In short, the habitually cautious candidate is less likely to try to make a splash by picking a game-changing candidate and more likely to choose someone safe, whom he sees as competent and ready to be president.
The conventional thinking has been that after a long and divisive primary campaign, the challenge of uniting the GOP would force Romney to pick a running mate with strong appeal to tea party activists and evangelicals. But Romney’s team thinks he may be liberated from that pressure if he can finish off remaining rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in the next few weeks.
Romney has not tapped anyone to oversee a vice-presidential search process. The strategy talk, one adviser said, is limited to “four guys on the campaign over a beer at night on the North End who might toss names around.”
Romney’s high command in Boston has not taken its eye off the primaries he still needs to win. And cognizant that he would be leading a divided party, they are seeking ways to win over reluctant conservatives. Still, it is unclear whether several months from now, when Romney chooses a running partner, he would be under pressure to pick someone who is demonstrably more conservative than he is.
His advisers said they do not believe geography will play all that important a role, and that he seems unlikely to choose someone to court a single state or constituency. He does not, so far, appear to have discussed the need to pick a minority or a woman, for example, to appeal to certain kinds of voters.
“The days when you could pick a vice presidential nominee and they could deliver a state are long over,” said Charlie Black, a veteran GOP presidential strategist and informal Romney adviser.
At the same time, early indications are that Romney will not repeat the error of 2008, when John McCain sought a dramatic choice but failed to run a thorough vetting process in picking Sarah Palin.
“I think the mistakes made in 2008 will have a big effect, as they should in 2012,” said strategist Steve Schmidt, who oversaw McCain’s selection of Palin. “The 2008 process was evaluated almost entirely through a political prism.”
This time, one Romney adviser said, “politics will matter less than you’d imagine.”
“Knowing Mitt as I do, I think he’s going to be very much of the school that we need a vice president who can become president,” said the adviser, who like others interviewed demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the vice presidential search process.