic supporters know that millions of Americans are ready to make a change and are working tirelessly to demagogue and discredit the Romney ticket.

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