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. 

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 RodgersRyan: More audio leaks 'cause for concern' Female lawmakers flee House for higher office, retirement HHS head: 'Offensive' to say GOP healthcare process lacks diversity MORE (R-Wash.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) and Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulSheriff Clarke denies plagiarism report, calls reporter a 'sleaze bag' GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges House votes to expand death penalty for police killings MORE (R-Ky.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerClinton administration official knocks 'soap opera' of Trump White House Trump's steps on Iran show cooperation with Congress is possible Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Tenn.).

The next tier up includes Sens. John ThuneJohn ThuneFive roadblocks for Trump’s T infrastructure plan Overnight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack Overnight Regulation: FCC votes to begin net neutrality rollback MORE (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteWeek ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington GOP senators pitch Merrick Garland for FBI director Kelly Ayotte among candidates to be FBI director: report MORE (R-N.H.).

And then there are the front-runners, at least on Capitol Hill — Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioCongress should let local communities set their own PACE Rubio: ‘People got what they voted for’ Rubio: Notes from Trump's Russia meeting should go to committees MORE (R-Fla.) and Rob PortmanRob PortmanConservative groups press Senate on ObamaCare repeal Worries mount about vacancies in Trump's State Department Separating fact from fiction in the Regulatory Accountability Act MORE (R-Ohio) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanThis week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Trump administration faces decision on ObamaCare payments Outside money pours into marquee House race 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.