‘No’ Doesn’t Mean Never: A Guide to Veepstakes Denials

Apr 20, 2012 6:00am

So you want to be the vice presidential nominee? Here’s a tip: start by saying you don’t.

On a hot August day in Wilmington four years ago, as speculation swirled over who Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama would pick as his running mate, reporters swarmed Joe Biden when the Delaware senator left his house.

“Hey guys,” Biden told them, “I’m not the guy.”

Of course, Biden was “the guy” — days later he was unveiled as Obama’s pick. Biden’s denials that summer day were nothing new. In 2007 he had said unequivocally, “I will not be vice president under any circumstances.” Even though Biden is now the vice president, he was simply following the veepstakes playbook of deny, deny, deny… and then take the job if it’s offered.

In 2000, Dick Cheney said, “I have no absolutely no desire to go back to government.” But at the same time, Cheney was leading George W. Bush’s search for a running mate… a search that, ultimately, settled on – yep, Dick Cheney himself. Still, Cheney maintained that for months he had told Bush that he did not want the number-two slot on his ticket.

“I did turn it down,” Cheney said, “until we got down to the end of the process and he persuaded me that I was what he was looking for.”

It should come as no surprise then that the list of potential running mate picks for presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney have repeated time and time again in recent months that they all have absolutely no desire whatsoever to even be so much as mentioned as a possible option.

Take Marco Rubio, the freshman Florida senator who has appeared at the top of most veepstakes lists.

“I don’t want to be the vice president,” Rubio said Wednesday.

“So if Mitt Romney asks, you will say no?” questioned the National Journal’s Major Garrett.

“Yes.”

Well, okay then. Rubio has been saying essentially the same thing for months now. Just like other potential Romney picks. Another frontrunner, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said, “I don’t take it seriously. I think at the end of the day, Mitt Romney will make a personal decision and he’ll choose somebody else.”

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, citing her developmentally disabled sister, said “I just couldn’t do it.” Rep. Paul Ryan, who campaigned in his home state of Wisconsin alongside Romney in the build-up to the Badger State’s April 3 primary, said he is “not giving any serious thought to it” because he is “in a good place in Congress.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said, if asked, she would tell Romney, “Thank you, but no.” Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who served as a loyal surrogate to Romney after his own presidential bid failed last summer, said, “I’m not going to be considering that.” Just in case there was any doubt, Pawlenty noted, “I’ve taken myself off the list.”

After CIA director David Petraeus was listed as a possible choice for Romney, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood issued a statement that Petraeus “will not seek elected office.”

How troubling all of this must be to poor Romney, who will apparently be hard-pressed to find anyone to serve as his running mate.

But of course, it’s all just part of the act. If you want to be a running mate, the last thing you want to do is acknowledge any interest in it.

After Rubio’s comments Wednesday, one top Republican operative told ABC News’ Jon Karl, “Nobody believes that saying no really means no.”

When it comes to the veepstakes, “no” apparently means “absolutely, definitely, yes!”

Matthew Jaffe is covering the 2012 campaign for ABC News and Univision.

 

 

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