It’s official: Mitt Romney will pick his running mate at 8:45 a.m Saturday.Speculation in Washington circles has centered on a handful of favourites, but lately the buzz has centered on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a rising conservative star who chairs the House Budget Committee.
But Romney could go with other popular alternatives — former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or South Dakota Sen. John Thune. Or he could surprise everyone and choose an under-the-radar type like New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
We think it boils down to Ryan and five other finalists. In the past few weeks, Ryan and Portman have been the biggest movers. Portman has solidified his spot as a front-runner, while Ryan has moved from darkhorse to one of the legitimate favourites.
Here’s one final VP shortlist, with their current Intrade odds.
WHY HE'LL BE VP: The buzz over the past week has been all about Ryan, who has jumped to the top of presumptive running mate list Intrade. He's currently at an astounding 86.5 per cent. The Weekly Standard reports that Romney is preparing to introduce Ryan as his vice president.
Since 2010, Ryan has stood alongside Marco Rubio as a rising star in the Republican Party. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has taken the lead in hammering President Obama on the federal deficit, and his voice will only get louder within the party as the dreaded 'fiscal cliff' approaches. He also puts Wisconsin in play as a possible swing state and could help Romney make inroads with youth voters.
Whatever else Mitt does, he wouldn't dare pick Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, would he? Too risky, goes the Beltway chorus. His selection would make Medicare and the House budget the issue, not the economy. The 42-year-old is too young, too wonky, too, you know, serious. Beneath it all you can hear the murmurs of the ultimate Washington insult -- that Ryan is too dangerous because he thinks politics is about things that matter. That dude really believes in something, and we certainly can't have that. All of which highly recommend him for the job.
WHY HE WON'T BE: Running on Ryan's budget is actually a pretty big risk, with the potential for political suicide.
That's because Ryan's budget offers little specifics and drastically reforms popular entitlement programs, most notably Medicare. When Ryan first proposed a version of his budget in 2011, Democrats used it to score a surprising victory in an upstate New York special election. Ryan has also said that he believes he can be more helpful to Romney in his current position as House Budget Chair.
WHY HE'LL BE VP: Portman is widely thought of as the 'safe' pick -- he's admired by the GOP Establishment, and wouldn't overpower Romney on the ticket. Portman also happens to hail from the important swing state of Ohio, where Republicans think he could make a difference in November.
Portman is a respected voice who can hit Obama on the federal deficit, which has consistently been one of the top two or three issues on voters' minds heading into the election. He was head of the OMB under President George W. Bush, and was on the debt ceiling 'supercommittee' last year. In February, he released an analysis on the fiscal irresponsibility of the Obama administration.
WHY HE WON'T BE: The 'boring' or 'vanilla' factor also works against Portman -- even his own constituents don't know who he is. Public Policy Polling found in a recent survey that 37 per cent of Ohioans have no opinion of his work as a Senator. The poll also found that he doesn't really help Romney there -- Obama's lead in the swing state actually goes up a point with Portman on the ticket. Nationally, an astounding 62 per cent of Americans do not know who Portman is, according to a recent Gallup poll.
More problematically, the Obama campaign would undoubtedly tie Portman to the economic policies of his former boss, President George W. Bush. In late April, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod offered this preview on how the campaign will hit Portman:
'The challenge with Senator Portman, is that Senator Portman was one of the architects of the last administration's budget policies,' Axelrod said.
'And it's just one more sign--if he does that,' Axelrod added of Romney picking him as the vice presidential nominee, 'that he wants to go back to those policies.'
WHY HE'LL BE VP: Pawlenty was the favourite last month, but his odds have spiraled down while Portman and Ryan have risen on Intrade.
But Pawlenty definitely has Romney's ear, and he has been Romney's most reliable surrogate since dropping out of the race. Politico recently tapped him as the guy who can add the 'regular-guy, working-man connection with voters in casual settings' -- qualities that Romney is thought to lack.
WHY HE WON'T BE: The Star-Tribune points out that one word usually follows Pawlenty's name: 'Boring.' Sen. John McCain passed over Pawlenty as a potential VP pick in 2008 in favour of another rising governor who could bring more excitement to the ticket.
Pawlenty also attacked Romney during the Republican primary season on health care, dubbing Romney's Massachusetts legislation 'Obamneycare.' And Romneycare is a bit of a soft subject with conservatives these days.
Pawlenty also doesn't have geography in his favour: Minnesota is likely staying blue with or without his name on the Republican ticket.
The benefits are obvious: Rubio is young, Hispanic, and he can energize the base. He keeps winning most polls as the choice of Republicans and Tea Partiers, including a CNN/ORC poll Thursday that showed he was far and away the preferred choice. He also got an endorsement Friday from Rudy Giuliani.
WHY HE WON'T BE: Is Marco Rubio the next Sarah Palin? Moving past the 'wow' factor, it's easy to see similarities between the junior Florida Senator and the former Alaska Governor. The Romney campaign has emphasised the candidate's experience--particularly in the private-sector business area, and Marco Rubio has none of that. Plus, polls in Florida keep showing that Rubio wouldn't do much to help Romney take the key swing state.
WHY HE'LL BE VP: As we pointed out after his keynote speech at the New York Republican state dinner in April, Jindal has been sounding awfully vice presidential these days. He's young, charismatic, and, as an Indian-American, lends diversity to the ticket. He has a proven ability to win over blue-collar conservative voters, and would pump up Romney's credentials with conservatives.
Jindal also signed one of the most significant state education reforms in recent memory this year, and has been the Romney campaign's go-to surrogate on education reform.
WHY HE WON'T BE: Jindal is most known on a national stage for his spectacularly awful Republican response speech to the State of the Union in 2009. He also hasn't won over everyone with his education reform, and he holds the dubious distinction of being governor of the state with the country's highest prison population. There's also questions of whether he can bring in moderates and Independent voters to the ticket.
WHY HE'LL BE VP: While Thune remains a dark horse in the V.P. race, buzz about the South Dakota Senator has grown in recent weeks. Thune is a conservative favourite whose reputation was built after he defeated Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota in 2004. A recent U.S. News poll found that he was among the top three candidates chosen for VP by top Republican strategists.
And for what it's worth, Newt Gingrich told MSNBC's Chris Matthews in an epic episode of Hardball in May that Thune was 'extraordinarily attractive'-- as a vice presidential candidate, that is.
WHY HE WON'T BE: He's a senator from a largely conservative, non-swing state with nothing especially significant to offer to the ticket -- McCain reportedly didn't choose Thune because he didn't have any 'game-changing' qualities. Also, Thune voted for TARP and did a brief stint as a lobbyist, neither of which fall in line with Romney's Washington-outsider message.
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