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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.

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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 PortmanGOP leader: Congress may settle for pared-down immigration deal Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Key senator floats new compromise for immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump must send Russia powerful message through tougher actions McCain, Coons immigration bill sparks Trump backlash Taking a strong stance to protect election integrity MORE (R-Fla.), with Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Apple tells senator it may give rebates to consumers who bought iPhone batteries Republican agenda clouded by division MORE (R-S.D.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan 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: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight - House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money 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 IsaksonHouse funding bill includes bipartisan Medicare reforms Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Collins becomes centrist power player 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 CornynDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants 'lazy' McConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration GOP senators turning Trump immigration framework into legislation 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."


Credentials

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Overnight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Grassley to Sessions: Policy for employees does not comply with the law 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 AlexanderSanders wants pharma CEOs to testify on opioid crisis Trump expects us to trade clean air and water for updated infrastructure House GOP warming to ObamaCare fix 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 McCainMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Meghan McCain: Melania is 'my favorite Trump, by far' Kelly says Trump not likely to extend DACA deadline 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 BoozmanSenate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA Dems go on the attack during EPA chief's hearing Bipartisan group of senators ask Trump to fund broadband in infrastructure plan 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 BidenBiden says he would advise Trump against Mueller interview Biden on Trump's 'treason' comments: 'He's a joke' Joe Kennedy: Biden likely would have defeated Trump 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 BurrOvernight Cybersecurity: Trump poised to allow release of intel memo | GOP chair threatens to subpoena DHS over Kaspersky docs | Pompeo defends meeting Russian spy chief Furor grows over Nunes intel memo Pelosi calls on Ryan to oust Nunes over ‘bogus’ memo 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 GrahamMcConnell: 'Whoever gets to 60 wins' on immigration Overnight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Overnight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach 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) MoranUber: 'No justification' for covering up data breach Overnight Tech: Senators want probe of company selling fake Twitter followers | Google parent made over 0B in 2017 | House chair threatens to subpoena DHS over Kaspersky Overnight Regulation: Labor Department reportedly hid unfavorable report on tip-pooling rule | NY plans to sue EPA over water rule | Senators urge FTC to probe company selling fake Twitter followers 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 CorkerPentagon: War in Afghanistan will cost billion in 2018 K.T. McFarland officially withdrawn as nominee for ambassador K.T. McFarland withdraws as nominee for ambassador MORE (R-Tenn.) said of Romney. “That’s what he does, pick great talent."