Romney's VP Short List: It May Be Down to Four

Romney's VP Short List: It May Be Down to Four

By Erin McPike - July 5, 2012

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.

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

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