Welcome to Veep Club!
The first rule of Veep Club: You don’t talk about Veep Club.
Put another way: Those who know who is (and isn’t) on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s vice presidential short list aren’t talking. And that means that when it comes Romney’s running mate, your guess is as good as mine. Literally.
The past week has proven that fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. The news that Marco Rubio was in fact not being seriously vetted to serve as Romney’s second-in-command rocked the political world for 12 hours — up until Romney himself told reporters traveling with him that the Florida Senator was in fact being vetted.
So, that happened.
In conversations over the past 24 hours with a variety of Republicans strategists — both those close to Romney and those viewing his candidacy from the outside looking in — it became abundantly clear that only two people know where the VP search stands and who is on either the long or short list: Romney and Beth Myers, who managed Romney’s 2008 race and is now the head of the vetting process.
And yet, every one of the people we talked to also had an opinion on who should be moved up and who should be dropped down in our monthly rankings of the ten people considered most likely to be the pick.
Welcome to the odd process that is the vice presidential sweepstakes. (We wrote earlier this week on how incredibly difficult it is to balance the desire for ever more information about the veepstakes with the paucity of people who actually have genuine insight into what’s going on.)
Below we offer what is, admittedly, some combination of educated guess and straight-out guess of how the VP candidates stack up at this moment in time.
Agree? Or (more likely) disagree? The comments section is open for business.
To the Line!
10. Luis Fortuno: The governor of Puerto Rico isn’t one anyone’s list but consider this: He and Romney get along well, he would send a signal to Hispanics that Romney (and Republicans) are serious about courting them, and Fortuno spent time serving in the U.S House from Puerto Rico. It would also be a huge national story if Romney went that route. No, we don’t think it’s at all likely — but it’s damn interesting. (Previous ranking: N/A)
9. Bob McDonnell: The governor of Virginia started the veepstakes far higher on the Line but the air seems to have gone out of the McDonnell balloon to some extent. McDonnell is still a steady (and largely safe) messenger in a swing — and maybe the swing — state in the race. But some of his past controversies (masters thesis, transvaginal ultrasounds) could well violate the “above all, do no harm” rule of the veepstakes. (Previous ranking: 8)
8. Chris Christie: Where you think the New Jersey governor belongs on this Line is entirely dependent on what kind of pick you think Romney wants to make. If he wants a safe pick with a long resume in office, there is simply no way that Christie will be seriously considered. If Romney is looking for an outside-the box choice who would immediately become a story in his own right, then Christie is the guy. We tend to think Romney plays it safe — and that means no Christie. (Previous ranking: 5)
7. John Thune: No one — and we mean no one — talks about the possibility of the South Dakota Senator being Romney’s final pick. But, remember the point we made above: Almost no one knows what is going on in the VP search either so there’s no reason to think Thune isn’t under consideration. On paper, he has the goods: Charismatic, handsome, conservative and from the Plains. What’s less clear is whether Thune and Romney have any personal chemistry. (Previous ranking: 6)
6. Kelly Ayotte: It seems impossible that no woman would be on the Romney long list given the emphasis that President Obama and his campaign team are putting on the idea of a Republican “war on women”. Ayotte seems to make the most sense as she is a) from a swing state b) a natural talent and c) liked by moderate and conservative Republicans alike. Her problems? She is from New Hampshire (does Romney really want a ticketmate who, like him, is also from the Northeast) and she was only elected to the Senate in 2010. (Previous ranking: 9)
5. Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor is something of a forgotten man in the veepstakes chatter — but he shouldn’t be. Jindal may well have the best combination of star power and proven capability of anyone under consideration. He spent time in the U.S. House prior to being elected governor and has wracked up an impressive record on education and ethics reform during his four-plus years in office. Jindal did endorse Gov. Rick Perry during the Republican primary fight — will that matter to Romney? (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Marco Rubio: Whether or not Rubio was being vetted at the start of the week, he sure as heck is now. (In fact, he’s the only candidate that we know — beyond any doubt — is being vetted by Myers and Romney.) Rubio would clearly be a different sort of pick than the three men ranked above him on the Line; he is far less experienced on the national stage but has a star quality that the other men lack. Everything we keep hearing is that Romney’s biggest priority is picking someone who could step in and do the job. Does he believe Rubio is ready for that responsibility? (Previous ranking: 2)
3. Paul Ryan: Chatter about the Wisconsin House member has died down considerably of late although he was at Romney’s side when the nominee toured through the Badger State on his recent bus tour. By choosing Ryan, Romney would be embracing the big solutions mantra that Ryan symbolizes within the GOP. But, does Romney want to throw his arms around a plan he didn’t write and make it easier for President Obama to link him to the unpopularity of Congressional Republicans? (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Tim Pawlenty: Tpaw is nothing if not resilient as a political player. When he dropped from the presidential race late last summer, almost no one thought he would be in the mix to be Romney’s vice presidential pick. (Pawlenty was the originator of “Obamneycare”!) And yet here he is — decidedly in that mix thanks to his solid surrogacy for Romney on the campaign trail over the past months, his credentials as a two-term governor of a blue state and his rapport with the nominee. The one thing that keeps us from putting Pawlenty in the pole position? He was passed over by John McCain in 2008. Does Romney want to pick someone who has already been a bridesmaid? (Previous ranking: 7)
1. Rob Portman: The Ohio Senator has dropped from “it boy” status in the last month but still makes the most sense as a pick. He’s a proven commodity about whom there is little to no doubt as to whether he could serve as president. Picking Portman would allow Romney to double down on the economy/debt/spending messaging as Portman served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Bush Administration. Plus, Portman is from Ohio, which is a must-have state for Romney. (Previous ranking: 1)