VP Auditions, Phase 2: Portman, Like Ryan, to Hit N.C.

VP Auditions, Phase 2: Portman, Like Ryan, to Hit N.C.

By Erin McPike - June 8, 2012

Phase 2 of the audition process to be Mitt Romney's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket has begun.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan traveled to North Carolina this week to host a round-table discussion on behalf of the Romney campaign, and RCP has learned that Ohio Sen. Rob Portman will head to the key battleground state next weekend for similar purposes.

Portman will be in Winston-Salem to headline a Romney fundraiser and is likely to be in Raleigh-Durham or another area of the state for a political event, though details about the latter function have not been nailed down yet, according to sources familiar with the planning. This weekend Portman will open the Romney campaign’s Ohio headquarters in Columbus.

Ryan led a discussion at Big Ed’s City Market in Raleigh on Tuesday morning, an event the Romney campaign publicized the evening before. According to North Carolina Public Radio, which covered the gathering, Ryan said to small business owners over biscuits: “You know, if we stick with the status quo, we're going to have a European-like debt crisis.”

There’s been plenty of buzz lately about a vice-presidential audition process, in which young, high-profile Republican figures have been on the trail stumping with the presumptive GOP nominee to test out how well they mesh with him. This week marks the second phase of that process, as the Romney campaign is letting likely contenders such as Ryan and Portman go out on their own to campaign, apparently to see how they fare with voters and the press.

Both lawmakers have developed close relationships with the candidate and are held in high regard inside the Beltway and in the upper rungs of the GOP. And each has been the subject of much speculation that he is being vetted for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

Ryan, though he has in the past dismissed interest in higher office (telling this reporter in 2009 that he wouldn’t run for governor of Wisconsin because he didn’t “want to walk away from this federal fight”), became somewhat open -- albeit briefly -- to the idea of running for the White House after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels decided not to run last year. Now there’s been an uptick in activity by Ryan’s political staff, and also his presence on the campaign trail with Romney.

According to a Washington Post profile of Portman last month:

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell had also emerged as fixtures in the vice presidential discussion, with Ryan especially portrayed as a kindred spirit of Romney’s, someone able to finish the top man’s sentences and make him laugh. Romney and Ryan had met privately last autumn to talk about economic policy and deficits, said someone close to the candidate. Although Portman, he added, was “much admired” by the Romney team and remained very high on the VP list, the view among several Romney insiders was that the chemistry between their leader and Portman “had not been great — not bad, he’s a nice guy, but just not great.”

In any event, it appears that both Ryan and Portman have graduated to a VP short list now that the Romney campaign is advising their solo events and directing them to undergo what amounts to another test. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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