Real Clear Politics claims that the choice is down to four candidates, and Marco Rubio is not on that list. He is by far the most attractive choice because Romney could really use someone to draw Hispanics. Rubio is the one who could accomplish that goal, and he is impressive and articulate and could easily handle the gaffetastic Joe Biden in a debate and make mincemeat out of him. Rubio's main drawback is his youth and lack of experience, though he has none less than our current president had four years ago, and Rubio would only be running for VP.
Romney's VP Short List: It May Be Down to Four
Mitt Romney may be tight-lipped about his vice presidential short list, warning that only he and longtime aide Beth Myers know who is on it, but a close examination of the campaign's activity suggests four contenders have risen through the ranks: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be considered wild cards, and Romney has said he’s thoroughly vetting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, though the first-term lawmaker’s status appears unchanged.
Final short lists tend to have three names: Barack Obama’s trio included Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Evan Bayh. John McCain’s final three were Romney, Pawlenty and Joe Lieberman, though Sarah Palin ultimately leapfrogged them all.
In this case, though, the presumptive Republican nominee has a reputation for gathering copious amounts of data to make his decisions, and that’s why a pick out of leftfield, like McCain’s choice of Palin, is unlikely. Romney doesn’t rely on his gut; he deliberates. That was true when he was considering this presidential run and asked his team for game plans and each member of his family for their input.
And for years, insiders have praised his preparation, saying that he plays the role of a devil’s advocate. Those who work for him now after logging time on McCain’s 2008 campaign say he was the smartest, most prepared surrogate for the Arizona senator. Senior House Republican aides say that when he started working with them on several initiatives before the midterm elections, he challenged some of the material they offered to him for preparation. In other words, he was a tough sell who needed more than talking points and wanted to see data. In this way, he and Portman are like-minded, but it shows that each of his potential running mates will undergo a thorough testing on various fronts.
Given this penchant for information gathering, it is reasonable to assume there are at least three data points Romney is considering as he mulls his vice presidential pick. The first is readiness for office, which is a qualification he has said publicly that potential choices must meet. The second is chemistry with the candidate and his wife, a quality his aides have indicated is important. And the third is an ability to fly solo -- to campaign on behalf of Romney without him being there. This is a metric that has not been addressed by the campaign, but judging by Team Romney’s actions, it’s clear that it’s a paramount concern given some of the events the campaign has staged with top surrogates -- and it likely reveals who is no longer in the running.
On readiness for office, conversations with Romney insiders and allies suggest that they have no qualms about Portman or Pawlenty. One of Romney’s biggest complaints about President Obama is that he is in over his head and had “never run anything before.” Pawlenty governed the state of Minnesota for two terms; Portman ran the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Jindal is in his second term as governor of Louisiana. Paul Ryan, however, falls short in this regard; he was a Capitol Hill staffer and a marketing consultant before becoming a congressman at age 28.
As for chemistry with the candidate, Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan have all campaigned alongside him multiple times. Each endorsed him at critical moments in the primary process and appeared with him on the stump when they did. And each got a turn as his key surrogate on Romney’s June bus tour, which ran through their states. Jindal has not yet campaigned with the presumptive nominee, so look for that to happen soon in a swing state near you.
The ability to fly solo is notable because of who is not currently doing it. Take New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was Romney’s surrogate in chief during the thick of the primary season. Sources close to the campaign say Christie fell out of favor with Romney’s inner circle in Boston because he was late to events and made too many demands. His public commentary often comes off as brazen, and he’s regarded by many in the political class as something of a risk. Some news outlets have painted South Dakota Sen. John Thune as a dark horse for the short list, but since the dawn of the general election phase, he has yet to stand with Romney on stage in a swing state or headline a campaign event in the Midwest, suggesting his purported rise was something of a myth all along. Newt Gingrich and John Bolton have aided the campaign with solo events, but they expressly are not short-listers.
The “flying solo” consideration is also a critical piece of the puzzle in light of McCain’s selection of Palin. The then-governor of Alaska did not handle this aspect well and broke the No. 1 rule for any VP candidate of “first, do no harm.” That’s why each of Romney’s potential running mates has to pass the test of campaigning successfully on his own before anyone is named.
Indeed, Romney’s campaign publicized appearances in North Carolina, a must-win swing state, by Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan. Portman is also headlining an event solo Friday in New Hampshire, and Pawlenty has done several already and he and Jindal will appear in Ohio today to shadow the president’s bus tour of the Buckeye State and Pennsylvania. Jindal also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this past Sunday on Romney’s behalf.
As wild cards, Ayotte, McDonnell and Rubio match some of the criteria. For her part, Ayotte ran the New Hampshire Department of Justice as attorney general for five years, though she is still early in her freshman term in the U.S. Senate. McDonnell runs the state of Virginia and is considered up to the task of handling the top office in the land. Rubio might fall short in this category, having been the Florida speaker of the House but is in just his second year as a senator.
Rubio has campaigned with Romney a few times, but their chemistry is difficult to measure. He is currently on a bus tour of his own promoting a new book. Ayotte and her husband have made no secret of their affection for the Romneys, and vice versa, and she marched with him in the Wolfeboro Independence Day parade on Wednesday. McDonnell has campaigned extensively with Romney since the Virginian was running for governor in 2009 and appeared with him in Sterling, Va., last week.
Ayotte and McDonnell also have taken on tasks such as conference calls for the campaign, and they’ve gone to call centers to fire up volunteers in their home states, but neither has been dispatched to another state since the general election began, as Portman, Pawlenty, Jindal and Ryan have -- in some cases, several times. Sources say Rubio ultimately will be flying solo for Romney because he is an effective campaigner.
Dark horses and surprise picks happen sometimes, but that probably won’t be the case with Romney. And don’t forget: Short lists by definition are limited, and don’t contain six or seven names.