The Republican National Convention opens in just 24 days, which means that sometime within the next two weeks — and maybe as soon as next week — Mitt Romney will almost certainly reveal the identity of his vice presidential nominee.
As the decision nears, Romney’s list of potential picks is, naturally, getting shorter as he narrows down the list to people who might actually be the one. In keeping with that list-shortening, we are trimming our Friday Veepstakes Line from 10 candidates to five.
In doing so, we are operating under the belief that while Romney could make a surprise choice — David Petraeus, anyone? — it seems increasingly likely that the Republican vice presidential nominee will be one of five people.
The toughest person to leave off of our Final Five? Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He brings lots to the table — we once said he was the Lionel Messi of the Veepstakes — but the buzz around Rubio as the pick has subsided considerably over the past month or so ( Jeb Bush’s hard push nothwithstanding).
Below — ranked in order of the likelihood of being picked — are our Veepstakes Final Five. Enjoy!
5. Chris Christie: Oddly enough, the incredibly high profile New Jersey governor may not be getting the respect he is due in the veepstakes. We have it on good authority that he remains very much in the mix as Romney’s pick, which, frankly, shouldn’t be all that surprising. Once Christie (finally) decided against running for president, he quickly endorsed Romney and has been a willing and able surrogate ever since. And, Christie is the biggest national star in the Republican party at the moment — spouting the sort of no-nonsense, speak-truth-to-power-isms that the public seems to crave. He’s also a Republican who got elected in a blue state one year after President Obama’s sweeping victory in 2008. (Previous ranking: 8)
4. Bobby Jindal: Jindal is the “historic” pick of the Final Five as he would be the first Indian-American to be on either party’s national ticket. He’s also someone who despite his youth — he’s 41 — has a deep resume that includes service in the U.S. House, a stint at the Department of Health and Human Services and now two terms as governor of Louisiana. Jindal is also considered an expert — in GOP circles, at least — on health care, and his selection could indicate how serious Romney is about repealing President Obama’s law and replacing it with a conservative alternative. (Previous ranking: 5)
3. Paul Ryan: Picking the Wisconsin Congressman would simultaneously be a safe and a bold choice by Romney. Safe in the sense that Ryan is a known and liked commodity within the Republican party establishment and someone who has a proven track record of getting elected in a swing state. Bold in the sense that the Ryan budget plan — in which he proposes (among other things) a fundamental re-shaping of Medicare — is seen by Democrats as the closest thing they have to a silver bullet in this election. Choosing Ryan means embracing that budget with no possibility of turning back. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Tim Pawlenty: Romney prizes loyalty and TPaw is among the most loyal people in politics. After ending his own bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the former Minnesota governor became a do-anything, go-anywhere surrogate for Romney. And, he’s stayed relentlessly on message — for the amount Pawlenty has spoken for Romney there has been almost no gaffe coverage of what he’s said — while bolstering his profile as a guy who can connect with Joe and Jane average voter in the electorally critical Rust Belt. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Rob Portman: The Ohio Senator continues to hold down the top spot on the Line because he ranks so highly in the area we know Romney value most: the ability to do the job. That Portman also represents among the least risky picks (he has been vetted six ways to Sunday for past Administration jobs and during his 2010 Senate bid), that he is from Ohio (the swing state Romney must have) and that he is a budget/spending expert at a time when those issues are at the fore of voters’ minds strengthen Portman’s case. (Previous ranking: 1)