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July 30th, 2012

Veepstakes: The Elite Eight

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign held what seemed to be a vetting process last week for his potential running mate. While the former Massachusetts governor is overseas, eight of his top surrogates were deployed in swing states to campaign on Romney’s behalf.

That included campaign events in Iowa headlined by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was scheduled to appear in Des Moines Saturday, but plane issues prevented his visit. Rubio was able to campaign for Romney in Nevada earlier in the day and spoke to the Des Moines crowd by phone.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, South Dakota Senator John Thune, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte also made appearances on the trail while the presidential hopeful is away.

Romney is expected to make his vice-presidential selection soon. Only four weeks remain until the Republican National Convention. If history is any indication, Romney is most likely to pick his running mate the week of August 19-25.

Since 1988, every Republican vice-presidential nominee was announced the week before, or in Dan Quayle’s case, the week of, the RNC convention. The same holds true for the Democrats since 1992, with the exception of John Edwards. John Kerry picked Edwards on July 6, 2008, while their convention did not begin until July 26.

If Romney sticks to the typical formula, the VP hopefuls likely still have a little time to make their case. It seems probable that Romney will choose from the pool of eight candidates who campaigned for him last week. Former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice’s name was floated a few weeks ago, but her pro-choice stances and disdain for politics make Rice an unlikely selection.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an early Romney endorser, was not dispatched to the campaign trail last week. His bombastic style and charisma could overshadow Romney, so he does not appear to be a good fit for the ticket.

When picking a running mate, a candidate wants someone who will help win the election, and is ready to take over the job in case of emergency. At the very least, you do not want someone who will cost you votes.

With that in mind, here is a look at the eight most likely GOP vice-presidential nominees, what they bring to the ticket, and their potential negatives. They are listed alphabetically by last name:


The New Hampshire senator was elected in 2010 after serving five years as the state’s attorney general. The lone female in the group, Ayotte has more experience on the national stage than Sarah Palin did four years ago, but also lacks the chutzpah of the former Alaska governor. Ayotte is a capable surrogate with a conservative voting record and New Hampshire is considered a swing state, albeit a small one.

Bottom Line: She might help Romney close the gender gap with Obama, but is less experienced than the others on this list, and is likely to be targeted by a liberal media witch hunt, much like Palin.


Now in his second term as Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal’s resume is very impressive. Despite only being 41 years old, Jindal is a former two-term congressman, president of Louisiana’s university system, and assistant secretary of the HHS. Jindal’s Iowa visits were well received. He’s a rising star, a good stump speaker and a policy whiz.

The Louisiana governor’s Indian-American heritage helps the GOP fight the “old, white guy” perception that Republicans are painted with. Jindal is also a strong social and fiscal conservative who could help Romney bring evangelicals into the fold. Also, the contrast of two governors on the ticket facing two former senators helps the Romney campaign’s narrative about executive experience.

Bottom Line: Jindal would be a very good pick for Romney.


The Virginia governor also boasts an extremely impressive resume. He’s a former Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, longtime Virginia state house representative, was the attorney general prior to being elected governor, and currently serves as the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.

Bottom Line: A strong social conservative of a swing state, McDonnell brings a lot to the ticket.


A former two-term governor of Minnesota, this is Pawlenty’s second run as one of the VP finalists. John McCain strongly considered picking him four years ago. Pawlenty was a solid governor with a conservative record. However, he failed to excite people about his presidential bid and Pawlenty probably could not deliver Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes in November.

Bottom Line: TPaw is a safe choice, but is not likely to pull in many new voters for Romney.


A freshman senator from Ohio, Rob Portman is one of the favorites among the D.C. establishment. That makes sense, because he’s one of them. Portman served in the White House under Bush 41 and 43. He was George W. Bush’s OMB director in 2006-07. Those ties will make it very easy to tie the Romney campaign to Bush, which the Democrats are desperate to do.

Bottom Line: Portman is a social conservative from one of the most important swing states in the country, so picking him brings both positives and negatives to the ticket.


The Florida senator is perhaps the only in the group of eight with a rock star-like appeal. Rubio was the Tea Party candidate in 2010, not just in Florida, but nationwide. There was genuine excitement in Des Moines about seeing Rubio last weekend, even in a rainstorm.  His Cuban-American heritage could help the GOP capture a greater share of the Hispanic vote, and that makes the Democrats very nervous.

Bottom Line: He could bring some much-needed excitement to the GOP ticket and help secure Florida’s crucial 29 electoral votes. It would be wise for Romney to give Rubio strong consideration.


The Wisconsin representative is wildly popular with conservatives, but widely scorned by liberals. As the chair of the House Budget Committee, Ryan’s budget plans have been attacked and distorted by the Democrats, with claims that he will end Medicare. Ryan, 42, is another rising star in the Republican Party.

Bottom Line: Another candidate from a crucial swing state, but Ryan brings a lot of positives and negatives to the ticket.


Now in his second-term as U.S. Senator from South Dakota, Thune was also a three-term congressman. He is not a big name on the national stage. However, Thune is well-liked and respected in GOP circles and his conservative bona fides are suitable. He’s not particularly charismatic and South Dakota is a state Romney should win easily.

Bottom Line: He’s another safe pick, but does not bring much else to the ticket.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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