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If media reports are accurate, we are getting close to the moment when Mitt Romney will announce his choice for vice president. The campaign has said Romney would announce his pick before the Republican National Convention kicks off Aug. 27. The New York Daily News contends that one choice has already been made, according to “insiders”: the VP will be a male. NBC News takes it one step further, claiming they can say “with a high degree of confidence” that the campaign has winnowed the final choices down to three people: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Yet doubters remain. The Washington Post plays the elimination-by-logic game, noting that many of the previously presumed candidates, namely Condoleezza Rice, Mike Huckabee, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Rick Santorum, Sen. Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, have been scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL. Getting a speaking slot at the convention ostensibly eliminates them from consideration. Yet they add two names to the list of possibles compiled by NBC: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The campaign has done its best to keep such speculation at a fever pitch, in order to maximize attention. Part of that speculation includes the idea that Romney might announce his pick during his bus tour through four swing states of Virginia, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina this weekend. Yet the only concrete statement by Romney was intentionally cryptic. Last Sunday he told CNN’s Gloria Borger that “by the third day of the Republican convention, we will nominate a Republican VP.” For those with a burning urge to know, the GOP nominee’s campaign is promoting a “Mitt VP” app that will notify Romney’s choice to users before an announcement is made to the media. CNN also contends that Wikipedia activity can spike for the chosen candidate the day before his name is officially announced. Yet the Wall Street Journal likely has the best take on the time frame: it speculates that the pick will not be made prior to the end of the Olympics August 12th, again in order to maximize exposure.
What campaign insiders are currently saying (read: teasing) is that the VP pick will have to meet the following criteria: he will have to have the capacity to be president, as well as be ready to rule right now; he will be a “safe” choice, yet more likable and more conservative than Romney; and he will be a true “second banana” who will not outshine his boss. Who fits the bill? An analysis of each candidate may offer clues:
As a former state governor, Tim Pawlenty brings a level of executive experience to the mix, as well as solid blue collar credentials that could offset Romney’s elitist background. He is the son of a truck driver from a former meatpacking town whose mother died when he was 16. He is also the first college graduate in his family, a big hockey fan, and comfortable with the kind of pop culture references that likely elude Romney.
On the baggage side, Pawlenty is likely to irritate some conservatives for supporting a tax on cigarettes he labeled a “health impact fee.” In theater parlance, that’s a two-fer: conservatives dislike both higher taxes as well as anything that smacks of Nanny Statism. He also has very little charisma, indicated by the fact that he was the first declared presidential candidate to withdraw from the 2012 race. Nor is it likely he has anything resembling a high level of name-recognition. Pawlenty makes for a great “second banana,” but he is not a man likely to shake up the election campaign.
Rob Portman is a former House member who worked in both Bush administrations, and he brings solid policy credentials to the mix, highlighted by expertise in spending and budgets, as well as experience in international trade. He has already traveled extensively in support of Romney, stumping and raising money for the campaign in North Carolina, New Hampshire and Ohio, where he maintains an extensive political organization in that critical battleground state.
Yet Portman strikes some as a “conciliatory conservative,” without a lot of working class appeal. Both are two of the primary knocks against Romney. Furthermore, his stint as budget director under President George W. Bush would be red meat for an Obama campaign that continues to “blame Bush” in order to divert attention from the president’s own economic failures.
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