WASHINGTON—Though speculations abound, Mitt Romney’s campaign is staying tight-lipped over his choice for vice president, as potential running mates attended a massive three-day retreat organized this weekend for Republican donors and supporters.
In attendance at the Utah event was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, along with a number of potential vice presidential candidates.
Popular among Republican voters, Rice was the top choice as Romney’s running mate in a CNN poll earlier this year, but she has insisted she’s not interested, telling Fox News in March that Romney should select “someone who really wants to be elected to office. Not me!”
Other potential picks included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
While the hunt for a running mate continues, the likelihood of picking someone flashy is diminishing.
For starters, Romney “won’t pick someone as a total surprise,” said Dr. Kathleen Kendall, a politics and communications specialist at the University of Maryland.
Kendall was referring to Sen. John McCain’s selection of unknown wildcard Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin during his 2008 election bid.
While vice presidential picks rarely influence a voter’s choice of candidate, the process of choosing a running mate is seen as a critical component of the campaign.
Kendall said there are many aspects to be considered, but the bottom line for the presidential candidate is the question: “How will this person help me?”
First and foremost is whether a vice president can bring in voters who may not be natural supporters of a candidate, enabling that candidate to bridge ideological, geographical, and ethnic gaps.
A former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney may be looking for help in southern states, particularly those in close contention. In that respect, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, and Sen. Mark Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, may be considered. Both states are seen as being up for grabs in the coming election.
McDonnell and Rubio may also allay conservative fears, all too evident in the primaries, that Romney is too moderate. In that respect, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, is also being vetted, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
Of Cuban heritage, Rubio, a rising star in the Republican movement, was also publicly declared of interest by Romney last week, an unusual move in a normally secretive process. Rubio could boost the critical Hispanic vote, especially in light of President Obama’s reported boost among Latino voters after announcing his new deportation rules for young illegal immigrants.
While the vice president functions officially as president of the Senate, the role is often seen as a diminished position in terms of power. However, there are more subtle aspects, not the least of which is to be second in command, capable of fulfilling the role as the nation’s leader should something happen to the chief executive.
In this respect, Rubio, 42, may be considered too young and inexperienced for the role of commander in chief.
Popular Republican firebrand, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is seen by some pundits as having all the right skills for command. He was an early public supporter of Romney, and is also seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. While part of his appeal is that he would offset Romney’s lack of charisma, analysts say he may be too high-powered and hard to control.
“Romney does not need a big-name, attention-grabbing running mate to help him win this race,” Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said on his website Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “He just needs someone who won’t cause him headaches.”
Sabato presently has Sen. Rob Portman from Ohio as Romney’s likely choice for vice president. A former Bush administration official, Portman has a sound track record and the experience to be vice president.
“While any nominee might have skeletons in his or her closet, Portman appears pretty well vetted at this point,” Sabato said.
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