Commentary Magazine


Topic: GOP vice presidential nomination

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.”

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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.

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Romney Drops Hint About Ryan for VP?

Mitt Romney gave some details about what he’s looking for in a running mate during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd yesterday, and some are wondering whether there was a hint that Romney will go for one of the bolder VP options:

CHUCK TODD: What do you want your running mate to say about you?  What do you want your selection to say about what kind of president you’re going to be?

MITT ROMNEY: I don’t think I have anything for you on the VP running mate. Other than I– I certainly expect to have a person that has a strength of character, a vision for the country, that, that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country. I mean, I happen to believe this is a defining election for America; that we’re going to be voting for what kind of America we’re going to have.

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Mitt Romney gave some details about what he’s looking for in a running mate during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd yesterday, and some are wondering whether there was a hint that Romney will go for one of the bolder VP options:

CHUCK TODD: What do you want your running mate to say about you?  What do you want your selection to say about what kind of president you’re going to be?

MITT ROMNEY: I don’t think I have anything for you on the VP running mate. Other than I– I certainly expect to have a person that has a strength of character, a vision for the country, that, that adds something to the political discourse about the direction of the country. I mean, I happen to believe this is a defining election for America; that we’re going to be voting for what kind of America we’re going to have.

If Romney is truly seeking a running mate with a “vision for the country,” that seems to contradict the conventional wisdom that his choice is going to be based primarily on competence and governing ability. Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty are fine candidates in many ways, but you’d have a hard time attributing a grand national vision to either one of them. Out of all of the likely VP choices, Paul Ryan is by far the one most associated with the word “vision” (this is a measurable fact, as New York magazine illustrates with a graph of Google search results). And while Marco Rubio’s vision may be less developed and obvious, the Weekly Standard has argued that he would be an ideal candidate to provide a contrast to Obama’s vision of the American dream:

The moment he’s picked, Rubio will become by far the most prominent Hispanic politician in the country. And in a contest largely about competing visions of the American dream, against a president who has minimized the importance of hard work as a road to success, Rubio’s personal story, of a father who worked as a bartender and a mother as a maid to provide opportunities for their children, would provide a powerful counterargument.

As John argued earlier today, Romney’s policies need to be more than wooden props in a stump speech. His choice of running mate may not give him a big, instant bump in the polls. But the right pick could help sharpen and fortify Romney’s own vision for the country, providing him with the support (and ideological confidence) to get below surface-level on his proposals.

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Dems Release Oppo Books on Potential VPs

Pro-Obama super PAC American Bridge 21st Century has released opposition research books on five of Romney’s most likely VP choices, and the messaging is as predictable as you’d expect. Rob Portman’s file ties him to Bush’s economic policies, Tim Pawlenty’s rehashes his anti-Romney attacks during the primaries, Marco Rubio’s targets his autobiographical errors, Bobby Jindal’s hits him about tax cuts for the wealthy, and Paul Ryan’s is one long Mediscare attack. And that’s just the beginning; the booklets are hundreds of pages long and cover everything from the candidates’ statements about contentious social issues to their remarks on the Ryan plan, and (in Rubio’s and Pawlenty’s cases) an entire section on their “neoconservatism.”

Democrats obviously have attack plans lined up for each of them, so there’s no such thing as a completely “safe” pick. Not that it matters — as we’ve seen from the disgraceful Priorities USA ad, if the Obama campaign runs out of attacks, their backers have no problem just making things up.

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Pro-Obama super PAC American Bridge 21st Century has released opposition research books on five of Romney’s most likely VP choices, and the messaging is as predictable as you’d expect. Rob Portman’s file ties him to Bush’s economic policies, Tim Pawlenty’s rehashes his anti-Romney attacks during the primaries, Marco Rubio’s targets his autobiographical errors, Bobby Jindal’s hits him about tax cuts for the wealthy, and Paul Ryan’s is one long Mediscare attack. And that’s just the beginning; the booklets are hundreds of pages long and cover everything from the candidates’ statements about contentious social issues to their remarks on the Ryan plan, and (in Rubio’s and Pawlenty’s cases) an entire section on their “neoconservatism.”

Democrats obviously have attack plans lined up for each of them, so there’s no such thing as a completely “safe” pick. Not that it matters — as we’ve seen from the disgraceful Priorities USA ad, if the Obama campaign runs out of attacks, their backers have no problem just making things up.

But the booklets are a good reminder that the Ryan plan assault can and will happen whether or not Ryan is on the ticket — even if Romney chooses a running mate who hasn’t endorsed the plan, the media will hound him until he takes a position. As Rich Lowry wrote in a column for Politico:

The Democrats’ assault over Medicare will be ferocious — not to mention lowdown and dishonest. Hell, they’ve already all but accused Romney of killing someone, and they haven’t even gotten around to Medicare. When the barrage starts, Romney won’t be able to duck and cover or look at his shoes. He’ll have to win the argument — or at least hold his own.

This is the broader point. Romney has to carry the argument to President Barack Obama. The state of the economy alone isn’t enough to convince people that Romney has better ideas to create jobs. Neither is his résumé. Romney needs to make the case for his program, and perhaps no one is better suited to contribute to this effort than Ryan.

The fight is coming, whether or not Romney invites it forward.

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Polls Show Romney Needs a Change

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have plateaued, according to today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. It’s not much of a surprise, considering the barrage of anti-Romney news during the past few weeks, but it still must be weighing on his mind this week as he makes his final decision on a running mate:

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled over the course of his campaign’s bumpy summer months, with his earlier improvements as he was wrapping up the Republican nomination in the spring appearing to flat-line, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

While 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor–virtually unchanged from May–those holding negative views of Romney ticked higher in the new poll, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting they hold favorable opinions of the incumbent. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably towards him.

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Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have plateaued, according to today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. It’s not much of a surprise, considering the barrage of anti-Romney news during the past few weeks, but it still must be weighing on his mind this week as he makes his final decision on a running mate:

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled over the course of his campaign’s bumpy summer months, with his earlier improvements as he was wrapping up the Republican nomination in the spring appearing to flat-line, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

While 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor–virtually unchanged from May–those holding negative views of Romney ticked higher in the new poll, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting they hold favorable opinions of the incumbent. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably towards him.

The stagnant polls are a sign Romney needs a change. If he picks a dull, mini-me running mate like Republican strategists were advising in Politico today, he’ll be ceding a certain amount of control over his election chances. He may be able to keep his favorability rating stable, or bump it up a few points. But mainly, he’ll be reliant on outside factors that could suppress Obama’s favorability ratings: the state of the economy, the situations in Iran and Syria, the battles in Congress, etc.

Choosing someone like Paul Ryan (or Rubio or Christie) would give Romney a chance to completely change the dynamic of the election — to make it about the larger conservative economic philosophy instead of Romney’s personal career in business. The election would still be a referendum on Obama, but at least Romney could provide a clear and bold alternative. So far, he hasn’t been able to; and a garden-variety VP pick isn’t going to help make that happen.

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Why the Veep Speculation Game Matters

With not much else to talk about during slow summer news weeks, much of the media is spending its time promoting stories they know are either untrue or incredibly unlikely about the identity of Mitt Romney’s running mate. Some of this, as Alana noted earlier today, is just deep in the weeds “tea reading.” Other stories, such as the ones promoting the notion that CIA chief David Petraeus is at the top of the lists that were floated today, seem outlandish. But because nobody but Romney has any idea of who the winner of the GOP veep lottery will be, any suggestion about a potential candidate is just as good as another.

All this makes for a media melee that does not exactly present an edifying spectacle to the public. But whether you think this orgy of unsubstantiated speculation is good fun or just a depressing picture of the state of modern journalism, the willingness of so many to play the game reflects something more than press boredom. Whether Romney is evaluating potential running mates on their ability to govern or their electoral impact or some combination of the two, the intense interest in his choice is also an indication that he needs to do more than just fill in the slot. Some in the GOP believe the country’s economic difficulties mean they are destined to win in November no matter what the pundits say. But the polls indicating President Obama is holding onto a slim lead suggest Romney must pick someone who can energize his party and give him a post-convention bump in the polls that he desperately needs.

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With not much else to talk about during slow summer news weeks, much of the media is spending its time promoting stories they know are either untrue or incredibly unlikely about the identity of Mitt Romney’s running mate. Some of this, as Alana noted earlier today, is just deep in the weeds “tea reading.” Other stories, such as the ones promoting the notion that CIA chief David Petraeus is at the top of the lists that were floated today, seem outlandish. But because nobody but Romney has any idea of who the winner of the GOP veep lottery will be, any suggestion about a potential candidate is just as good as another.

All this makes for a media melee that does not exactly present an edifying spectacle to the public. But whether you think this orgy of unsubstantiated speculation is good fun or just a depressing picture of the state of modern journalism, the willingness of so many to play the game reflects something more than press boredom. Whether Romney is evaluating potential running mates on their ability to govern or their electoral impact or some combination of the two, the intense interest in his choice is also an indication that he needs to do more than just fill in the slot. Some in the GOP believe the country’s economic difficulties mean they are destined to win in November no matter what the pundits say. But the polls indicating President Obama is holding onto a slim lead suggest Romney must pick someone who can energize his party and give him a post-convention bump in the polls that he desperately needs.

The widespread longing for picks that would push the political envelope like Petraeus or Condoleezza Rice is not just a function of the press promoting headline-grabbing stories. It is a clear sign Romney needs to do more than just round up one of the usual colorless suspects who many political observers assume the would-be CEO-in-chief prefers.

There is a widespread assumption that Romney so fears a foolish attempt at a game-changing pick such as Sarah Palin that he will go in the other direction and pick a colorless but seemingly safe choice like Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty. But Romney needs to understand that although his position is stronger than that of John McCain four years ago, he cannot afford to play it safe.

If you are spending this week doing your best to ignore the veep speculation, you are smart, as most of the stories you are likely to read about the topic in the days leading up to Romney’s announcement are probably bunk. But the subtext to this press frenzy is not insignificant. Romney needs a running mate who can help him win. Whether it is a more familiar face like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan or someone who comes in out of left (or should I say right) field, the interest in the subject is an indicator of how important the choice will be.

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Veep Tea Leaves of the Day

TechPresident.com notes that Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page was edited more than 100 times in the five days leading up to John McCain’s running mate announcement. While none of this year’s likely VP contenders have seen a spike in edits that dramatic, Paul Ryan leads with the most changes during the past few days:

None of Wikipedia entries for the current candidates being bandied about by Romney-watchers — Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Tim Pawlenty — are currently showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden’s pages back in 2008. But most of those came in the 24 hours prior to the official announcement. That said, if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what’s coming, then today might be a good day to bet on Ryan. On the other hand, his page is hardly the most popular in terms of views, or watchers, as you can see:

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TechPresident.com notes that Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia page was edited more than 100 times in the five days leading up to John McCain’s running mate announcement. While none of this year’s likely VP contenders have seen a spike in edits that dramatic, Paul Ryan leads with the most changes during the past few days:

None of Wikipedia entries for the current candidates being bandied about by Romney-watchers — Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte or Tim Pawlenty — are currently showing anything like the spike in edits that Cyveillance spotted on Palin and Biden’s pages back in 2008. But most of those came in the 24 hours prior to the official announcement. That said, if Wikipedia changes offer any hint of what’s coming, then today might be a good day to bet on Ryan. On the other hand, his page is hardly the most popular in terms of views, or watchers, as you can see:

It’s not a sure predictor, especially because Romney’s campaign (and his VP choice) will probably be more careful to avoid tipping off the media through Wikipedia changes this year. But at least it beats analyzing the contents of Romney’s grocery cart.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is prepping for Rob Portman as Romney’s VP choice, reports Politico. The president’s team sent out this email to Ohio supporters:

“Very soon, we’ll know if Mitt Romney is choosing our own Senator Rob Portman as his running mate. So Ohioans have a job to do. While Portman’s name has been floating around as a potential pick for Romney for a while now, most Americans don’t know anything about him. If and when Romney does select him, we need to be able to tell the full story about his record on Day One, which could very well be in the next few days. Share what you think Americans need to know about Senator Portman… It’s our responsibility to make sure he isn’t elevated to a position where he can do it again, this time, as vice president.”

No news yet about whether the Obama campaign is sending out similar blasts to supporters in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Florida.

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Ryan-for-VP Rumors Heat Up

Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

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Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

Both the FEC cleanup and the cancelled speech could be completely unrelated and innocuous, but at this point, any unusual activity by any of the VP possibilities is going to be heavily analyzed. Knowing that, it’s interesting Ryan decided to amend its fundraising reports at this time, when he could have waited until next month and aroused far less interest. Why choose this time to do it?

Ryan, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman appear to be the three most likely picks at this point. At National Review, Jay Nordlinger makes the case for Portman, defending him against charges that he’s too “vanilla”:

I don’t know whether he’s the right choice for VP this year. I could argue for about five of them. I could probably bump that up to about eight. But the idea that Portman’s not a real conservative — the genuine article, a child of Reagan — is nuts. “He doesn’t excite me,” people say. Well . . . different people are excited by different things. A superb conservative leader who can help keep this country from swirling down the drain? Not unexciting.

Portman’s perceived dullness may be one problem, but his association with the Bush administration’s economic policies seems to be a far bigger one. The Obama administration is dying to turn this into an argument between President Clinton’s economic policies (as ridiculous as that is, considering Obama has been in office nearly a full term), and the supposed “failed policies of the Bush years.” Why else was Clinton tapped as the keynote for the Democratic National Convention? They’d love nothing more than to tie Romney to the “policies that got us into this mess in the first place,” as Team Obama is fond of saying.

And while Tim Pawlenty positioned himself as a Tea Party type during the last year or so, he still lacks the charisma to really excite the base. He has the experience on the campaign trail and clearly knows how to give a stump speech. But does he have the fire in his belly to take what the Obama campaign is going to throw at him? Remember, he choked at last summer’s debate when he couldn’t bring himself to say “Obamneycare” to Romney’s face. More than that, choosing Pawlenty could end up demoralizing a party that is looking for a gloves-off fight between conservative small-government principles and Obama’s nanny-statism.

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes make the case for either Ryan or Marco Rubio:

It’s become conventional wisdom that Ryan and Rubio would be “bold” picks, while other choices like Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty are “safe.” Perhaps. But what looks safe can be risky. Portman, a good man and respected public servant, was George W. Bush’s budget director. Pawlenty’s presidential campaign was a disaster. The 2010 election was the best for Republicans in a long time. Ryan and Rubio embody the spirit of 2010. Pawlenty and Portman don’t.

But beyond all of the calculations—beyond demography, geography, and the polls—is the most compelling reason for Romney to pick Ryan or Rubio: Doing so would signal that Romney understands the magnitude of the problems facing the country and would demonstrate that he has the will to solve them. It would suggest that Romney knows this is a big moment, and that he’s willing to run a big campaign. And at a time when the country so desperately needs real leadership, Romney would make clear that he’s ready to provide it by picking either Ryan or Rubio.

If Romney is looking for someone who can tap into the energy of the 2010 Tea Party and make this an election about change, he can’t go wrong with Rubio or Ryan.

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Will Romney Name His VP This Week?

The Associated Press is reporting that “Romney could name his running mate by the end of the week,” but it sounds like there’s less to this story than meets the eye:

Outside a Louisiana fundraiser on Monday, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney hadn’t finalized his decision but that an announcement could come within days.

Asked specifically whether Romney could announce his vice presidential pick this week, Fehrnstrom said: “Technically it could, but the governor hasn’t made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision.”

Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.

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The Associated Press is reporting that “Romney could name his running mate by the end of the week,” but it sounds like there’s less to this story than meets the eye:

Outside a Louisiana fundraiser on Monday, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney hadn’t finalized his decision but that an announcement could come within days.

Asked specifically whether Romney could announce his vice presidential pick this week, Fehrnstrom said: “Technically it could, but the governor hasn’t made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision.”

Romney traveled to Louisiana to attend a private fundraiser alongside Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is among those on Romney’s short list for vice president. Romney raised an estimated $2 million at the event, where 40 donors paid $50,000 to attend.

Fehrnstrom’s comments flatly contradict the New York Times report yesterday that suggested Romney already made his decision. And his disclaimer that an announcement could “technically” come this week doesn’t exactly sound promising. Technically it could happen whenever Romney makes the choice, but why announce it so soon? The one benefit is that it could take some of the heat away from Obama’s Bain Capital attacks, but the tradeoff is that it could also mean a smaller post-convention bounce in August. The attacks on Bain will likely be blunted by the Olympic coverage later this month anyway. If history is any guide, this doesn’t seem likely to happen.

But because we’re all just speculating here, Jim Geraghty has some constructive advice: watch the campaign plane.

The Olympics’ opening ceremony is July 27, and London-related headlines are likely to dominate the following weeks. Mid-August is traditionally America’s vacation time. And then there’s the August 27 deadline. So there’s a short window to announce in the coming two weeks, or sometime after the Olympics end August 12.

My suggestion? Keep your eyes on Romney’s campaign plane at night.

As far as tea leaves go, that may be the best we’re going to get.

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Pawlenty’s Stock Rises Amid Veep Rumors

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.

Just this morning, the New York Times caused Pawlenty’s inTrade veepstakes stock to spike with yet another article speculating about his chances:

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.”

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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.

Just this morning, the New York Times caused Pawlenty’s inTrade veepstakes stock to spike with yet another article speculating about his chances:

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?

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Condi Could KO Romney’s Jewish Appeal

Put me down as being among those who are highly skeptical about the prospect of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The media frenzy about the possibility is understandable but despite all the arguments weighing her possible impact on the general election, you really don’t have to go further than the impact of the issue of abortion. Simply put, Mitt Romney needs a united Republican Party and given the questions that were raised about whether he was a genuine conservative and his late conversion to the anti-abortion cause, the idea that he will pick someone who is pro-choice rather than pro-life seems utterly improbable.

As some wags pointed out during the prelude to the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision, covering a story like Romney’s vice presidential pick is like covering an election without opinion polls. Nobody knows what’s really going on except for Romney. Both Michael and Alana have discussed some of the problems that Rice would create for Romney. The list is already long but there’s one more point to be raised. If Romney is planning on taking advantage of President Obama’s questionable record on Israel in order to eat into the Democrats’ historic monopoly on the Jewish vote, Rice will make that task harder. During her tenure as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, Rice consistently took stands that were viewed with suspicion by the pro-Israel community. Indeed, it could be said that during Bush’s last two years of office, which was the period during which was ascendant on foreign policy, Rice had reversed the president’s tilt toward Israel as she embarked upon another failed attempt to revive the peace process.

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Put me down as being among those who are highly skeptical about the prospect of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The media frenzy about the possibility is understandable but despite all the arguments weighing her possible impact on the general election, you really don’t have to go further than the impact of the issue of abortion. Simply put, Mitt Romney needs a united Republican Party and given the questions that were raised about whether he was a genuine conservative and his late conversion to the anti-abortion cause, the idea that he will pick someone who is pro-choice rather than pro-life seems utterly improbable.

As some wags pointed out during the prelude to the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision, covering a story like Romney’s vice presidential pick is like covering an election without opinion polls. Nobody knows what’s really going on except for Romney. Both Michael and Alana have discussed some of the problems that Rice would create for Romney. The list is already long but there’s one more point to be raised. If Romney is planning on taking advantage of President Obama’s questionable record on Israel in order to eat into the Democrats’ historic monopoly on the Jewish vote, Rice will make that task harder. During her tenure as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, Rice consistently took stands that were viewed with suspicion by the pro-Israel community. Indeed, it could be said that during Bush’s last two years of office, which was the period during which was ascendant on foreign policy, Rice had reversed the president’s tilt toward Israel as she embarked upon another failed attempt to revive the peace process.

Rice, who seems cut from the “realist” school that was most comfortable during the presidency of the elder George Bush, was a persistent critic of Israel even once falsely comparing the plight of Palestinians to that of African-Americans prior to the Civil Rights era. Though the second President Bush had formally committed the United States to an endorsement of Israel’s right to hold onto various parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem in a peace accord in 2004, Rice seemed to distance herself from that pledge as she foolishly sought to revive the peace process despite a lack of interest in the idea on the part of the Palestinians. Slipping into the pattern that had been a keystone of U.S. foreign policy under both the first Bush and Bill Clinton, Rice seemed uninterested in holding the Palestinian Authority accountable for its behavior or even its rejection of the offer of a state that it got from Israel at the time of the Annapolis summit that she promoted.

Though Rice’s stands were not aimed at distancing the United States from Israel, as was the intent of President Obama’s constant fighting with Jerusalem prior to his current election-year Jewish charm offensive, she nevertheless developed a reputation as someone who was less committed to the alliance than her boss in the Oval Office.

Rice’s presence on the ticket will cost Romney far more evangelical votes than she could possibly lose in the Jewish community. Nevertheless, Rice will give Jewish Democrats a chance to fire back at Republicans who have been touting the contrast between Obama and Romney. Though Rice is a brilliant and accomplished woman whose personal story will be an inspiration to the country, she will diminish the chances that Romney will, as some expect, gain more Jewish votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan. That’s not as nearly as important as the problems she will create with the conservative base of the Republican Party but it is one more reason to believe that the Rice boomlet isn’t real.

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