A plurality of Republicans want Mitt Romney to choose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as his running mate, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll conducted as the buzz over Romney's choice continues to build.
But Romney makes his choice facing an overall 7-point deficit, the poll shows, with President Obama once again cracking the all-important 50 percent threshold. Most of the possible "veepstakes" candidates do not have the profile to alter the race immediately, with the possible exception of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is well-known and well-liked, according to the poll.
Twenty-eight percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would most like to see Romney choose Rubio. Next on the list of contenders are Christie and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, each of whom earn the support of 16 percent of Republicans.
No other candidate scores in double-digits. Eight percent want Romney to pick Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, while Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio are each supported by 6 percent. Four percent would like to see Romney pick former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ran for president but dropped out before votes were cast in the nominating process.
Many inside-the-Beltway insiders consider Portman and Pawlenty to be cofavorites, yet they rank lowest among the rank-and-file. And when asked which contender Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is most likely to choose, the two inch only a tick higher: 8 percent think Romney will pick Portman, while 6 percent think he is most likely to tap Pawlenty.
Rubio leads on this measure as well, as fully three in 10 Republicans think Romney is most likely to pick him. Fifteen percent think he will choose Christie, while 13 percent predict Ryan will get the nod. Equal numbers, 5 percent, are putting their money on Jindal and McDonnell.
Christie is the best-known, and most popular, among the contenders. A majority, 55 percent, of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him, while just 8 percent view him unfavorably. Only 23 percent say they have never heard of Christie. Rubio is viewed favorably by half of Republicans, and Ryan by 46 percent, with between a quarter and a third saying they have never heard of them.
But the other likely candidates are less-known, even among Republicans. Though Pawlenty sought his party's presidential nomination, 33 percent of Republicans say they have never heard of him. Portman struggles even more when it comes to name identification: 44 percent have never heard of him, and an additional 22 percent have no opinion of him.
Among all adults, Christie initially looks like Romney's most valuable asset. Thirty-seven percent have a favorable opinion of Christie, while only 21 percent view him unfavorably, and 42 percent say they have no opinion or have never heard of him. Rubio has similar negatives (22 percent), but his favorable rating is a tick lower (32 percent), and 46 percent have no opinion or are unfamiliar with him.
Only 28 percent of Americans know enough about Portman to form an opinion, which breaks down to 17 percent favorable, and 11 percent unfavorable. A majority, 52 percent, have never heard of him. Opinions of Pawlenty are more divided: 22 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable.
Meanwhile, as he considers his choices, Romney trails Obama among all registered voters, with the incumbent at 52 percent, compared with 45 percent for Romney. That is despite a yawning generation gap: Obama leads by 48 percentage points among voters aged 18-34, while Romney wins voters 65 and older, who constitute a significantly larger percentage of the electorate, by 18 points.
The poll was conducted Aug. 7-8, surveying 1,010 adults, for an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. For the subsample of 911 registered voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. There were 419 interviews with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents regarding Romney's running-mate choice; those results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.