VEEP RATINGS - BUSH WEAK IN MIDDLE, PORTMAN WEAK ON RIGHT: "Jeb Bush and the far less well-known Rob Portman draw more negative than positive reviews as potential Republican vice presidential nominees, with challenges for Bush among moderates and swing-voting independents, and for Portman both among conservatives and within his own party," ABC News' Gary Langer reported. "Another potential candidate, Marco Rubio, fares better in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, albeit with just a split decision as Mitt Romney's 2012 running mate. Rubio receives more positive than negative responses among his fellow Hispanics, though with a third undecided. Americans by 45-36 percent express an unfavorable rather than favorable opinion of Bush, the former Florida governor, for the slot, and by 30-19 percent say the same about Portman, the junior U.S. senator from Ohio. It's a closer 32-29 percent on Rubio, Florida's junior senator." More of the poll here.
JEB BUSH HEAPS PRAISE ON RUBIO: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush offered an impassioned endorsement of fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, advising Mitt Romney to pick him as his running mate and describing him as "the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today," ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reported. "Marco Rubio is my favorite [choice], because we have a close relationship," the former Florida governor told Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on his PBS show Thursday evening. "I admire him greatly. … He speaks with great passion about American exceptionalism. I think he would lift the spirits of the campaign and provide some energy. … Look he has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran. … And the practical experience: he's certainly got the intelligent acumen and fortitude to be a good president and I have a special place in my heart for him. It's hard to describe the pride I have for his incredible success and how he has moved in to the job of being a U.S. senator with humility, not trying to be an arrogant guy, to learn the trade, if you will. And people in Washington really admire him."
AYOTTE'S RISE: Real Clear Politics' Erin McPike looks at the rise of freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who jumped from the attorney general seat in New Hampshire to become a U.S. senator and has been floated as a potential VP pick by the candidate himself. "In less than two years' time, Kelly Ayotte has gone from obscure New Hampshirite to one of the more visible figures in national politics," McPike wrote. "The freshman senator is often photographed alongside Mitt Romney as one of his leading surrogates on the campaign trail (and the most high-profile female surrogate other than his wife), and the Senate Republican leadership trots her out frequently to go before cameras and drive their message on whatever legislation they're pushing. No wonder Romney has named her publicly as one of about 15 people who might be on his list of potential running mates. But anyone who dismisses her from the veepstakes chatter because she is an attractive woman in her early forties, who ascended to statewide office in the most recent election - thereby inviting obvious comparisons to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - would be writing her off unfairly. So, too, would anyone who says such attributes are the only reasons for her rise."
RUNNING VEEP RYAN: In a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., creatively dodged the standard VP question when asked what he'd do if Romney asked him to run. "You mean go jogging with him? I'd go for a run," Ryan said.
RYAN & PORTMAN TO RAISE ROMNEY CASH: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Rob Portman will team up with Romney later this month for a fundraiser geared toward young professionals, the Washington Post reported.
JINDAL SIGNS NEW ABORTION RULES: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal approved new abortion rules requiring a longer wait between receiving a mandatory ultrasound and an abortion, NOLA.com reported. The new law will also require doctors to describe the ultrasound to the woman and allow her to listen to the fetus' heartbeat.
VEEP PICK LINEUP AT CPAC: Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Bob McDonnell will each speak at Chicago CPAC today.
McDONNELL HOSTS WEEKEND GOP RETREAT: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, on behalf of the Republican Governors Association, is hosting a retreat this weekend at the Homestead resort, the Washington Post reported. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to speak at the gathering along with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
DEMS RELEASE VIDEO LINKING CHRISTIE & ROMNEY: To coincide with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's appearance at Chicago CPAC today, the New Jersey Democratic Party, in conjunction with the DNC, released a video linking the New Jersey governor to Romney based on their economic statistics, the Star-Ledger reported.
@GovChristie: I do this job as my tribute to my mother. http://youtu.be/898WvQriGMs
@BobbyJindal: Every child has a right to an excellent education. That's the promise of America. http://www.facebook.com/notes/bobby-ji …