Veep Beat: Contenders Hit the Trail for Romney

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VP CONTENDERS FAN OUT ACROSS COUNTRY FOR ROMNEY: As Mitt Romney inches closer to making a decision on who will fill the number-two spot on the GOP ticket, potential VP contenders are hitting the trail for Romney today, demonstrating just how useful these high profile surrogates can be to the Romney campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to hold a "Repeal and Replace" grassroots health care rally for Romney at the campaign's Ohio headquarters in Columbus while Romney is across the state in Bowling Green. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is also in the Buckeye state, speaking to supporters at United Performance Metals in Hamilton followed by a fundraiser in Mason. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also hosting a fundraiser in Chicago and Washington D.C., will tag-team a fundraiser in Wayzata, Minn., today.

A LOOK INSIDE THE VETTING: The New York Times' Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker detailed the intricacies of the vetting process, one of Romney's most secret parts of the campaign yet, from the 80-question questionnaire contenders were asked to complete to plans to deploy Romney's eventual running mate to high-dollar fundraisers after the announcement is made.In a separate story in the New York Times, Barbaro reported that Romney aides informed potential candidates to be available in July for a possible announcement though the Romney campaign has declined to comment on timing. "Aides to Mitt Romney have pored over video footage of potential running mates, studying hundreds of hours of Sunday news show appearances, campaign debates and stump speeches for insight into how they handle unwelcome inquiries, even hecklers. They have instructed possible No. 2's to fill out a questionnaire with about 80 detailed and sometimes intrusive questions covering the financial and the personal, including, 'Have you ever been unfaithful?' And they have listened for political intangibles that are subjective but potent, like: Is a candidate's style of speaking inviting or grating? The Romney campaign has cloaked its vetting of possible vice-presidential nominees in layers of secrecy, so much so that it is even considering using a decoy - two sets of planes, two roll-out locations, for example - to try to keep the selection from leaking out," Barbaro and Parker wrote. "Aides have begun discussing how to deploy Mr. Romney's running mate on the trail and at fund-raisers. Campaign officials envision having the candidate headline a combination of $30,000-per-couple dinners in big cities and smaller events in second-tier locations, to gauge which proves more lucrative. Those who spoke about the vetting and roll-out did so on the condition of anonymity, citing orders. The campaign declined to comment."

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PAWLENTY FOCUSED ON 'YARD WORK' AS VP RACE HEATS UP, HAS DE JA VU: Pawlenty is a leading candidate to be Mitt Romney's running mate, but the former Minnesota governor isn't giving much thought about whether he'll be picked as speculation is reaching a fever pitch, ABC News' Michael Falcone and Shushannah Walshe reported. "Despite a flurry of speculation about whether Mitt Romney will name his running mate this week, one of the top contenders for the job insisted that politics was the furthest thing from his mind. 'I'm in contact with Governor Romney from time to time, but this week I'm focused on some yard work and some business things,' Pawlenty said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday," Falcone and Walshe wrote. "Pawlenty, who over the last year has transitioned from one of Romney's fiercest rivals to one of his biggest advocates, offered few clues about the swirling rumors that his is one of just a few names at the top of Romney's list of possible running mates. 'The process will unfold in due course," Pawlenty said. "I'm sure governor Romney and his team will let you all know when the announcement's coming, but that's not something that I can comment on.' He acknowledged, however, that he was experiencing 'a little bit of déjà vu,' recalling how he was the subject of similar speculation four years ago when Sen. John McCain was preparing to select his vice presidential nominee - a spot that ultimately went to Sarah Palin."

PORTMAN HASN'T SPOKEN TO ROMNEY RECENTLY: Sen. Rob Portman said he recently has not been in contact with Romney when asked in a Fox News interview if he had heard from the presumptive GOP nominee recently, ABC News' Gregory Simmons reported. "I have not," Portman said in a Fox News Interview Tuesday. "I've been watching him on Fox, though."

NINE THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT PORTMAN: ABC News' Elizabeth Hartfield runs down some of the lesser known traits of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, including the book he wrote about a Shaker village near Lebanon, Ohio, and the haunted hotel his family owns.

CHRISTIE'S BLUNT STYLE MAY TURN OFF TEAM ROMNEY: Gov. Chris Christie has never hidden his blunt, tell it like it is style, but his hallmark trait may diminish his chances at being selected as a running mate, as Team Romney is cooling to the New Jersey governor, the New York Times' Kate Zernike reported. "He has a record of fiscal conservatism in a moderate state. His aggressive approach to political combat has excited the Tea Party contingent, but he also has influential allies on Wall Street and in other power centers of the Republican Party," Zernike wrote of Christie. "His rumpled, real-guy persona would complement Mr. Romney's wealthy, pressed-jeans image. Democrats in New Jersey, his home state, mocked his address at Brookings as the 'Tampa Try-Out Tour,' his audition for a role at the Republican nominating convention later this summer. But Mr. Christie's star has faded as a potential vice-presidential pick. As polls show that his bluntness is striking more voters as bullying, Republicans close to Mr. Romney's campaign say that the governor's continued hostile encounters - including one on the Jersey Shore this month that was caught on video - have augmented fears that he is too unpredictable and too contentious, turning what was once viewed as a key strength into a drawback."

CHRISTIE TO KEYNOTE CONVENTION? The New York Post's Josh Margolin reported Republican activists in New Jersey have learned Gov. Chris Christie will keynote the GOP convention in Tampa Aug. 28.

McDONNELL'S APPROVAL RATING UP: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's approval rating is slightly back up with 55 percent of Virginians approving of his job as governor, up two percent since June, according to a new Quinnipiac poll in Virginia out today.


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