U.S. News runs a perfectly ludicrous story, beginning: “Hours before the Republicans begin the first-in-the-nation voting for their 2012 presidential nominee, many in the GOP brain trust are already looking to potential vice presidential candidates to help push the expected winner, Mitt Romney, over the finish line in November.” Oh, my the brain trust! (Is there one, and if so, why didn’t it get other candidates to run for the top of the ticket?) Nowhere in the piece is there any mention of what Romney might be considering. If he is thinking ahead, he’s far too smart to let anyone know it and he certainly wouldn’t be considering picks from the brain trust that ruled him out as the nominee.

Some of the suggestions are down right dopey. I mean, Condi Rice? (For those enamored of her North Korea strategy, maybe.)

There is a reason presidential candidates don’t pick or consider VP’s before the primary voting is more or less finished (or in this case, even begun). It’s a decision with little upside and much downside.

We know from recent elections that VP picks rarely help, but they certainly can hurt. In trying to be innovative many a presidential candidate (e.g. George H.W. Bush, Walter Mondale, John McCain) has stumbled. Better to take your time, consider all the angles, give the media something to jabber about for several months and then select a running mate.

The days when candidates selected a VP to win a particular state ended for all intents and purposes in 1960, when LBJ did in fact bring Texas along. Since then candidates have tried to emphasize themes ( the “new South” in 1992), address an experience deficit (Dick Cheney in 2000 and Joe Biden in 2008) or to try and win a segment of the electorate (e.g. Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin). We haven’t had a “pick a rival to heal the party pick” since Ronald Reagan selected George H.W. Bush.

When a GOP nominee is selected they’ll be plenty of time (especially if Romney wraps things up early) to mull over the sort of VP the nominee wants, to vet the candidates and to make the pick. Until then, all of the candidates would be wise to clam up and, when the time comes, do no harm.

For those angling to get on the short list, the best course is to demonstrate the qualities a nominee would want: discretion, competence, loyalty and media finesse. A healthy contempt for the GOP ”brain trust” wouldn’t hurt either.