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David Axelrod Offers Romney VP Advice

Mitt Romney received some advice from an unusual source this afternoon, the National Journal reports:

“If I were picking, I’d pick Pawlenty,” Axelrod told National Journal. “You shouldn’t write that, because everybody will think I’m trying to bait [Romney] into picking Pawlenty.” …

Opposition research, of course, is at the ready for everyone thought to be on Romney’s short list. But the psychological preparations at Obama’s Chicago headquarters seem geared almost entirely toward a Romney-Pawlenty ticket.

“That’s my influence,” Axelrod told NJ. “I’ve been saying Pawlenty for four months. The reasoning, as a strategist, would be: He is acceptable to the right and the evangelicals, but he’s not scary to moderates. He’s good on television. He’s been through this.”  …

Axelrod also seems to have taken stock of Pawlenty’s TV chops and emerged with grudging professional admiration.

“Of all of those you have heard of, he’s got a pretty good TV style,” Axelrod said.  “He’s cool. He’s casual. He can be colloquial. I would be surprised if they didn’t pick him. And I think Romney’s kind of not looking for risk.”

I can’t imagine this is some clumsy attempt by Axelrod to sway the VP pick in his favor, as he knows his advice isn’t going to have any influence one way or the other. It seems more like Axelrod is trying to set the messaging tone against Paul Ryan or Rob Portman, on the assumption that Pawlenty is a less likely pick.

If Ryan gets the nod, the initial Democratic talking point will be that Romney capitulated to the extreme right instead of choosing a more moderate, reasonable Republican like Pawlenty (although, if Pawlenty does get chosen, don’t expect Axelrod to call him a moderate ever again). And as Axelrod notes in the article, Rob Portman will get tied to President Bush’s economic policies.

There are others who also seem skeptical that Pawlenty will get the nod. Byron York reported this morning that Pawlenty will make an appearance on the Sunday shows, which seems to suggest he isn’t the choice:

Other VP possibilities, notably Rob Portman and Paul Ryan, turned down invitations to appear on the Sunday shows.

People in the extended Romney circle view the Sunday appearances as a sign that Pawlenty is less likely to be the vice presidential pick. They feel certain that Pawlenty would not appear unless his appearances were cleared by the Romney campaign. And they also believe that Romney does not want his soon-to-be-announced pick all over the airwaves in the run-up to Romney’s big announcement; no reason to risk a possible mistake or put the contender in an awkward situation. Therefore, if Pawlenty is appearing, it suggests he’s not the guy.

That could mean nothing, but it makes sense that the Romney camp wouldn’t want its running mate selection getting grilled on high-pressure talk shows so soon before the announcement.