Typecast as a millionaire Massachusetts moderate short on pizzazz but big on PowerPoint presentations, a buttoned-down Mitt Romney must find a running mate who will spruce up his conservative cred while giving his ticket a common touch needed to connect to voters, said GOP party officials yesterday.
"He needs to liven up his ticket, explore conservative options and he needs someone to help him out in a swing state," said Chris Brown, a Romney delegate and former executive director of the Alabama Republican Party, who warned the former Bay State governor against a "boring, old, establishment Republican."
"He's been painted as the establishment guy. I don't think the electorate would rally around an even more entrenched establishment ticket," Brown said.
Talk of Romney's potential vice presidential picks has kicked up since his triple victory Tuesday, beating rival Rick Santorum in Wisconsin as well as Maryland and Washington, D.C.
"Gov. Romney is going to be the nominee barring some huge event," said Steve Duprey, a national Republican committeeman in New Hampshire. "I'm sure they are focusing on reintroducing him outside of the primary, building a war chest and organization, and then they'll move on to start the VP vetting process."
But Ted Frank, a lawyer who was part of U.S. Sen. John McCain's vetting team during his 2008 presidential run, said Romney's probably further along.
"I would be very surprised if there isn't someone with a notepad with a list of 20 to 30 names," said Frank, likely including U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"They could be anywhere from brainstorming, to having preliminary research, to actually having a name in mind -- it depends on the candidate. It's very, very doubtful they have a secret offer out there," Frank said.
Candidates such as Rubio, Christie and Ryan would help inspire the conservative base of the GOP that's been slow to warm up to Romney, said Saul Anuzis, a National Republican Committeeman from Michigan.
"They would help rally the right and appeal to the next generation of Republicans," Anuzis said.
Hispanic New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Tea Party favorite South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley -- dubbed "Haley's Comet" by the Drudge Report -- could give Romney a much-needed boost with female voters, Frank said.
"One of the things he has to consider is whether picking a woman will have an appeal to the electorate, and he has to balance that out against their experience," he said, adding, "people like diversity."
Alex Triantafilou, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party in Ohio, said that the No. 1 rule in picking a running mate is to do no harm.
"I'm not one of those people who thinks he's got to broaden his base that much. This is going to be a referendum on the president," Triantafilou said.
Keep it basic, agreed Marty Connors, a Republican strategist in Alabama.
"All he needs is someone who can carry a swing state and step in as president if needed," Connors said, "because he's got the issues and the hair covered."
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