Mitt Romney promotes himself as a chief executive fit for the White House. He has now begun the process of making his most consequential management decision yet: choosing a vice president.
Romney’s search for a running mate is officially under way. His campaign appearance yesterday with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American whose popularity with Republican voters and Hispanics has earned him a top spot on the list of prospective picks, only drew attention to a process that is as secretive as it is closely watched.
What is known is that Romney -- who was vetted for the No. 2 spot in 2008 by the campaign of the party’s nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain -- has named longtime aide Beth Myers to head the process, tapping a trusted adviser whose experience assisting the former Massachusetts governor four years ago will inform her effort this time.
“Beth Myers has begun to put together a number of the names and criteria and so forth that would be associated with that process,” Romney told reporters in a joint question-and- answer session with Rubio yesterday outside Philadelphia. “But we really haven’t had a discussion yet of putting together a list or evaluating various candidates.”
Romney said he and Myers have begun looking for the people -- including those well-versed in examining financial records -- who will help scrub potential candidates’ backgrounds for any impropriety, political liability or other problems.
‘Very Early Stages’
“We’re looking at various people, resources to help with that process, accounting staff and so forth, to take a look at tax returns and things of that nature,” Romney said. “It’s just at the very early stages.”
Vice presidential nominees typically make their debut at the party’s national convention, giving Romney months to make a decision before it gets under way on Aug. 27. He is expected to cement his front-runner status in primaries today in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Among the many unknowns is what Romney will try to achieve with his selection.
The choice typically mixes intangible factors, including personal rapport and personality type with straightforward political considerations, such as appeal in a competitive state or with a certain element of the party base.
“There’s a well-developed set of criteria, and no one person ever scores a 10 on each criteria; so then it becomes a judgment call made by the candidate and his team,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican polling specialist with Virginia-based North Star Opinion Research.
“Personal comfort with the nominee is a very important criterion -- comfort and chemistry,” Ayres said. “And then the political criteria of ’Can someone bring a state that Romney might not otherwise get,’ or ’Can you generate excitement for the ticket because you are trusted among a part of the coalition that doesn’t particularly trust him.’”
Romney’s advisers wouldn’t speak publicly about the selection process, and the campaign declined through spokeswoman Andrea Saul to comment. Still, some people close to the candidate say privately that they expect to see his disciplined, data-driven decision-making approach prevail in his search for a running mate.
In particular, they said he probably won’t seek to shake up the race by choosing a little-known candidate, as McCain did when he tapped then-first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. While the choice delighted anti-tax, small-government Republicans with whom McCain needed to improve his standing, it was widely seen as alienating potential swing voters.
Running Mate Qualifications
The qualification set of a running mate “is something that we’re going to be considering down the road as we consider various potential vice presidential nominees,” Romney told reporters.
With the party base split after a three-month primary, attention also is being focused on Republicans who might earn Romney better standing with voters motivated by their opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage as well as the party’s anti-tax Tea Party faction.
“It has to be a concern, and if the idea is generate excitement among the most conservative elements of the party, there are lots of superstars,” Ayres said, naming Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as examples.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell --who have all appeared with Romney and campaigned on his behalf -- are also regarded as strong prospects.
And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the best-known and best-liked of Romney’s potential running mates, according to an April 19 Quinnipiac University national poll, is frequently mentioned as a finalist.
If there is one thing all Romney’s possible running mates have in common, it’s their determination not to comment on their chances or the selection process.
Rubio will no longer even entertain questions about it.
“I’m not talking about that process anymore,” he told reporters in Pennsylvania yesterday.
Pressed in an April 20 interview with the Washington Post, Portman said of being chosen for the vice presidency: “It isn’t my objective.”
It’s not Christie’s either, he told reporters on April 17. Still, he added that it would be “extraordinarily arrogant” of him not to listen to Romney if he were to ask him to join the Republican ticket. If “Mitt Romney calls and wants to discuss it with me, I will sit down and talk with Governor Romney about it.”
Romney should have no shortage of others offering their thoughts on the matter. “Everybody’s an expert at this,” Ayres said. “The campaign, the nominee and his advisers will get inundated with unsolicited advice.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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