By Alexander Bolton - 07/12/12 10:00 AM EDT
Republican senators say it would be smart for Mitt Romney to announce his vice presidential selection soon, weeks before the party convention in Tampa, Fla.
They say it would give Romney a week of favorable press coverage — and help him raise more money — when Democrats are organizing coordinated attacks against his campaign.
It would provide certainty about the Republican ticket and give Romney’s advisers more time to fine-tune the campaign’s mechanics heading into Election Day.
“No. 3, perhaps most important, it would give Romney a very useful surrogate,” he added. “Someone who could go to fundraisers, someone who could make speeches, someone who could begin to call President Obama’s record into question.”
Romney now has a variety of surrogates pushing his campaign message, including vice-presidential hopefuls Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), but whoever becomes the running mate would command more attention.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the governor make the choice in the next several days,” Alexander said. “He has no surrogate like this. This person will be his No. 1 surrogate. It will be a celebrity of great interest.”
After Romney, the running mate would be the Republican most sought after for GOP dinners, fundraising events and media appearances.
Reuters reported Tuesday that Romney and his advisers are considering announcing their vice-presidential pick weeks before the convention in late August.
“I think it is probably smart,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Four years ago, John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, announced his choice of Sarah Palin on Aug. 29, three days before the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.
McCain initially leaned toward his friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), but switched to Palin soon before the convention, in part because of concern conservatives would balk at a former Democrat getting the nod.
Palin gave the 2008 convention a shot of energy, but integrating her into the campaign became a significant distraction for McCain’s senior advisers.
McCain declined to give this year’s presumptive nominee any advice.
“It’s up to them; they have the sense of timing,” he said.
In 2000, George W. Bush announced Dick Cheney as his running mate days before the GOP convention, which was held in Philadelphia from July 31 to Aug. 3.
Alexander said if Romney makes his selection soon, “it will give the new pick and his or her team a few weeks to get their sea legs and to get integrated into the operation so when we get to the convention things are running smoothly.”
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said, “One of the advantages is he kind of doubles the team, if you will, and that would be helpful.
“Get somebody else out on the campaign trail that has a major focus, somebody else who can cover fundraising,” Johanns added. “If he’s come to a conclusion as to who the person would be, it seems to make some sense to me to go forward with the decision.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said, “It wouldn’t hurt to have another surrogate out there that was able to go on the attack.
“You guys in the media would put together a huge entourage to follow him, and whatever he or she says would be greatly followed,” he added. “In that regard, I would say picking it early has some real advantages.”
Vice President Biden has augmented the Obama campaign’s firepower in battleground states.
Biden blasted Romney in a speech to the National Council of La Raza in Las Vegas on Tuesday. He criticized Romney for recently having a Swiss bank account and millions of dollars invested in the Cayman Islands.
Romney has largely refrained from making similar personal attacks, worrying some conservatives who fret that he is running a soft campaign.
But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said the role of attack dog should be left to others.
“I think it’s important that Romney share a positive vision of where he wants to take our country,” he said.
A running mate could match Biden’s attacks without diminishing Romney’s efforts to portray himself as a force for positive change.
That may be less of a consideration if Romney taps Portman, a low-key lawmaker with a history of working with Democrats. He is more respected for his policy expertise than his knack for landing rhetorical blows.
Portman spent several hours in Boston on Monday meeting with Romney’s campaign advisers.
Some Republican senators worry announcing the vice presidential pick early could diminish the convention.
“The only problem is you miss a lot of the drama of the convention if you do that,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said about the prospect of unveiling the running mate early. “The people who go to a convention are the ones who want to be a part of that. So I think that probably would not be a good idea. It’s not a big deal, but I would probably recommend doing it the other way.”
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said suspense over the choice of running mate “keeps everybody juiced up for the convention.”
“Otherwise, it’s just parties,” he said.
But other lawmakers think the Tampa convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30, is a long time to wait.
“Remember, the conventions are really late this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something sooner,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who is working on the party platform for the convention.