In Vice Presidential Buzz, Pawlenty Is Up While Rubio's Status Is Muddled

Jun 20, 2012
Originally published on July 19, 2012 4:07 pm

Back in April when NPR looked at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's potential running-mate picks, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP Govs. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia were on our short list.

But this week, the contours of the GOP veepstakes have shifted. Daniels is reportedly in line to become president of Purdue University. And McDonnell's prospects dimmed after his recent high-profile in-state battles over contraception and mandated pre-abortion ultrasounds.

And what of rising star Rubio, 41, the son of Cuban immigrants and a favorite of Tea Party conservatives?

News accounts this week based on unnamed sources asserted that the former member of the Florida House of Representatives wasn't even being vetted for the job. Romney's initial response when asked about the reports was: "Only Beth Myers and I know who is being vetted." Myers is a longtime Romney aide who is heading the search.

But by late Tuesday, after hours of headlines about Rubio's reported lack of vetting, Romney attempted to bat down the anonymous reports as false. "Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process," he said.

With all of that in mind, we decided to take another look at the potential GOP veep list, including the recent rise in the stock of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He is perhaps best remembered nationally as the unlucky candidate who appeared poised to be the Republican vice presidential pick in 2008 before nominee John McCain went rogue with then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

There are still vice presidential long — and longer — shots out there, including Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Govs. Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. In the wake of conflicting (and embarrassing) reports that Rubio either is or isn't being vetted, we'll leave the party's most prominent Hispanic in the long-shot category for now.

Here's a look at shortlist contenders:

Rob Portman, 56

Current job: U.S. senator from Ohio

Past posts: Director of Management and Budget, and U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush; U.S. representative from Ohio; director of Office of Legislative Affairs and associate counsel to President George H.W. Bush

Upside: Expert on Congress, trade and money issues; from a key swing state; seen as a safe choice

Downside: Strong ties to Bush administration and its policies; polls suggest he doesn't rouse voters in Ohio, and Gallup survey says 62 percent of Americans have never heard of him


Tim Pawlenty, 51

Current job: Romney campaign co-chair; paid speaker represented by Leading Authorities agency (typical fee about $24,000, according to a 2011 FEC filing); serves on several corporate boards

Past posts: Governor of Minnesota; member and majority leader of Minnesota House of Representatives; vice president of software company Wizmo Inc.; Eagan City Council member; lawyer

Upside: Comfortable, "Joe Six-Pack" balance to businessman Romney; two terms of executive experience as governor; evangelical Christian

Downside: Referred to Romney health care overhaul in Massachusetts as the blueprint for "Obamneycare"; taint of failure after missing the vice presidential nod in 2008 and his short-lived, lackluster 2012 presidential campaign


Paul Ryan, 42

Current job: U.S. representative from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee

Past posts: Legislative director for Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; staff assistant at Empower America; aide to Sen. Robert Kasten, R-Wis.

Upside: Hero to anti-tax, fiscal conservative base; viewed as expert on budget; unafraid to go on attack on the stump

Downside: Highly polarizing; party would lose its most aggressive budget cutter in Congress


Kelly Ayotte, 43

Current job: U.S. senator from New Hampshire

Past posts: New Hampshire attorney general and deputy attorney general; legal counsel to New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson; state prosecutor; lawyer at Manchester, N.H., law firm

Upside: A woman seen as party up-and-comer; represents swing state

Downside: Inexperience on national stage; "informal" Romney adviser tells MSNBC that Palin "poisoned the well" for a female vice presidential candidate this year


Chris Christie, 49

Current job: Governor of New Jersey

Past posts: U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey; lobbyist for Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci; member of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Upside: Popular national figure; blunt personality appealing

Downside: Popular national figure; blunt personality appealing — which has the potential to overshadow the candidate, a la McCain/Palin in 2008

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