(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Russell)
Within the next four months, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will choose a running mate. This candidate will be scrutinized over his/her qualifications and what he/she could add to the campaign. Here are five of the most talked about potential running mates, along with their pros and cons.
The first term senator from New Hampshire had previously served as her state's attorney general. New Hampshire is a swing state, so, Ayotte might be able to win those four electoral college votes for the ticket. As a woman, she could also help close the "gender gap." Women generally favor Democrats while men generally favor Republicans in presidential elections. Having a female running mate might provide Romney an opportunity to reach more female voters.
A potential criticism of Ayotte is that she does not have enough experience to be president. In a preemptive strike against that claim, Ayotte said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that she is more qualified than President Obama was when he ran in 2008.
"I have great experience as the attorney general of the state. I'm very proud of that experience, and I have, some would say, better experience than Barack Obama had when he was a senator and ran, having been the chief law enforcement officer of my state."
The no-nonsense governor of New Jersey would help excite Romney's conservative base. One of the biggest concerns of party conservatives is that Romney would not be an effective communicator of conservative principles. Christie continues to be popular in his home state, so adding him to the ticket might also move New Jersey from a solid Obama state to a swing state.
While Christie's straight-talking style is popular with conservatives, it may turn off some of the moderate voters that Romney needs to appeal to. In townhall style meetings and radio shows, Christie has been combative with some of his own constituents. In one of those incidents, he called one man an "idiot" and told him to "shut up."
Questions of experience would also arise with Christie. He has yet to finish his first term as governor and has no national level experience. When he declined to run for president, he even said that he is not ready for the job.
Virginia's governor is well liked among both the economic and social conservative wings of the party. He is also one of the most popular governors in the country and Virginia is a swing state. Putting McDonnell on the ticket could simultaneously excite the base and put Virginia in the win column for Romney.
Like Christie, though, McDonnell is a first term governor with no national level experience. So, questions of whether he is qualified to take the job as president, should it become necessary, would arise if McDonnell were nominated.
Experience would not be an issue for the senator from Ohio. Portman has served in the U.S. House of Representatives, as U.S. trade representative, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and, now, as a U.S. senator. His long years of service means that he has already been thoroughly vetted. If there were any skeletons in his closet, they would have been found by now. Portman could also help Romney win his home state of Ohio, a swing state.
While Portman would be considered a safe pick, he would not add much excitement to the ticket. Not known for giving stirring stump speeches, his skill set appears to be better suited for insider politics and outsider mobilization. This was further confirmed when The Wall Street Journal reported that Portman was the preferred pick among Washington Republican insiders.
Florida's senator could help Romney with three groups that he needs help with – Latinos, Floridians, and Tea Party supporters. As a Cuban-American, Rubio could help Romney reach out to Latino voters (though perhaps not as much as expected). Rubio could help win Florida – the swing state with the most electoral college votes. And, as a Tea Party favorite, Rubio could help energize those supporters for the campaign.
Many would wonder, though, if the 41-year-old is ready for the national spotlight. Plus, as a first term senator, critics would question whether he would be prepared to step into the office of president if the occasion were to arise.
When asked on "Fox News Sunday" if he is qualified for the position, Rubio declined to answer, but then appeared to make an argument in favor of adding a political neophyte to the ticket while also taking a swipe at President Obama.
"I'm more than happy to tell you why I'm qualified to serve in the United States Senate, however, and then people can take from that what they want," Rubio answered.
He described his experience in local government, the Florida House and U.S. Senate, and went on to suggest that too much political experience would be a detriment.
"There is a point of diminishing return on Washington experience and what I've learned about Washington is, sometimes, if you're there too long you start to believe that certain things are no longer possible. If you're there too long, you start to become like the president has become – divisive, cynical, given to hyperbole on these issues, always looking for the opportunity to pit Americans against each other in some sort of political calculation."