Mitt Romney said Tuesday that contrary to published reports, Marco Rubio is being vetted for the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket this fall. The move shed a rare ray of light on what so far has been a completely hidden process -- but there are still ways to interpret what's happening behind the scenes.
In the face of the veepstakes guessing game, most politicians presumed to be under consideration have taken the same tactic: Refuse to answer. But sometimes shifts in phrasing – and the fact that some have clammed up -- hold clues.
Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and onetime presidential candidate, switched from telling reporters to “take my name off the list” to saying he would be “honored” to take the job. In recent weeks he’s gone mute and started refusing to discuss “the process.” The same is true of Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who went from saying he hadn’t been contactedby Romney’s campaign in mid-May to saying he wouldn’t discuss the process earlier this month.
Then there’s the tactic that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has embraced: flee. When National Journal asked about his vice presidential prospects at the beginning of June, he literally turned on his heel and jogged in the other direction, saying he had to go vote.
Ryan, Pawlenty, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were all named as serious contenders by The Washington Post. A source who told the paper Rubio wasn’t being vetted also said the campaign “left open the possibility that Romney officials could decide to thoroughly vet Rubio at a later date,” raising questions about whether Rubio was catapulted into more active consideration in the wake of the news reports on Tuesday.
There are other prominent politicians who say they have not been contacted by his campaign, and are not turning over information.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters earlier this month that the Romney campaign hadn’t requested any vetting documents, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Romney’s liaison to the House, recently told National Journal she hadn’t gotten any requests. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who campaigned with Romney last Friday in her state, said a day before that she hadn’t been contacted by the campaign. Likewise, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia told WTOP radio on May 29 that he wasn’t being vetted.
There’s also Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who has said that he’s “pretty sure” he’s not being considered and has been rather vehement in denying interest in the job. Evidence of the latter came on Tuesday when two Indiana news outlets (here and here) reported that Daniels is expected to be named the next president of Indiana’s Purdue University, pending a nomination and vote by the school’s board of trustees on Thursday.
There’s still plenty of time for a surprise last-minute pick. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became a serious prospect shortly before the 2008 convention as John McCain sought to inject excitement into the race. And Dick Cheney, who ran George W. Bush’s vetting process in 2000, ended up on the ticket himself.