Jonathan Karl Grades the VP Field

The Romney campaign won't say anything about when a vice presidential announcement will be made, but here is a hint: I know of two potential candidates who have been told to stand ready for an announcement any day now that Romney has returned from his foreign trip. The messages were delivered before Romney returned; the candidates were told to be prepared to jump into action anytime after the end of the trip.

Only Romney ultimately knows when he will pull the trigger, but the widespread expectation of those close to him is that it will happen well before the Republican convention, although likely not before next week.

As for whom the pick will be, I believe the short list comes down to three names: Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan.

See who's betting on which potential veep to round out Romney's ticket here.

Ryan is the dark horse here, dismissed by many as relatively inexperienced and tainted by his controversial "Path to Prosperity" budget, but Romney confidants tell me Romney thinks highly of Ryan and sees his budget plan as a positive, despite the predictable attacks that would come from Democrats. After all, those attacks will come anyway (Democrats already speak of the "Romney-Ryan Budget"). Picking Ryan for VP would put on the ticket the person best able to respond to those attacks.

And get this: Some of Romney's political advisers believe Ryan could put Wisconsin in play, giving a Romney-Ryan ticket a chance of winning a state that hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in 1984. They point to a recent PPP poll that showed putting Ryan on the ticket cuts President Obama's lead in Wisconsin to a single point.

Here is the poll

There are other longer shots potentially still in play. Marco Rubio, of course, has strong advocates in the party and continues to draw the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of any of the others. There's also Kelly Ayotte and Bobby Jindal.

One thing to consider is the Rafalca factor. Rafalca, of course, is Ann Romney's horse that is in the Olympic dressage competition. When Mitt Romney from his foreign trip, Ann Romney remained in London to watch Rafalca compete. Now Rafalca has completed her competition (sadly, without winning a medal). That means Ann is on her way home – and ready, at any time, to be by her husband's side has he makes his final decision on a running mate.

So, now, here is the new short list of those most likely to be Mitt Romney's running mate:

The Top Tier

1. Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty is the new front-runner. He has won high marks from Republicans for his work on the Romney campaign: on the stump, in interviews and in fundraising. As the former governor of Minnesota, he has executive experience. He's popular with evangelicals who still might have reservations about Romney. And this might be most important: He is fully vetted (remember, he went through the process in 2008, when he was a top contender to be John McCain's running mate).

2. Rob Portman: He's the man with the golden resume: Two-time cabinet member, congressman, senator.

3. Paul Ryan: Romney has already endorsed the Wisconsin congressman's budget, so why not go all-in?

The Second Tier

4. Marco Rubio: He is the top Republican rising star and to count him out would be foolish.

5. Kelly Ayotte: Kelly Ayotte might be a political novice (Her successful run for the Senate in 2010 is the one and only campaign she has ever run), but she has high-level law enforcement experience as the former appointed attorney general for the state of New Hampshire. She's also well-liked in Romneyworld.

6. Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor has policy smarts, executive experience and credibility among conservatives. Then again, he endorsed Rick Perry for president, which, for at least some Romney confidants, makes him virtually disqualified.

The Unlikely

7. Former Secy. of State Condoleezza Rice 8. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota 9. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 10. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie 11. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell 12. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels 13. Mike Huckabee

The Top Tier

VIDEO: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on leaving the presidential race.

Bottom Line We know his campaign for president flopped, but blame that on tactics (who bets the farm on the Ames straw poll?). This Sam's Club Republican can help Romney with two groups: evangelicals and working-class voters. And he's not as boring as you think. He wants us to take him off our list, but we are not going to do it.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Nov. 27, 1960, age 51
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minnesota
Family: Mary Anderson (wife); Children: Anna, Mara
Religion: Baptist
Current job: Lawyer
Previous experience: Governor of Minnesota (2003 - 2011), Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives (1999 - 2003).
Date They Endorsed Romney: Sept. 12, 2011
Previous Appearances with Romney: Traveled with Romney on his bus tour in mid-June, and attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat the week after. Pawlenty also bracketed Obama's Ohio bus tour on Romney's behalf earlier this month.
What They've Said: "No, I've taken my name off that list."

The Top Tier

VIDEO: ABC News' Jon Karl rides the Capitol Subway with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
ABC News

Bottom Line He's Mr. Experience. Congressman, senator, member of the cabinet (twice). He has a proven ability to win, by a landslide, in Ohio. You think he's boring? Nah, this guy goes kayaking -- in China.

Vital Stats
Birthday and Age:Dec. 19, 1955, age 56
Birthplace: Cincinnati
Family: Jane Portman (wife); Children: Jed, Will and Sally
Religion: Methodist
Current job: U.S. senator from Ohio
Previous experience: director of the Office of Management and Budget, U.S. trade representative, member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Date They Endorsed Romney: Jan. 19, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Traveled with Romney on his bus tour in mid-June, and attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat the week after. In July, Portman headlined a Romney fundraiser in Ohio and also spent a day meeting with Romney aides.
What They've Said: "No, not for me."

The Top Tier

VIDEO: Who is the man behind the GOP response to the State of the Union?
ABC News

Bottom Line He's the man with the plan. Romney has already embraced Ryan's controversial budget, so why not go all in? He's got ideas and energy and conservatives may like Ryan even more than Rubio. Democrats, by the way, would love this pick.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Jan. 29, 1970
Birthplace: Janesville, Wis.
Family: Janna Ryan (wife); Children: Elizabeth, Charles and Samuel
Religion: Roman Catholic
Current job: chairman of the House Committee on the Budget
Previous experience: political speechwriter for 1996 vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, legislative director for then-Sen. Sam Brownback
Date They Endorsed Romney: March 30, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Campaigned with Romney on his bus tour in mid-June, and attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat the week after.
What They've Said: "I would have to consider it, but it's not something I am even thinking about right now because I think our job in Congress is pretty important."

The Second Tier

VIDEO: Marco Rubio Says He Would Turn Down VP Slot

Bottom Line He's young, he's Hispanic, he's from Florida and conservatives love him. When asked about being a VP candidate, he first said "no," but now Rubio says, "no comment." He's got both star power and Average Joe credentials -- this guy is still paying off his student loans.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: May 28, 1971, age 40
Birthplace: Miami
Family: Jeanette Dousdebes (wife); Children: Amanda, Daniella, Anthony and Dominic
Religion: Catholic
Current job: U.S. senator for Florida
Previous experience: speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, member of the Florida House of Representatives
Date They Endorsed Romney: March 28, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Appeared with Romney on Pennsylvania campaign stops in April.
What They've Said: "I'm not going to be the vice president."

The Second Tier

PHOTO: Kelly Ayotte
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Bottom Line OK, so she's never held any elected office other than U.S. senator, and she's been in the Senate less than two years. But Kelly Ayotte is no novice. She served for five years as New Hampshire's attorney general. Oh, and she's a woman. Downside: a Romney/Ayotte ticket may be too much New England for a party that doesn't stand much chance of actually winning in New England.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: June 27, 1958, 43
Birthplace: Nashua, N.H.
Family:Joe Daley (husband) ; Children: Katherine & Jacob
Religion: Roman Catholic
Current job: U.S. Senator for New Hampshire
Previous experience: N.H. state attorney general (2004-2009), U.S. senator (2010-present)
Date They Endorsed Romney: Nov. 20, 2011
Previous Appearances with Romney: Campaigned with Romney during the primaries in April, introduced him at New Hampshire campaign stops in May, traveled with Romney on his mid-June bus tour, attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in Utah in June and marched in the Wolfeboro, N.H., Fourth of July parade with the Romney family. Also appeared alongside Romney at an event in Bow, N.H., on July 20.
What They've Said: "I just got elected to the Senate by the good people of New Hampshire and that has been and will continue to be my only focus," Ayotte told the Nashua Telegraph.

The Second Tier

VIDEO: The Governor expresses concern over type of oil hitting Louisiana marshlands
ABC News

Bottom Line His 2009 response to President Obama's state of the union address was a flop, but Jindal is considered one of the smartest and most effective Republican governors in the country and that's enough to guarantee he gets a good look by the Romney team.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: June 10, 1971, age 41
Birthplace: Baton Rouge, La.
Family: Supriya (wife); Children: Selia Elizabeth, Shaan Robert and Slade Ryan
Religion: Roman Catholic
Current job: governor of Louisiana
Previous experience: director of Louisiana Health and Hospitals Department (1996-98), executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare (1998-99), president of the University of Louisiana system (1999-2001), principal policy advisor to the secretary of Health and Human Services (2001-03), U.S. congressman (2004-2006), governor (2008-present)
Date They Endorsed Romney: April 10, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in June and bracketed the Obama bus tour on Romney's behalf in early July. Made his first official appearance with Romney July 16 at a Baton Rouge fundraiser. Jindal also campaigned in battleground state Iowa on Romney's behalf while the candidate was abroad.
What They've Said: "No, I will not be V.P."

The Unlikely

Bottom Line While the Drudge Report suggested Condoleezza Rice is the new frontrunner to be Mitt Romney's running mate, a spokesperson for the former secretary of state told ABC News she is still not interested in the job. Rice has repeatedly and consistently maintained that she not only doesn't want to be VP, she doesn't want to run for any elected office. Plus, she breaks one of Romney's requirements; Rice has described herself as "moderately" supportive of abortion rights.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Nov. 14, 1954, age 57
Birthplace: Birmingham, A.L.
Family: Single
Religion: Presbyterian
Current job: Professor of political economy in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Stanford
Previous experience: former Secy. Of State to President George W. Bush (2005-2009), National Security Adviser under President Bush (2001), advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1987), director of Soviet and East European Affairs on the National Security Council (1989- 1991)
Date They Endorsed Romney: May 30, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Attended Romney's donor retreat in Park City, Utah in June.
What They've Said: "There is no way that I will do this… I know my strengths, and Gov. Romney needs to find someone who wants to run with him."

The Unlikely

PHOTO: John Thune
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Jan. 7, 1961, age 52
Birthplace: Murdo, S.D..
Family: Kimberley (wife); Children: Brittany and Larissa
Religion: Evangelical Christian
Current job: senator of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference
Previous experience: member of the US House of Representatives for South Dakota (1997-2003)
v Date They Endorsed Romney: Nov. 3, 2011
Previous Appearances with Romney: Supported Romney in Iowa in November and attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in June. Also met with the Romney campaign in Utah over the weekend of June 22.
What They've Said: "My life is an open book ? I'm not worried about someone taking a look."

The Unlikely

VIDEO: Jeb Bush "Worried" Candidates Losing Independents

Bottom Line He says he doesn't want the job. The country may not yet be ready for another Bush. But Jeb could help deliver Florida, appeal to Hispanics and nobody would doubt his qualifications. And this: Romney has known him longer than anybody else on this list.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Feb, 11, 1953, age 59
Birthplace: Midland, Texas
Family: Columba (wife); Children: George P., Noelle, John Ellis (Jeb, Jr.)
Religion: Roman Catholic (since 1995)
Current Job: co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
Previous experience: founded think-tank The Foundation for Florida's Future, governor of Florida (1999-2007)
Date They Endorsed Romney: March 21, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in June.
What They've Said: "There is a strong field to pick from, but Marco Rubio, to me, would be the best choice."

The Unlikely

PHOTO: Chris Christie
Mel Evans/AP Photo

Bottom Line Republicans would love to see him debate Joe Biden. Christie can be electrifying on the stump and brutally effective in taking down his opponents. He worked hard for Romney, but he'd be a running mate who could overshadow the top of the ticket.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Sept. 6, 1962, age 49
Birthplace: Newark, N.J.
Family: Mary Pat Foster (wife); Children: Andrew, Sarah, Patrick and Bridget
Religion: Roman Catholic
Current job: governor of New Jersey
Previous experience: U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, member of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders
Date They Endorsed Romney: Oct. 11, 2011
Previous Appearances with Romney: Campaigned with Romney in New Jersey in late June.
What They've Said: "If Gov. [Mitt] Romney were to come and talk to me about it, I'd listen, because I love my party enough and I love my country enough to listen."

The Unlikely

PHOTO: Bob McDonnell
Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Bottom Line As a governor, attorney general and retired Army lieutenant colonel from swing state Virginia, McDonnell checks a lot of boxes. But his clumsy handling of the transvaginal ultrasound bill in Virginia didn't exactly help his case.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: June 15, 1954, age 58
Birthplace: Philadelphia, but moved to Fairfax County, Va., at 1 year old
Family: Maureen Gardner of McLean, Va. (wife) ; Children: Jeanine, Cailin, Rachel and twins, Bobby and Sean
Religion: Roman Catholic
Current job: governor of Virginia
Previous experience: 21 years in Army, including time on reserve, seven terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, three years as state attorney general, two years as governor
Date They Endorsed Romney: Jan. 10, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Campaigned with Romney in Virginia in October, made three stops with him in South Carolina in January, one stop in Florida in January and made three stops with Romney in Virginia in May and June combined. Also attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in June. He also campaigned on Romney's behalf in battleground state Iowa while the candidate was abroad in late July.
What They've Said: "I'd be very interested. It is a swing state. I'm not asking for the call. I'm not looking for the call."

The Unlikely

VIDEO: Indiana governor explains his decision not to run for president.
ABC News

Bottom Line Daniels firmly said no when it came to running for president, but he's left the door open to being on the ticket. The man knows budgets and speaks Romney's language when it comes to focusing on the economy. Under Gov. Daniels, Indiana actually ran a surplus.
Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: April 7, 1949, age 63
Birthplace: Monongahela, Pa.
Family: Cheri (wife); Children: Meagan, Melissa, Meredith and Maggie
Religion: Presbyterian
Current job: governor of Indiana
Previous experience: chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (1983-84), chief political advisor and liaison to President Ronald Reagan (1985-87), president and CEO of conservative think tank the Hudson Institute (1987-90), director of the Office of Management and Budget (2001-03), governor (2004-present)
Date They Endorsed Romney: April 18, 2012
Previous Appearances with Romney: Attended the Romney weekend fundraising retreat in June.
What They've Said: "I don't know, I've always felt that no citizen should say in advance, 'If asked to serve, I won't.'"

The Unlikely

PHOTO: Mike Huckabee
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Vital Stats
Birthday and Age: Aug. 24, 1955, age 57
Birthplace: Hope, Arkansas
Family: Janet (wife); Children: John Mark, David and Sarah
Religion: Southern Baptist
Current job: TV host
Previous experience: Governor of Arkansas (1996-2007), Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas (1993-1996).
Date They Endorsed Romney: Has not officially endorsed, but said he would endorse the eventual GOP nominee. Previous Appearances with Romney: Huckabee has not appeared publically with Romney. What They've Said: "I think there's a greater likelihood that I'll be asked by Madonna to go on tour as her bass player than I'll be picked to be on the ticket."

Possibilities Nobody is Considering

Susana Martinez
She's already made history by becoming America's first Hispanic woman elected governor. Romney has said she'd be a top candidate for a position in his cabinet and "some other positions as well." Problem is, she firmly says she would not accept the offer and, unlike some others on this list, we believe her.

John Thune
Thune is a stand-out among Republicans in the Senate and was an early supporter of Mitt Romney. Romney doesn't need to worry about South Dakota's three electoral votes, but, then again, Bush didn't need to worry about Wyoming either. And that would sure be one good-looking ticket.

Mary Fallin
She's one of the most popular governors in America, but is Romney really going to choose a little-known, small-state, first-term governor?

David Petraeus
We don't know if he is a Republican (and one of his friends tells us he leans Democrat), but this could be the ultimate national security pick. And while he says he will not seek elected office, he has not used the language that fellow Army General William Sherman used.

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