Other vice presidential candidates, including Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, are undergoing a more intensive review, according to two Republicans close to the campaign…
“By the time you apply the gravitas test, which is really 95 percent of what Governor Romney’s looking at — people when introduced to America nobody would think twice about their ability to be president if necessary — that wipes out 90 percent of the field,” said one outside adviser close to the Romney operation who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the selection process.
The adviser said other Republicans once presumed to be contenders, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, fall under this same category. More-experienced candidates said to be under consideration include Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
If Rubio’s too young and too unseasoned, does that mean Christie is too? He’s nine years older than Rubio and holds an executive position but has spent less time in political office than even Rubio has if you include the latter’s tenure in the state legislature. Mitch Daniels is presumably also out since he’s reportedly set to be named the next president of Purdue. So, it seems, is Bob McDonnell, who wasn’t being vetted either as of three weeks ago. What about Paul Ryan? He was coy when asked about this in May and he’s part of Romney’s bus tour featuring a cavalcade of would-be VPs, but he’s also just a year older than Rubio and has no executive experience. What’s the logic at this point for picking him and embracing an all-out “Mediscare” campaign from Democrats when he could go with the far safer/blander Portman or Pawlenty instead? It would excite the base, but Romney’s not worried about the base anymore. If he was, he wouldn’t be dodging questions over whether he’ll rescind Obama’s new DREAM order if elected. In fact, I think the people who see skittishness over immigration in Romney’s decision to pass on Rubio are right: If he picks him or Ryan as VP, then to some extent the election will be about something other than the economy. That’s precisely what Romney’s trying to avoid; it’s Obama who wants a “choice” election, not the GOP.
That leaves Portman, Pawlenty, and maybe Jindal, who does have executive experience, would add diversity to the ticket, and would certainly fire up the base. But Jindal endorsed Perry in the primaries and he’s the same age as Rubio. He’d be an inspired choice but not as safe as Portman or Pawlenty, and if there’s one thing we know about Mitt, he prefers safe to inspired. So that leaves two: The Bush alum from the key swing state or the guy who was vetted four years ago from the unwinnable blue state. I thought Portman was a prohibitive favorite and I still think there’s probably a 75 percent chance that he gets it, but as more polls come out showing how many voters still blame Bush for the economy, Team Mitt must be wondering whether Portman’s record as Bush’s budget chief will become a major liability on their key issue. If it’s true that Romney’s VP credo is “first do no harm,” then Pawlenty really should have the edge. The most damaging soundbite he’s had in the last few years is the one about “ObamneyCare” and I doubt you’ll see Team O want to focus on that.
Exit question: Why would any Republican want to leak the fact that Rubio’s not even being seriously considered for VP, especially at a moment when Obama’s just made a splash with Latino voters via his new DREAM policy? It’s one thing not to choose the guy, it’s another thing to signal that he’s not even worthy of consideration. And no, this isn’t about Romney trying to completely distance himself from Rubio because of the politics of DREAM: Remember, after O made his announcement on Friday, Romney specifically mentioned Rubio in his response. He’s a bona fide conservative rock star with a national future. Why not pay him the minimum respect of vetting him? Or are Ana Navarro and Ben Domenech right in thinking that this is really about the Charlie Crist alums in Romney’s campaign wanting a little payback for what Rubio did to their guy in 2010?
In particular, few women except for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte – a freshman lawmaker from New England with only scant federal experience – are thought to be under consideration by Romney.
“I think unfortunately, Palin poisoned the well on that,” said one informal Romney adviser, fretting that any woman selected as VP would draw inevitable comparisons to the former Alaska governor. “I would guess if I were inside the Romney mind that they’re worried that any woman chosen will be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny.”
Update: Note that that last quote comes from an “informal advisor” to the campaign, not any of the inner circle, so who knows how much of it is pure speculation versus informed speculation derived from chatting with key players. In fairness to Mitt, there aren’t many woman officeholders who fit his criteria this time around. Ayotte and Martinez are both promising but both new to their current offices. They’d be stronger picks in 2016 than they are now.