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Romney’s Hunt for a Vice President Focuses on Pawlenty and Portman

The hunt for Mitt Romney’s running mate has entered the final sprint and the betting money is coalescing around Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman.

They are both without scandal lurking in their background—and both so bland they make Romney look charismatic by comparison.

There are even oddsmakers weighing in on the process. In London, the safest bets are on Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio at 2-1 odds and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 11-8. The company Intrade, which allows the public to bet on political outcomes, this morning had the chances of Portman being picked at 30.7 percent, while it put Pawlenty at 26.3 percent. (Intrade, by the way, also put President Obama’s chance of re-election at 57.8 percent.) How about Sarah Palin? Mccain’s 2008 choice isn’t looking so good at 0.6 percent chance.

The woman in charge of Romney’s selection team is Beth Myers, a 55-year-old Boston lawyer who ran Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Most observers believe the key criterion Myers and Romney is looking for is someone who is as safe as possible. In other words, the anti-Palin. Traditionally vice presidential picks are seen as someone who can add to the ticket qualities or constituencies the candidate lacks. That would point to someone like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Latino and could help Romney trim away at Obama’s huge lead with that crucial constituency. But Rubio has had questions raised about his personal finances—missing payments on his $100,000 student loan bill or on a Florida home that is significantly underwater. It is almost quaint to be talking about Rubio struggling with payments of several thousand dollars a month when Romney is sitting on personal wealth that might top $300 million. Though Rubio’s struggles with personal finances might make him even more relatable to the average voter in this recession age, Romney’s people will likely avoid anyone with anything remotely questionable in his background.

Huffington Post writer Howard Fineman said picking Rubio in this scandal-obsessed age would be like throwing an entire hog in the “shark tank.”

Last Friday Myers sent out a mysterious tweet that many took as a list of names she is considering—though it had the hashtag #ff, which in Twitter land is a popular name for something called “follow Friday,” suggesting things for Twitter users to follow. Among the names on her list were Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Newt Gingrich. About Gingrich, Fineman said on the Huffington Post, that he “must have been included for entertainment purposes.”



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