Romney tosses out the name of a potential running mate

So far, all the GOP candidates have played coy about whom they’d consider as a running mate — but frontrunner Mitt Romney finally mentioned a potential by name in an interview on Fox News last night:

“There are probably 15 names of people, including (New Hampshire Sen.) Kelly Ayotte,” Romney said in an interview on Fox News Monday night. “I mean, there are terrific Republicans in the Senate, in the House, in governors’ offices.” …

And while Romney was hesitant to list any more possible VP contenders, the candidate said there’s no short list of potential names.

“You’ve got extraordinary men and women,” Romney said. “We have a very deep bench.”

As it turns out, Ayotte was sitting next to Romney during the interview — and, this weekend, she also threw her cachet as a conservative darling behind the former Massachusetts governor in a much-coveted endorsement. So it’s plausible that Romney mentioned her by name to be polite.

But that still doesn’t change that hers was the first name Romney pitched — or that it reflects positively on Romney’s understanding of the sort of person he’d need to pick to reassure nervous conservatives. I’ve only met Ayotte one time — in the bathroom at the Ronald Reagan National Airport, on my way back from the second presidential debate in New Hampshire — but I’ve been impressed by the positions she’s taken on a number of issues and especially by her “no” vote on this summer’s debt ceiling deal. It wasn’t a good deal, whatever Republican leadership said about it, and it took courage and fortitude for any freshman to vote against it.

Strategically speaking, Ayotte wouldn’t grow Romney’s map much, as she, too, is from a Northeastern state — but she would diversify the ticket. She’s also composed and well-spoken, two of the most essential traits for a vice president, however much our present VP lacks both composure and eloquence. She’s also just flat-out likable.

Ayotte herself suggested a host of other possible VPs to Romney. They were all names we’ve heard before, but with good reason: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Because the Senate elections are every bit as important as the presidential, I’m nervous to see the eventual GOP candidate select a freshman senator like Rubio or Ayotte — but am reassured that it is, in fact, a truth that, when it comes to vice presidential candidates, we do, as Romney said, have a very deep bench.