Sen. Rob Portman: Another member of the square-jaw caucus, Portman has been another consistent surrogate for Romney. It helps a great deal that he hails from Ohio, a must-win state. And it may help more that he has been the GOP’s go-to guy in debate preparation sessions for decades—assuming the role of everyone from Hillary Rodham Clinton (opposite Senate candidate Rick Lazio) to Barack Obama (against McCain in 2008). Can’t hurt.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: She apparently wowed a group of conservative activists at a recent Romney donor retreat in Utah, but there’s one problem. She says no, and she says it emphatically. Over and over. That works for me.
Sen. Marco Rubio: What’s not to like? A fresh face who represents a critical state—Florida—and is beloved by tea party activists who still regard Romney with suspicion. Plus, he can be an attack dog when warranted, as in this recent tweet: “Listening to @BarackObama wage #classwarfare in #Jacksonville #Florida.Parts of it sound like speech by left-wing 3rd world leader.” Romney says Rubio is on his list, but in this closely held environment, it’s hard to tell red herrings from reality anymore.
Rep. Paul Ryan: Steely eyed, resolute, and the ultimate budget deficit hawk, Ryan is also a tea party favorite and a sought-after speaker in Republican circles well outside of his native Wisconsin. But Congress as an institution is not exactly popular these days, and Romney has to be thinking outsiders can be of greater help.
Sen. John Thune: Rounding out the square-jawed caucus, South Dakota’s Thune recently committed the ultimate faux pas. He admitted that he is on the list. Kind of. Asked by The Hill newspaper whether he was being vetted by the campaign, he responded, “Well, I think the question on that—the way we've always answered it, tried to answer that, is that the campaign—that's a question for them to answer, they've got a process in place, we're respectful of that.” Read what you want into that.
There are other names on various lists, including Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and South Carolina Gov.Nikki Haley. Each could give any GOP ticket a boost. But we are fast approaching the point where all speculation is futile. Romney is on the verge of a decision, and when he announces, all the fun will be over (or just beginning).
Which is why I am breaking my promise to you now. But who am I missing and why? Leave a comment here or tweet me @pbsgwen.