He has always been on the so-called "shortlist," but Mitt Romney's chances seem to have brightened in the past week as the economy continues to hold the top issue slot on the campaign trail. Key McCain allies report that Romney's background as an economically driven governor and his popularity among the moderate GOP base are helping him keep pace with others on the shortlist.
"I could be wrong, but I bet he picks Romney," said a McCain finance adviser and major fundraiser. "He energizes the base. Romney was clearly the No. 2 pick and would excite a lot of traditional Republicans who think McCain is too much of a maverick," the adviser E-mailed. "These voters will also get behind the ticket because, win or lose, they will see it as a setup for Romney in 2012; most Republicans have barely heard about most of the other names that have been bandied about. They all know Romney. Second, Romney is the most Reaganesque of the bunch, and the party is searching for any way it can find to get back to the winning days of the Reagan approach. He's a former governor, like Reagan, who has ruled over a population more liberal than he is and he did it well. Third, McCain needs an economic conservative to burnish his credentials on restoring health back to the economy. Romney fits there. Fourth, Romney is already vetted. He communicates and campaigns well, will do what he's told tirelessly. He has been campaigning forcefully for McCain. Fifth, he looks and acts like he could be president, and that's 95 percent of the job of a credible VP candidate. And sixth, and most importantly, McCain needs to nail Colorado (Mormons) and Michigan (home state) for sure as they are in the top four critical swing states. Romney fits both bills."
Meanwhile, another GOP economic brain, Rob Portman, the former Ohio congressman and Bush budget and trade czar, says he's not in contention. He E-mails me: "I do not believe it is me and I am happy being home. I am also happy to be doing surrogate appearances for the campaign and will keep doing them when asked."