As we write in today's Hotline spotlight (Subscribers can click here), it's highly likely that North Carolinians have seen Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee -- it's just not clear which one of the high-profile Republicans on Romney's short list trapsing through the battleground state is going to come back in an even higher-profile role.
North Carolina has become an audition stage of sorts for potential vice presidential contenders. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell were in the state in May for a Republican Governors Association meeting. Rep. Paul Ryan and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty visited earlier this month in separate trips on Romney's behalf. Sen. Rob Portman is heading to the state this week, and Sen. Marco Rubio will make pitstops there during a tour to promote his autobiography later this month.
Five of those six candidates -- Jindal, Ryan, Pawlenty, Portman and Rubio -- make up the consensus short list among knowledgable insiders Hotline consults for its monthly Vice Presidential Power Rankings. This month, we rank Portman and Pawlenty as the two favorites; both fit the "boring white guy" criteria, both are are close to the Romney campaign, and both are getting serious buzz in insider circles (Pawlenty, not on anyone's radar a few months ago, is not to be underestimated, according to our sources).