With the general election unofficially underway, the veepstakes speculation (and it really is pure, unadulterated speculation) is in full gear. At Hotline, we've come out with our in-depth look at the potential contenders, and my colleague Reid Wilson laid out the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most prominent contenders in his column this week.
Meanwhile, I've come to think of the veepstakes like the NCAA tournament, splitting the candidates into four different regions featuring important attributes that Team Romney will be weighing seriously (Hispanics, Women, safe governing picks, conservative leaders). Nearly all of the contenders fit neatly into one of these four boxes, and I expect the "final four" will come from the top candidate from each of these categories.
My final four, as things currently stand, is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (the Hispanic top seed), New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (as the female top seed), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (as the safe governing top seed), and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (as the conservative leader top seed). In my judgment, there are some solid two seeds in several of the categories, particularly the conservative leader region. There, you'd have governors like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, with an impressive record of well-received conservative reforms during his tenure and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose approval rating is near 60 percent in a Democratic state despite taking on entitlements and spending head-on.
We've already laid out the pros and cons from all the candidates in our coverage. So below the jump, I'm laying out my top four seeds - the sweet 16 - in each of the four "regions":