U.S. Sen. marco Rubio -- one of the hottest political prospects in GOP vice presidential contention -- is due in Boston today to quietly raise cash for Mitt Romney and continue what appears to be an extended vetting process that lets the presidential hopeful have it both ways: benefiting from his association with key pols while staying uncommitted to them.
"They're getting a lot of work out of these potential veep candidates who might not be working as hard for Romney once his candidate is chosen. There could be some hard feelings over that, and there usually are," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
The long list of potential number twos has come in handy for Romney, who out-raised President Obama by $35 million in June thanks in part to a small army of surrogates pitching in across the country to boost Romney's campaign coffers.
And last night the rumor mill continued to swirl with the Drudge Report declaring former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has emerged as a front-runner in the process.
Marty Connors, a GOP consultant for Romney in Alabama, said increasing scuttlebutt indicates Romney will make his pick in the next few weeks. The unusually early announcement well ahead of the Aug. 27 convention in Tampa, Fla., despite concerns about Romney's late July trip to Europe or the Olympics killing momentum.
"We certainly don't want to put pressure on them but we would all like to know as soon as we can who we will be supporting for vice president," said Joe Nosef, state chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. "Everyone wants to know who they'll be backing and who to put on the bumper stickers."
There is not expected to be any press access to Rubio in Boston, though he is considered a vice presidential contender and is one of the nation's most prominent Latino elected officials. Instead, Romney's top donors and friends get a chance to hobnob privately with the potential vice presidential candidate.
"At this point in the game, the vetting process has been going on for a couple of months, there are some Romney donors and Romney friends who would like to get to meet them a little better and get their voice in the process as well," said Chip Saltsman, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's national campaign manager.
Romney's campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, fueled further speculation about the veepstakes last night. He sent out an email as part of a fundraising drive indicating the governor has narrowed his choice, but said only that Romney would announce his pick "between now and the Republican convention."
The Rubio trip isn't the first of these pilgrimages. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) came to Boston Monday to hold a low-key fundraiser for Romney. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is due to hold a fundraiser for Romney in Illinois today.
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