PAWLENTY GETS A SECOND LOOK: Mitt Romney has already made his decision on who he'll pick as his running mate, an announcement which could come this week, according to a New York Times report, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who shares a close relationship with the Romney family and has become an energetic cheerleader for the GOP nominee, sits at the top of the list four years after he was passed over for the number two spot by John McCain. "After a short-lived presidential bid of his own last year, Mr. Pawlenty is again being considered for the Republican ticket. His fate is in the hands of Mr. Romney, a rival-turned-friend, who is on the cusp of announcing his vice-presidential selection. Mr. Romney has reached a decision, his friends believe, and he may disclose it as soon as this week," the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny wrote. "The country received only an abbreviated introduction to Mr. Pawlenty, 51, a former two-term governor of Minnesota, whose working-class roots, experience outside Washington and evangelical faith have formed the core of his appeal to a broad spectrum of Republicans. While Mr. Romney has kept more distance from the rest of his primary challengers, he has embraced Mr. Pawlenty, seeking his advice about running against President Obama and sending him to Republican events on his behalf. They began forging a closer relationship last year on a visit to the Romney family's lakeside home in New Hampshire, aides said, and during debates this year when Mr. Pawlenty often traveled with the Romney campaign after dropping out of the race himself."
JINDAL RISING: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will appear at a fundraiser with Mitt Romney today in Baton Rouge, fueling speculation about his vice presidential chances, the Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson reported in a profile of the Louisiana governor. "Three years ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal got his first big chance in the national spotlight and bombed. His response to President Obama's first State of the Union address was uniformly panned. 'Not ready for prime time' was a common critique. But Jindal (R), who is often mentioned as a vice-presidential contender on Mitt Romney's shortlist, is proof that there are second acts in American politics," Henderson wrote. "On Monday, Jindal, who backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the primary contest, is set to join Romney for a high-dollar fundraising luncheon with supporters in Baton Rouge, probably fueling more debate about his chances of becoming the running mate. Romney announced in a note to supporters last week that he will name his pick before the Republican National Convention in August, dubbing the ticket 'America's Comeback Team.' Asked recently about his vice-presidential prospects, Jindal offered the classic non-response. 'We're not going to speculate. I've said this for the last several weeks. We're not speculating. We're not commenting on that,' he said on NBC's "Meet the Press," referring questions to the Romney campaign. 'No disrespect to Joe Biden, nobody's going to the voting booth and voting based on who's vice president.' Yet social conservatives are looking closely at Romney's choice for signs that he wants to assuage their concerns about issues that are important to them, such as their opposition to abortion and gay rights. Jindal would fit that bill."
THUNE MEETS WITH MYERS: Sen. John Thune told The Hill he has met with senior advisors from Mitt Romney's team in Boston, including Beth Myers, who is leading the charge on the VP search. "Thune acknowledged he's been to Boston to meet Romney's senior advisers and has met Beth Myers, who is leading the search for the vice presidential nominee," The Hill's Alexander Bolton wrote. "Thune will no longer say whether he is being vetted, a telling distinction from a month ago when he freely admitted to The Hill that no one from Romney's vetting team had contacted him."
PORTMAN HITS THE TRAIL: Sen. Rob Portman had a busy weekend stumping on behalf of Mitt Romney, opening a victory office for Romney and the GOP in Cincinnati Saturday. Portman will continue on his campaign spree today by hosting a rally in Lebanon, Ohio, to bracket the president's trip to the state today. On Friday, Portman hosts a fundraiser for Romney in Lima, Ohio.
McDONNELL SLAMS NEW OBAMA AD: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell played host to the National Governors Associations annual conference over the weekend, and blasted the new ad released by the Obama team, calling on the campaign to take it off the air, ABC News' Michael Falcone and Arlette Saenz report. "Prominent GOP governor and top Romney surrogate, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, took a shot at the Obama campaign on Saturday for its new television ad featuring Mitt Romney's off-key rendition of the song, 'America the Beautiful,'" Falcone and Saenz wrote. "In an interview with ABC News on the second full day of the National Governors Association Conference here, McDonnell blasted the 30-second spot, which the Obama campaign plans to broadcast in Virginia and eight other states. 'It's silly, it's predictable, and it's not accurate. Many of the things he's claiming that he's attributing to Mitt Romney about outsourcing has things to do with allegations about Bain investments after Mitt Romney went to run the Olympics,' McDonnell said. 'Take it off the air. Let's talk about the issues that people really care about in Virginia which is getting people back to work, getting people out of debt and having energy independence. Let's focus on that.'" McDonnell also dispensed some advice to the Romney team, urging them not to let Obama determine the terms of the debate. "Mitt Romney can't - he's not going to - respond to every single lame attack that the Obama administration makes," McDonnell said in interview with ABC News. "If he starts to run down every rabbit hole the Obama administration wants to take him, we're going to be off the message."
CHRISTIE TURNS DOWN NGA POST: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declined a long-planned move to become vice chair of the National Governors Association this weekend citing time constraints, the Huffington Post's John Celock reported. "In a surprising move, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) declined a long-planned move into the vice chairmanship of the National Governors Association this weekend," Celock wrote. "Christie had been slated to take the vice chairman's post for several months but recently decided against doing so, according to several governors who attended the association's annual meeting. He cited time constraints, given his current role and planned 2013 reelection campaign, as the reason for his decision. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) was elected vice chairwoman Sunday morning after Christie asked her to take the post, while Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) was elected chairman."
VEEP SUNDAY ROUNDUP: Potential VP contenders flooded the airwaves Sunday appearing on most of the Sunday shows. Sen. Kelly Ayotte called President Obama a "small politician running on small-ball politics" during her appearance on ABC News' This Week while Rep. Paul Ryan accused the president of "dividing" and "distracting" the country from his record with attacks on Mitt Romney. Bob McDonnell blamed the looming Pentagon budget cuts on President Obama, saying on CNN's State of the Union, "They need to act now to try to address this, because defense contractors might have to send out warning notices in the next couple months to hundreds of thousands of employees saying you might not have a job. So I think the president needs to lead on this, get Congress back, and do something about sequestration."
VEEP TWEETS @robportman: 3yrs ago, POTUS pledged "To get this economy back on its feet." Today? 13mil Americans unemployed & DC deeper in debt http://goo.gl/0dlvY
@reppaulryan: We face a choice of 2 futures: stay on President's path of debt & decline, or renew American idea & restore prosperity http://cbsn.ws/LjsYAY