True, Mitt Romney may have already picked his running mate — or he may not have made his decision yet, either. The closer we get to the convention, the more chance this line from the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny has of being correct:
Mr. Romney has reached a decision, his friends believe, and he may disclose it as soon as this week.
The media has been very anxious indeed to get Romney to make an early pick. Last week, Condi Rice was the pick. This week it’s Tim Pawlenty, which at least seems more realistic:
While Mr. Romney has kept more distance from the rest of his primary challengers, he has embraced Mr. Pawlenty, seeking his advice about running against President Obama and sending him to Republican events on his behalf. They began forging a closer relationship last year on a visit to the Romney family’s lakeside home in New Hampshire, aides said, and during debates this year when Mr. Pawlenty often traveled with the Romney campaign after dropping out of the race himself.
He has emerged as one of the most energetic cheerleaders and forceful defenders of Mr. Romney, firing back against Republican skeptics and Democratic critics alike. All but forgotten are the days when Mr. Pawlenty coined the troublemaking term “Obamneycare,” suggesting that few differences existed between the health care plans of Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.
The conservative National Review now describes Mr. Pawlenty as “Romney’s traveling salesman.” While other potential vice-presidential candidates like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have day jobs that limit their availability, Mr. Pawlenty, who has no other full-time position, is the political equivalent of an empty nester, available to do whatever Mr. Romney asks.
Pawlenty has received a lot of attention in the Veepstakes, and for good reason. The former Minnesota governor connects well with working-class voters, has excellent message discipline, is unquestionably prepared to be President should the need arise, and can play well in the Midwest and probably the Rust Belt, a quality Romney will need in November. Pawlenty gets a lot of criticism for not being exciting enough on the stump, but he improved his game considerably over the last two years, and delivers impressively in speeches.
ABC, on the other hand, hears that if Romney has made his decision, it may be Bobby Jindal who gets the nod:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will appear at a fundraiser with Mitt Romney today in Baton Rouge, fueling speculation about his vice presidential chances, the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson reported in a profile of the Louisiana governor. “Three years ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got his first big chance in the national spotlight and bombed. His response to President Obama’s first State of the Union address was uniformly panned. ‘Not ready for prime time’ was a common critique. But Jindal (R), who is often mentioned as a vice-presidential contender on Mitt Romney’s shortlist, is proof that there are second acts in American politics,” Henderson wrote. “On Monday, Jindal, who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the primary contest, is set to join Romney for a high-dollar fundraising luncheon with supporters in Baton Rouge, probably fueling more debate about his chances of becoming the running mate. Romney announced in a note to supporters last week that he will name his pick before the Republican National Convention in August, dubbing the ticket ‘America’s Comeback Team.’ Asked recently about his vice-presidential prospects, Jindal offered the classic non-response. ‘We’re not going to speculate. I’ve said this for the last several weeks. We’re not speculating. We’re not commenting on that,’ he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring questions to the Romney campaign. ‘No disrespect to Joe Biden, nobody’s going to the voting booth and voting based on who’s vice president.’ Yet social conservatives are looking closely at Romney’s choice for signs that he wants to assuage their concerns about issues that are important to them, such as their opposition to abortion and gay rights. Jindal would fit that bill.”
And so on, and so on, and so on. Either Pawlenty or Jindal would make a good choice, and there are plenty of others who would, too. Romney may or may not have made a decision already, but given the options, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he’s still mulling over those choices. You can bet on one thing: the more the media keeps reporting that Romney may be on the verge of announcing his choice, the better off Romney will be in waiting until just before the convention. He wants to build buzz, not end it. The only reasons to pull the trigger early is either to counter a bad media environment, which so far Romney has been content to fight himself, or to help fundraising, which is going gangbusters for Team Romney at the moment.
I’d expect an announcement on Friday, August 17th, or Monday, August 20th to drive attention all the way through the convention. Until then, I’d expect the “he’s ready to announce” hype to be a weekly media meme.