Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/GettyImages.
UPDATE: Speculation over who will join Mitt Romney on the GOP ticket continued Tuesday, one day after a since-denied report that the presumptive nominee had already made up his mind.
The latest reading of the tea leaves comes from Reuters, who reports that it appears to be a three-man race among Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal—three men widely considered to be "safe" choices in the post-Palin world.
The news agency, however, doesn't offer much in the way of sourcing to support its reading, explaining instead that "speculation [is] growing" that those are the three men still remaining on a list that is presumed to be getting shorter as the process continues. Still, that doesn't stop Reuters from naming a front-runner:
"Many Republicans in Washington believe Romney will ultimately choose Portman, who has foreign-policy experience that Romney lacks based on his service as U.S. trade representative for Republican President George W. Bush and his current tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee."
The focus on Romney's eventual vice presidential pick has provided at least a small respite for his campaign from the current focus on the Republican's tenure at Bain Capital. Although, the Reuters story—like the vast majority of this week's VP reports—was quick to link the two, something that suggests that anything short of an actual VP announcement is unlikely to push Bain into the background:
"Naming his vice presidential running mate in coming days could help Romney remove a withering spotlight instigated by the Obama campaign over his personal financial information and tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital. ...
"The controversy is proving to be a distraction for the Romney campaign and overshadowing his attempt to make the election campaign about Obama's handling of the U.S. economy amid 8.2 percent unemployment and record budget deficits. Announcing a vice presidential pick soon could break that cycle of negativity, but it could also prove to be awkward timing as Romney prepares to go on a foreign trip next week to London, Israel and Poland."
Monday, July 16 2:45 p.m. Team Romney is pushing back against a report that it knows who will fill the no. 2 spot on the GOP ticket this fall. "No decision's been made on VP," Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters Monday at a fundraiser in Baton Rouge La., where his boss was appearing with Bobby Jindal.
Fehrnstrom, however, conceded that the announcement could still come this week, as the New York Times suggested in a report earlier Monday. "Technically it could, but the governor hasn't made a decision," he said. "It will only happen after he makes a decision." (via AP)
Of course, something tells us that the Romney camp isn't too upset that a large chunk of the questions it's being peppered with today are about the NYT report on the looming VP announcement. Any Q about Pawlenty, Portman and co. is one less question they're asked about Romney's tenure at Bain, which dominated this past weekend's political news cycle.
Monday, July 16: Mitt Romney has made up his mind about who will join him on the GOP ticket and may make the much-anticipated announcement as soon as this week, the New York Times reports, citing those close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
If the former governor does indeed name his VP pick this week, it would give the Republican a chance to change the political conversation that is currently focused squarely on Romney's time as head of Bain Capital.
The Times report comes only days after Romney advisers floated Condoleezza Rice's name to the Drudge Report as a possible running mate—even though the popular former secretary of state has repeatedly said she has no interest in the job. The Drudge story, conveniently, came on the same day that the Boston Globe reported Romney remained atop Bain for three years longer than he has claimed, a story that has sparked a heated war of words between Obama and Romney.
The current leaders for the No. 2 slot on the GOP ticket are widely considered to be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. Others thought to be on the short list include South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. (NBC News has a solid rundown of the strengths and weakness of all of those candidates, along with other possibilities like Sens. Marco Rubio and Kelly Ayotte.)
Romney leaves town at the end of next week for London, Israel, and Poland, and he could announce his decision before the departure.