Reading the coverage of the potential vice presidential picks is like reliving the worst days of last summer. We’re told, for a variety of arbitrary reasons, that all of the exciting possibilities (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie) are long-shots. Each day it seems more likely that the VP pick will be impossibly boring; either Tim Pawlenty with his midwestern blandness or the smart but sleep-inducing Rob Portman.
The vetting of possible vice-presidential candidates is approaching an end. It has been a deeply secretive process, but several Republicans close to the campaign believe Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Portman stand out among those being considered.
In 2008, as Mr. McCain was narrowing in on a running mate, several aides recommended Mr. Pawlenty. Others pushed for a bolder choice, a candidate who would create more enthusiasm among Republican activists.
Four years later, being passed over for Sarah Palin may work in Mr. Pawlenty’s favor. “In a lot of ways, he’s the anti-Palin,” said Steve Schmidt, a strategist to Mr. McCain who expressed regret for her selection. “Here’s a guy who is prepared to be president on Day 1. In any normal year, he would have been the pick.”
Pundits often point to the maxim “Do No Harm” as the Golden Rule of choosing a VP. It may seem like Pawlenty fits that bill, as he’s pre-vetted, comfortable on the campaign trail, folksy and inoffensive.
But this is also someone who was barely eking by at 3 percent in the primaries last August, despite his outsized media coverage. There was absolutely no energy there. While conservatives want Obama out of office, Romney can’t sit back and expect that alone to get them out to the polls. Conservatives have already struggled to come around in support of Romney. How much more “enthusiasm” will they be able to muster up for a Romney-Pawlenty ticket?