Would a female running mate help solve Romney’s woman problem?


President Obama’s support for gay marriage is understandably still dominating the headlines, but the Morning Joe gang still found time for some veepstakes talk Thursday.

Mitt Romney told an interviewer Wednesday that he’s considering candidates “of both genders.” Romney has been trailing badly with women voters, which could make the prospect of a female running-mate more appealing. Still, Romney has made clear that his top priority is to pick someone who’s qualified to take over as president.

“I think he has to appeal to women voters for sure, and if he doesn’t do that he’s going to lose the election,” New York magazine’s John Heilemann said. “But I’m not sure that putting a woman who [isn’t qualified] on the ticket will succeed.”

Indeed, Romney appears all too aware of the mistake made by John McCain in 2008, when he picked Sarah Palin to share the ticket. Though she fired up the Republican base, the Alaska governor was seen by many as unready to take over the presidency, and created an unwanted distraction for the McCain camp.

“I think they’re not going to make that mistake,” said Heilemann. “And they’re clearly trying to telegraph that they’re not going to make that mistake.”

Heilemann added one intriguing nugget, noting a report in a conservative magazine that Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who ran strongly in 2008, may be getting a close look.

Not to be outdone, TIME’s Mark Halperin said to keep an eye out for “retired women politicians.”

The panel suggested Condoleezza Rice and Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring from the U.S. Senate this year, but Halperin wouldn’t be drawn out.

“Stand by,” he said. Hard to know how much stock to put in that.

There’s no question Romney needs to find a way to win over women, especially those who aren’t married. A USA Today poll of twelve swing states found that he leads President Obama by four points among married women, but trails by a massive 44-point margin among unmarried women.

That may be too big a gap to address through the choice of a running mate. “He’s got a humongous problem,” said Halperin. “I’m not sure picking a woman solves the problem.”

Would a female running mate help solve Romney's woman problem?