Every month at the Hotline, we publish our veepstakes rankings, the list of the most likely running mates to serve on Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket. It’s preceded by a vigorous staff-wide debate on the merits of the numerous contenders. The process is hardly an exact science, but we use our best judgment, reporting, and intuition to make the final calls.
But I’m having an increasingly difficult time reconciling the buzz that Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are the clear favorites, even as I’m finding it harder to see what they add to the ticket. Given Romney’s tendency to play it safe, GOP operatives insist they’re the front-runners, but my gut instinct and contrarian nature make me think we could be in for a preconvention surprise.
Portman, for all his strengths, is a consummate Beltway insider — one of the worst political sins in this antiestablishment political environment. Even more damaging, he worked for President George W. Bush as the director of the Office of Management and Budget at a time when spending was on the rise. That’s a double whammy, alienating independents who fear Romney’s economic policies will be a return to the Bush years and disappointing conservatives who could view Portman as complicit in the excess spending.