Mitt Romney may be tight-lipped about his vice presidential short list, warning that only he and longtime aide Beth Myers know who is on it, but a close examination of the campaign's activity suggests four contenders have risen through the ranks: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
(...) Final short lists tend to have three names: Barack Obama’s trio included Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Evan Bayh. John McCain’s final three were Romney, Pawlenty and Joe Lieberman, though Sarah Palin ultimately leapfrogged them all.
In this case, though, the presumptive Republican nominee has a reputation for gathering copious amounts of data to make his decisions, and that’s why a pick out of leftfield, like McCain’s choice of Palin, is unlikely.
(...) The ability to fly solo is notable because of who is not currently doing it. Take New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was Romney’s surrogate in chief during the thick of the primary season. Sources close to the campaign say Christie fell out of favor with Romney’s inner circle in Boston because he was late to events and made too many demands. His public commentary often comes off as brazen, and he’s regarded by many in the political class as something of a risk. Some news outlets have painted South Dakota Sen. John Thune as a dark horse for the short list, but since the dawn of the general election phase, he has yet to stand with Romney on stage in a swing state or headline a campaign event in the Midwest, suggesting his purported rise was something of a myth all along. Newt Gingrich and John Bolton have aided the campaign with solo events, but they expressly are not short-listers.
The “flying solo” consideration is also a critical piece of the puzzle in light of McCain’s selection of Palin. The then-governor of Alaska did not handle this aspect well and broke the No. 1 rule for any VP candidate of “first, do no harm.” That’s why each of Romney’s potential running mates has to pass the test of campaigning successfully on his own before anyone is named.
Indeed, Romney’s campaign publicized appearances in North Carolina, a must-win swing state, by Pawlenty, Portman and Ryan. Portman is also headlining an event solo Friday in New Hampshire, and Pawlenty has done several already and he and Jindal will appear in Ohio today to shadow the president’s bus tour of the Buckeye State and Pennsylvania. Jindal also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this past Sunday on Romney’s behalf.
As wild cards, Ayotte, McDonnell and Rubio match some of the criteria.
(...) Dark horses and surprise picks happen sometimes, but that probably won’t be the case with Romney. And don’t forget: Short lists by definition are limited, and don’t contain six or seven names.