There are a number of factors that go into selecting a vice-presidential nominee. Will the VP nominee complement the presidential nominee's qualifications? Can the person successfully step into the role of president if need be? Will the VP choice provide little ammunition for the opposition to attack? Is the candidate a true conservative?
This list gives a glimpse into the most talked about candidates for the vice-presidential nomination in 2012, as well as a few dark-horse candidates. History has shown that vice-presidential candidates considered lackluster and dull (Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Joe Biden) have more often been part of a winning ticket than more exciting or youthful choices (Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Geraldine Ferraro). Check out the candidates in the gallery as well.
Pros: Marco Rubio is the most frequently hyped 2012 vice-presidential nomination possibility. He also appears to have broad support from both "the establishment" and tea party activists alike. He's young, telegenic, a great speaker, and from Florida. The Democratic Party has already launched attacks his way anticipating a possible nomination. But slowing down a shooting star is a hard task, and their efforts have bared few fruits. He has a strong grasp of issues and is a solid conservative. He also managed to topple one of the most popular Republicans in the state of Florida, a testament to his ability to connect with voters.
Cons: He's young (41) and has only been in the US Senate since 2010. His experience level would be similarly compared to that of pre-presidential candidate Barack Obama's experience -- or lack thereof -- that was oft-criticized by conservatives. While Rubio's role in state government was far more involved than Obama's, the comparisons would still be made. That said, being a vice-president pick is a lot different than being the presidential nominee. A Rubio selection could also run the risk of over-shadowing the top of the ticket, and 2008 showed that might not always be a great idea.
Pros: Mitt Romney said his ideal pick for vice-president would be a Governor who has run a state. Jindal is currently serving his second term as the governor of Louisiana. Previously, he served two terms in congress. Jindal would add a reliably conservative voice to a Romney ticket. He is the son of Indian immigrants, a Catholic convert (from Hinduism), comes from the south, and is largely uncontroversial. Jindal would be both a safe and wise selection.
Cons: Jindal shot to the top of the 2012 presidential wishlist following Obama's election in 2008. However, Jindal gave what was seen as a disastrous State of the Union rebuttal in 2009, and all such talk quickly dissipated. Jindal would need to prove he can deliver in a way that shows competence and confidence.
Pros: US Congressman and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (WI) has led the budget battle against Democrats and has been one of President Obama's top adversaries. He's young, attractive, and takes his job as legislator more serious than most. He's also a favorite of conservative who prefer the "adult in the room" approach that Paul Ryan, charts in hand, offers.
Cons: While many top conservatives have backed the Ryan plan, Mitt Romney included, choosing Ryan as the vice-president nominee would place a great deal of focus on his work. The Ryan plan, which is attacked by Democratic opponents with great regularity, could become the central focus of the entire campaign.
Pros: Christie has no problem verbally punching political opponents in the mouth. There isn't any wondering where Christie stands on any given issue. He has battled labor unions and he is pro-life. Overall, he has been a relatively effective governor and, for a New Jersey Republican, a pretty popular one.
Cons: Many tea party activists are not any more impressed with Chris Christie's politics than they are Romney's. Beyond that, Christie would probably draw more attention than Romney, and what presidential candidate wants to be overshadowed by his VP choice? A Christie pick would almost feel more like a co-presidential choice rather than a bottom-of-the ticket choice.
Pros: If boring is the way to go, US Senator Rob Portman is the guy for the job. At least he is from Ohio, an important 2012 battleground state.
Cons: Portman is a long-time Washington insider who first won election to the US Congress back in 1993. Most damaging, Portman served as President Bush's Office of Management and Budget director during a portion of the Bush-era spending spree. Also, the other big con is how short the "pro" list is above.
Pros: An outside shot, Luis Fortuno is the popular Republican governor of Puerto Rico. (And yes, he is eligible for the presidency.) Fortuno would be viewed as an exciting and out-of-the-box pick for sure. If Romney is interested in a Hispanic candidate and wanted to stick to a Governor, Fortuno could provide an interesting jolt.
Cons: Interesting jolts in campaigns can sometimes backfire. First and foremost, a candidate must be viewed as being both qualified and conservative. If a VP selection is seen as an attempt pander to a certain demographic, the end result could be a net negative. Also, Fortuno would need to be heavily vetted and up-to-speed on national politics.
Pros: The closest competition to Romney in the 2012 primary, Santorum could help bridge some of the divisiveness that occurred between the tea party and establishment factions during the Republican primary process.
Cons: While he is from Pennsylvania, an important swing state, he lost by heavy margins in his last US Senate election and was only a break-even shot to win the primary there this year. He has the tendency to rub people the wrong way and has a laundry list of controversial statements on social issues, which would provide ample fodder for Democratic operatives. Also, was the tea party really excited over his candidacy or was he just kind of in the right place at the right time?
While tea party candidates scored a broad range of victories in the 2010 midterm elections, don't look for many of them to make the 2012 shortlist for Vice-President. While hot commodities in the conservative movement and future bright stars, many of the tea party class of 2010 won political office for the first time or have limited "high-profile" experience overall.
Top talent such as Allen West, Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, and Rand Paul and a long list of conservative warriors may all get mentioned or floated in casual conversation. But look for the 2012 nominee to be a more experienced pick with a generally well-known public profile. Without a doubt, the class of 2010 will take part in national elections for a long time, just probably not in 2012.