Scoring the Romney running mate choices: Portman the moderate option, Rubio the most conservative

The Club for Growth offered a similar assessment of Portman in 2011, marking him as the 29th most free-market friendly senator. Heritage Action, the group that praised Rubio with a 96 percent rating, slapped Portman with a score of just 70 percent for his 2011 voting record. Specifically, Heritage Action dinged Portman for neglecting to co-sponsor bills the group deemed important. On his vote percentage, they rated him at 74 percent, giving him black marks for voting to raise the debt limit--an issue on which Portman has remained consistent throughout his time in both the House and Senate.

"In Senator Portman's case," Heritage Action's CEO Michael A. Needham told Yahoo News, "he is to be commended for voting in favor of free trade, against market-distorting energy tax credits, and in opposition to the wasteful highway bill. He could have improved his score by standing with conservatives on other votes, such as supporting the Lee Budget and opposing the Export-Import Bank."


Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan

The Republican budget proposals drafted by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan since he became chairman of the House Budget Committee have boosted his stock tremendously among conservatives, but National Journal's analysis found that, compared to his House colleagues, Ryan doesn't rank in the top 100 conservatives in the chamber.

National Journal's report labeled him the "150th" most conservative House member in 2011.  Meanwhile, his ACU rating dropped 16 percentage points in 2011 to 80 percent, although he retains a high lifetime rating of 91.96 percent.

The Governors

There a chance Romney will look beyond Washington to make his pick. Unfortunately, the market for scorecards that measure the record of America's governors isn't nearly as robust as it is for Congress.

The Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors, conducted every two years by economist Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute, is one measure to judge the state executives. Edwards is still preparing the 2012 report, which will include grades for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, so his 2010 database is the most recent available. In that report, which measures governors' tax policy record and awards a letter grade based on a bell curve, two of the potential VP choices received top marks. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were two of just four governors to receive an 'A' grade in the 2010 biennial report. Jindal scored second-highest in the nation with a score of 71, with Pawlenty just behind him with a score of 66.

Although Edwards' 2012 report is due out in September, he offered some hints as to how to other governors rumored to be on Romney's list of possible running mates would fare. In his preliminary research, he said, things might not look so good for McDonnell, but Christie could score high.

"He's not a staunch fiscal reformer," Edwards said of McDonnell. "He's an establishment guy. He wants to get along. He wants to be loved. And that's established in his record. Chris Christie is the exact opposite."

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