Search for vice president comes to Capitol Hill

Mitt Romney’s campaign has started to vet vice presidential candidates, and that search has extended to Capitol Hill.

As The Hill reported last week, the search, having officially begun, is prompting speculation that Romney might not wait until late in the summer to select a candidate. 

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Some Republicans believe that having a running mate in July and early August will help Romney in many ways, including with fundraising. Others say Romney should not rush to decide, and should announce his pick right before the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.

It will be revealing whatever he decides to do. If he picks a governor or former governor, the campaign will tout the anti-Washington nature of the Republican ticket, especially compared to a sitting president and vice president who are both former senators.

Yet there is a lot of clamoring for Romney to scoop from the congressional pool. There are at least a dozen lawmakers whose names have been mentioned, including long shots such as Reps. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersBackstage maneuvering begins in wide-open GOP chairman’s race Overnight Healthcare: White House lays out ObamaCare's 'next chapter' Overnight Defense: Trump orders would hurt morale, warns top general MORE (R-Wash.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) and Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulObama calls for Congress to combat tax evasion and money laundering The Hill's 12:30 Report Ten third-party candidate names at top of Never Trump’s list MORE (R-Ky.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP senator to anti-Trump movement: 'Let this play out’ Housing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform Iran and heavy water: Five things to know MORE (R-Tenn.).

The next tier up includes Sens. John ThuneJohn ThuneInspector general investigating FCC leaks Air traffic control plan faces tough fight ahead GOP blasts Obama for slow economic growth MORE (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteStoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP? Trump plans visit to Capitol Hill Ayotte alarmed by sped-up Gitmo reviews MORE (R-N.H.).

And then there are the front-runners, at least on Capitol Hill — Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioTrump on Ryan snub: 'It doesn’t bother me at all’ How Trump did it Ten third-party candidate names at top of Never Trump’s list MORE (R-Fla.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanTreasury poised to announce decision on pension cuts for Teamsters The Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief Trump: I’ll announce VP pick at convention MORE (R-Ohio) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanHow Ryan and Cruz fast-tracked Trump to the GOP nomination Ryan invites Trump to Capitol Cheney will back Trump MORE (R-Wis.). 

Rubio’s status as a leading contender appears to have been confirmed by his sudden shift from answering questions about the process of picking the veep to changing the subject as soon as it is mentioned. That was a clear signal he had been contacted by the Romney campaign.

Ryan and Portman also declined to chat about whether Romney’s camp had, or had not, reached out.

Thune told The Hill he hadn’t heard anything, at least not yet. He endorsed Romney right before the Iowa caucus, which Romney lost in a photo finish to ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Picking Portman is seen in prospect as a safe but unexciting move. He is experienced, but that experience means he has been in Washington a long time; he served in the House and as President George W. Bush’s budget chief.

Picking Ryan would be risky but energizing. The conservative base would love it, but so would the Democrats’ liberal base. Ryan’s budget proposal is controversial, and picking the Wisconsin lawmaker would put the political world’s focus back on his blueprint.

Picking Rubio would be seen as a nod to Hispanic voters, a key demographic for both parties. He is not a Washington insider, but the knock on him is that he lacks experience. He could be seen as a neophyte and an odd choice when the previous neophyte pick is recalled not with unalloyed admiration. 

It is unclear whether Romney will select a running mate who is serving in Congress. But it is clear that veepstakes politics have arrived on Capitol Hill.