NBC reported it first and the Weekly Standard’s hearing the same thing, but the Standard’s also wishcasting Christie into the picture as a dark horse. No doubt, the nastiness of the last week has improved his odds insofar as he’d be the ultimate attack-dog pick. But unless I missed something since Monday, there’s been no hard evidence of Christie’s stock rising. Even his closest advisors sound skeptical. My gut says he’s not seriously being considered.

So then there were three. Looking forward to hearing someone from Team Mitt explain later why Bobby Jindal wasn’t one of them.

We can say with a high degree of confidence that Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick has largely come down to three men: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. And it’s more than possible that Romney has already made up his mind. All three VP finalists bring something different to the table. Pawlenty is the loyal outsider, who would enable a Romney-Pawlenty ticket to run as former governors vowing to take on Washington; Pawlenty also potentially would add some blue-collar appeal to the ticket. Portman would be the insider, someone who knows the ways of Washington and who could help govern starting on Day 1. And Ryan would be the crusader, who wants to substantially transform America’s entitlement programs and who would excite a good portion of the GOP’s conservative base. Indeed, Ryan has emerged a VERY REAL possibility, but he also brings the most risk. If Romney selects him, it’s more than conceivable that the dominant campaign discussion in the fall won’t be the economy — but rather the deficit and Medicare. Of course, there was already a good chance the Ryan plan will get plenty attention regardless of Romney’s VP pick.

Who’d help Romney the most of those three? Nate Silver says it’s Portman, reasoning that even though he’d have an exceedingly modest effect on how Ohio votes — likely no more than a point — the state is split evenly enough that picking him could make the difference, which might in turn tip the electoral college. Rubio, interestingly, is popular enough that he’d add more than two points to Romney’s take in Florida, but Silver reasons that if a Republican can’t win Florida on his own in this climate, he’s probably sunk nationally. Hmmmmm. Even if that’s true, what if Rubio adds enough Latino support in swing states, like Colorado, to tip one of those too?

Anyway. Too early for predictions? Byron York thinks it’ll be Portman, which is the safe bet, and safe bets are always smart when it comes to Romney. I’m sticking with my prediction that it’s Pawlenty — I think Romney ultimately will balk at the “Romney = Bush” ammo that picking Portman would hand The One — but I do think there’s something to the rumors that Ryan’s odds are increasing. Romney’s campaign seems flat lately; the idea that economic doldrums are enough on their own to get him elected seems less credible than it used to. And the less credible it looks, the less there is to lose in gambling on a “Big Vision” campaign down the stretch. Think Mitt has the stones to do that? I’m not convinced, so T-Paw it is.