Despite persistent reports that Sen. John McCain is entertaining several candidates for his running mate, only one name consistently comes up in talks to aides: Mitt Romney. That is leading his supporters and surrogates to surmise that the former presidential candidate and McCain backer has the lead in the sped-up race to pick a No. 2. "All I hear about from headquarters is Romney this and Romney that," said a longtime McCain ally. "And everybody is saying the same thing, like they have talking points already ready for him." Among those talking points most heard are that Romney is strong on domestic and economic issues, has been a major businessman and savior of the Salt Lake City Olympics, and performed admirably on the primary and caucus circuit. McCain allies also talk glowingly of Romney's fundraising ability and his decision last week to eat his own campaign debt instead of competing with McCain for supporters' dollars. Some conservatives contacted by U.S. News are hopeful the choice will be Romney. One Bush adviser said, "Romney is vetted by the national media, is good on the economy and national security—and the No. 2 vote-getter. Very strong case for VP nomination." But others are more skeptical, worried that his reputation as a policy flip-flopper and his Mormonism will hurt McCain. Significantly, the Democrats also believe that Romney is a front-runner and have been working up an opposition research file on the former Massachusetts governor ever since he endorsed McCain.
Want to know who else is on McCain's short list for vice president? Check out our Veep Watch.