GOP senators say Romney should select one of their own for vice president

GOP senators say Romney should select one of their own for vice president

Senators think a senator would make the best vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney, several of them told The Hill.

Their reasoning: senators’ ability to serve as president; the selection could help Romney in swing states; it would avoid a Sarah Palin-like situation; and having a senator on the ticket could help Republicans win back control of the upper chamber.

A dozen Republican senators offered a variety of opinions when asked by The Hill about their preferences for the No. 2 spot on the GOP presidential ticket.

Some spoke on the record, some anonymously. And while all deferred to Romney and expressed confidence he’d make a wise choice, they also had plenty of advice.

Their top picks: Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (R-Ohio) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRyan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Richard Gere welcomes lawmakers' words of support for Tibet Dem lawmaker gives McConnell's tax reform op-ed a failing grade MORE (R-Fla.), with Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (R-N.H.) also making the list.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell got a few mentions. So did Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. One name that didn’t get tossed out a lot: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.). Though Ryan is thought to be atop Romney's shortlist, senators were more likely to tout a fellow member of their conference or a governor.

Here’s a look at whom senators preferred and their arguments for what qualities are best in a running mate:

First, do no harm

“The No. 1 rule of picking a vice president is ‘Do no harm,’ ” said Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations Senate leaders push tax debate into Friday Senate Ethics Committee opens 'preliminary inquiry' into Franken allegations MORE (R-Ga.), who named Portman, Rubio and McDonnell as strong candidates.

“Regional diversity is important,” he added, noting that Romney served as governor of Massachusetts. “But that shouldn’t disqualify someone if they’re a hard worker.”

Winning back the Senate

“Portman, Rubio and McDonnell — some people could help the Senate candidates,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Cornyn noted Portman won election in Ohio by 18 points in 2010 and could motivate Republicans to turn out for Romney and Senate candidate Josh Mandel in that important swing state.

He said Rubio could have a similar effect in Florida, an “important vote-rich state."


Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa), who declined to reveal his personal favorite for the spot, said the most important criterion is that Romney pick someone who is seen as capable of serving as president. 

And Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (R-Tenn.) said Romney should pick “someone who is capable to be president because after one week it boils down to the top of the ticket.”

It would also help avoid a Palin-like situation; the former Alaska governor revved up the conservative base during the 2008 presidential election but was ultimately seen as a drag on Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE’s (R-Ariz.) candidacy because her frequent gaffes raised doubts about her ability to take over as commander in chief.

“I don’t think it makes that much of a difference,” said Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThe Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill Lobbying World The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ark.). “What you don’t want is a running mate who makes mistakes you can’t control.”

The senators also said Romney could add gravitas to the ticket by tapping an insider, much like President Obama did in 2008 by selecting Sen. Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenOvernight Tech: FCC won't delay net neutrality vote | Google pulls YouTube from Amazon devices | Biden scolds social media firms over transparency Medicaid funds shouldn't be used to subsidize state taxes on health care Biden hits social media firms over lack of transparency MORE (D-Del.), then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“I think you could make the case that it’s good having D.C. experience because Romney is on the ticket,” said Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSessions argued presidents can obstruct justice in Clinton impeachment trial Trump Jr. to meet with Senate panel amid Russia probe Trump’s Russian winter grows colder with Flynn plea deal MORE (R-N.C.).

Swing-state appeal

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Romney’s pick could hinge on which states emerge as the most competitive over the summer.

“It might depend on how popular someone is in a swing state,” he said.

Naming specific names

“Portman checks all the boxes,” said one GOP senator who expressed preference for Portman but declined to do so publicly because other Senate colleagues are possible candidates.

Another GOP senator said Rubio “has a good argument to make” because “we have to broaden our inroads to Hispanics and Rubio can do that.”

They also believe both Portman and Rubio can help deliver swing states to Romney.

Another senator touted Portman, Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Bush as Romney’s strongest possible running mates.

Ryan also had some boosters, who think he would have good chemistry with Romney.

“Paul Ryan’s a rock star,” said a conservative Republican senator. “If I had to bet money, it would be on Ryan. He’s in the mold of Romney, a smart, aggressive achiever.”

But two other senators questioned whether Ryan could do as much to carry his home state for Romney as Portman could to win Ohio or Rubio to swing Florida.

“House members are well-known in their districts but less known across the state, so it’s not as helpful,” said one lawmaker.

Bush has several enthusiastic supporters in the Senate GOP conference. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.) said last week if he had to recommend a single running mate for Romney, “it would be Jeb.”

“Gov. Bush would be a great addition,” said Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP in furious push for tax-reform votes Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (R-Kan.), who also praised Portman, Rubio, Thune and Ayotte.

One lawmaker argued Gov. Martinez could boost Romney’s standing among women and Hispanics.

Daniels, who has significant Washington experience as former director of the Office of Management and Budget under Bush, was cited by two senators as a smart choice.

“I’m always in favor of Mitch Daniels for everything,” said Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).

Moran said Thune, Ayotte, Rubio and Portman would each provide distinct benefits.

Ayotte could boost Romney’s ability to compete in New Hampshire, which President George W. Bush carried in 2000.

Thune, who was raised in a middle-class family, has a talent for articulating the party’s positions on economic issues in a way that “everyday Americans” can understand, Moran said. He believes Thune’s Midwestern background would resonate with voters in Ohio and other heartland battlegrounds.

He praised Rubio as someone who could attract Hispanic voters to Romney and said Portman, who served as U.S. trade representative and director of the White House budget office under George W. Bush, has “great experience from past administrations."

Several of the names mentioned have said they have no interest in the No. 2 spot.

Bush was quoted last month telling Newsmax, a conservative site, that he would consider the vice presidential nomination, but later backed away.

Thune told The Hill earlier this month he hadn’t been contacted by Romney’s vetting team.

Martinez told a New Mexico newspaper that family obligations would keep her from taking the job, saying, “I just couldn’t do it.”

Daniels issued the firmest denial, telling Fox News, “If I thought that call was coming, I would disconnect the phone.”

Meanwhile, Portman, Rubio and Ryan have all been coy when asked about the vetting process.

But, in the end, the choice is Romney’s, and lawmakers are confident it will be a good one.

“He has a lifetime in business, a lifetime in equity,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (R-Tenn.) said of Romney. “That’s what he does, pick great talent."