Chatter on Vice Presidential Nominees Starting to Build

As the GOP primary begins to wind down, vice presidential possibilities begin to take shape.

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It's that time of election year again.

The cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington, March Madness has been whittled down to the Final Four and presidential candidates are fielding questions about vice presidents. Some have been asked about their possible choices (Romney) or if they would serve as one (the rest of the field).

During an appearance on Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show,' Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney joked that he'd prefer his closest rival, Rick Santorum, to be vice president as opposed to president.

[See a slideshow of possible but unlikely VP picks.]

"I'm happy with him saying he'd like to be part of an administration with me," Romney said Tuesday. "Nothing wrong with that. If he's the VP, that's better. I'd rather be the president, let him be the vice president."

Santorum was asked earlier this week in an interview with Dave Brody on the Christian Broadcasting Network if he would accept an invitation to be vice president.

"Of course," Santorum said Monday. "I'll do whatever is necessary to help our country."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign is circling the drain, was asked the same question Tuesday by Fox News.

"I wouldn't say no," he said.

[Read: VP Biden to Continue Attack on Romney.]

But of course, running mates are picked for a variety of reasons and don't necessarily emerge from the pool of the nominee's former rivals. Other veep picks could be popular political figures in potential swing states or who represent a different demographic in hopes of building support in new voting blocs.

In 2008, President Barack Obama selected former Democratic rival Joe Biden to serve as his running mate, not because he garnered much support as a candidate, but because the Senate veteran added foreign policy chops to the young nominee. As for former GOP nominee John McCain, it's widely rumored that he would have liked to have selected Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. But he couldn't get enough support for the former Democrat from top Republicans and instead went with then-little known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

To see five candidates who could be surprise picks to join a GOP presidential hopeful on the campaign trail, click here.

Email: rmetzler@usnews.com

Twitter: @rebekahmetzler