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Rob Portman is the insider’s VP pick. That’s a bad thing.

at 07:45 AM ET, 04/23/2012

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s (R) vice presidential chances seemed to get a nice boost over the weekend: an informal survey of Republican party insiders showed that he was their top choice to be former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s running mate this fall.


FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2012 file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio talks to reporters in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Two thirds of the state party chairmen and Republican National committeemen and women polled by the online news site BuzzFeed said that the Ohio senator was the most likely and best pick to be Romney’s running mate.

“He was born to be the guy standing next to the guy,” one RNC member told BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller. “He’s the type of guy who ran for vice president of his high school student council.”

That ringing endorsement aside — we kid! — it would appear that a story like this one is all to the good for Portman who, like every politician on earth, acts like he is not interested in serving as vice president but would accept the offer to do so in seconds.

It’s not. And here’s why.

People really, really dislike politicians. They hate Washington. They think politics is broken — maybe irreparably. Congress’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll was at 17 percent — and that was an improvement (!) from where it’s stood for most of the past few years.

Romney spent the entirety of his presidential primary campaign casting himself — smartly — as an outsider to Washington and its ways. In the early days of the general election, Romney is, again, aiming to draw an insider vs. outsider contrast against President Obama. And Romney’s senior campaign officials make no attempt to hide their disdain for the ways of Washington.

Choosing someone who is seen as the favorite of party insiders then could erode rather than bolster the contrast Romney is trying to drive against the incumbent. (When John McCain picked the inexperienced Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, he effectively self-neutered his strongest argument against Obama: that the Illinois senator simply wasn’t qualified for to the job.)

To be clear: A single informal survey of RNC insiders does not mean that Portman will wear the label of “insider’s choice” throughout the veepstakes. (A poll of Republican insiders conducted by National Journal magazine earlier this month showed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as the favorite. Portman placed second in that survey.)

And Portman does have much to recommend him — based in a swing state, budget credentials and steadiness as a messenger among other things. That combination could (and perhaps should) put him on the short list.

But make no mistake: Being the guy the party insiders have taken a shine to won’t help — and very well could hurt — his cause.

Rove: GOP needs to tread lightly on GSA, Secret Service scandals: Top former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove is cautioning Republicans against trying to blame Obama for the GSA and Secret Service scandals, even as House Republicans are moving to do just that.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and John Mica (R-Fla.) have both moved quickly to set up hearings on the committees they chair to seek answers and perhaps score some political points for their party.

But Rove said Sunday that the GOP needs to be careful.

“Every argument in politics generates a counter-argument,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And the counter argument that will be generated if Republicans try and make this a big push against President Obama is the ordinary American will look there and say, you know what, that is going over the top.”

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol agreed.

“I think it’s a government problem honestly more than a President Obama problem, though he has to be held accountable,” Kristol said, adding: “I think it would be mistake, honestly, for Republicans to put too much in the way of hopes in exploiting these scandals.”

Issa’s House government oversight committee and Mica’s transportation committee are both holding hearings on the GSA scandal.

Hatch will face primary: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) came about as close as you can get to avoiding a primary at Saturday’s Utah Republican Party convention, but it wasn’t to be.

Hatch won 59.1 percent of the vote on the final ballot at the convention, coming up just 32 votes shy of 60 percent of the vote, in which case he would have won his party’s nomination outright.

Now he faces state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in a June 26 primary.

Hatch’s team worked feverishly to avoid going to a primary, but he should still be a significant favorite in it. Liljenquist’s campaign hasn’t raised nearly as much as Hatch’s, and a primary should feature a less conservative electorate than the convention, which two years ago unseated Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) for being insufficiently conservative.

In contrast to Bennett, Hatch’s campaign has been on the ball from day one, and it was almost good enough to end the race on Saturday.

DGA sends $500,000 to Wisconsin recall ad: The Democratic Governors Association is sending half a million dollars to the effort to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

Today, the DGA will announce it is sending the money to Greater Wisconsin, an outside group that will launch an ad starting today.

The ad hits Walker for what happened after he and the GOP-led state legislature stripped public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, pointing to data that show it lost more jobs last year than any other state.

Fixbits:

The Obama campaign will hold a conference call at noon today to talk about congressional action on student loan interest rates. The call will feature Senate Education Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), former Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators president Eileen O’Leary, and Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal.

In addition, Vice President Biden will deliver remarks at New York University on the president’s foreign policy successes and will accuse Romney of distorting Obama’s record on the issue.

New Romney staffer Richard Grenell has a long history of ridiculing political women and the media, and he has deleted hundreds of tweets in response to criticism.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he’s done talking about the vice presidential selection process.

George Will says Romney shouldn’t pick Jeb Bush as his vice president.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) says he won’t endorse in the presidential race.

Speaking of party poopers, Jon Huntsman’s slow, Lieberman-like departure from his party continues as he compares the GOP to Communist China.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) does his best job of deflecting the VP talk, saying others would be a better choice than he.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) debuts a new ad featuring a heavy dose of Daniels, who defends the incumbent against “folks from elsewhere telling us who’s a real Hoosier.” Lugar’s primary with state treasurer Richard Mourdock is just two weeks away.

Elizabeth Warren says in a new bio ad that when she was growing up, her family was “hanging on by our fingertips to a place in the middle class.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) fights back against reports that he dozed off at a Bruce Springsteen concert — an allegation that might actually cause political damage in The Boss’s home state.

Hatch wasn’t the only one facing a contentious convention vote this weekend; Minnesota Republicans deadlocked after 23 ballots while trying to make an endorsement in the race to face Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.).

The John Edwards trial begins today.

Must-reads:

Is the tea party still relevant?” — Chris Cillizza, Washington Post

Oratory, Bore-atory: Obama, Romney and Political Rhetoric in 2012” — Katy Steinmetz, Time

Big money in a big way for Obama’s reelection campaign” — T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

New curbs on voter registration could hurt Obama” — Deborah Charles, Reuters

Justices to Rule on Role of the States in Immigration” — Julia Preston, New York Times

Sen. Claire McCaskill takes fight to super PACs as Missouri swings farther right” — Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

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