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 PortmanMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Romney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery MORE (R-Ohio) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (R-Fla.), with Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSupreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error MORE (R-S.D.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line 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 RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates 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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonDemocrats ramp up pressure on Lieberman to drop out of Georgia Senate race Obama endorses Warnock in crowded Georgia Senate race Lobbying world 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 CornynSupreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses 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 GrassleyGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine 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 AlexanderPelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy 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 McCainCrenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat Analysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture 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 BoozmanCOVID-19 relief talks look dead until September  Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' 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 BidenJoe BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins 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 BurrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Rep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy 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 GrahamHarris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Confirmation hearing for Trump's Supreme Court pick to start Oct. 12 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) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes 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 CorkerHas Congress captured Russia policy? Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) said of Romney. “That’s what he does, pick great talent."