As the countdown to the convention begins and the veepstakes heats up, the speculation about who Mitt Romney will name as his running mate has shifted from not just who, but when. The Post’s Philip Rucker had a rundown yesterday of the presumptive GOP nominee’s surrogates and the possibilities of when Romney will make his selection public. Will it be just before the convention, giving him the most time to make a decision and put his surrogates to the test? Or will it be much sooner, to avoid timing the announcement with Romney’s upcoming Europe trip or the summer Olympics?

My favorite quote in Rucker’s piece (other than the Romney adviser who said “No decisions have been made about decisions”), came from Steve Duprey, a senior adviser to John McCain’s 2008 campaign: “Surprise is overrated. This is an election about competence and reviving our economy, and I think it shows seriousness of purpose if you pick your person earlier and you have them out on the road.”

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I couldn’t agree more. From a leadership perspective, at least, I see little downside to making the decision—and making it public—as soon as possible. Besides looking serious, rather than driven by timing the news cycle or trying out “surprise” gimmicks, Romney will also look decisive if he makes the call soon. The selection of a vice presidential running mate is one of the most important decisions a candidate makes, speaking volumes about what kind of personalities they favor, what they see as their own strengths and weaknesses, and how good they are at picking other leaders. Not drawing out the decision tells voters Romney knows what he wants, knows how to find it, and had little trouble getting the right person to agree to take the job quickly.

Second, naming a running mate now would make his campaign operators, which have drawn criticism recently for being confused” and “insular,” appear efficient and organized. Even if Romney has the final say over the decision (though don’t count out Ann), the team headed by Beth Myers does most of the legwork vetting the candidates, evaluating the possibilities and advising Romney. It’s not like this hasn’t been at the top of the campaign’s agenda for months. Making an early call on a decision they’ve known they’ll have to face from day one gives the appearance that Romney can put together a smooth-running operation that acts resolutely so it can move on to less expected dilemmas or more difficult crises.

Finally, ending the “veepstakes” soon gives the ticket-sharers more time to build a relationship. Many running mates aren’t close before the selection process begins, and time is needed to build trust in each other and develop a communication strategy that works for them both. (See McCain, John and Palin, Sarah.)

Even if Romney was to make the announcement tomorrow, that would give him and his running mate just three and a half months to find a groove together. That’s hardly enough time for anyone working together to really learn how to make the best of each other’s assets and foibles, much less those who are sharing the harsh public glare of a presidential campaign. And if he does win the election, those extra months together on the campaign trail should give Romney and his VP a head start when it comes to what really matters: Doing the job of governing the country.

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