Veep Beat: The VP Contender Tour Kicks Off

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VP CONTENDERS BONANZA BEGINS: Mitt Romney may not be making a pick in the next week, but his surrogates and VP contenders are preparing to be on the trail over the next five days while Romney is overseas. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell kick off the surrogate tour today by hopping on the Romney campaign bus for events in Davenport, Coralville, and Des Moines, Iowa, while Sen. John Thune will hold a "We Did Build It" rally in Virginia Beach. On Friday, Tim Pawlenty will open a victory office in Wake County and hold an event at a youth hockey rink, ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reported, and Thune will head to Virginia to bracket President Obama's campaign stops in the state, ABC News' Sunlen Miller reported. Sen. Marco Rubio will make his first set of solo campaign appearances for Romney on Saturday at his old elementary school in Las Vegas as well as an event in Des Moines, Iowa, while Jindal will venture down to Florida to hold an event on Saturday. Rep. Paul Ryan may join RNC chair Reince Priebus on a bus tour through Wisconsin Sunday, and Sen. Rob Portman will campaign in Pennsylvania for Romney on Monday, ABC News' Gregory Simmons reported, closing out the five days of high profile surrogate events.

ROMNEY JOKES ON VP: Asked by NBC News' Brian Williams whether he is looking for an "incredibly boring white guy" for the number two spot on his ticket, Romney quipped back, "You told me you were available." Romney turned serious though and ruled out the next week for his announcement."I can tell you I'm not going to announce it this week. While I'm overseas, I'm not gonna announce my vice presidential running mate. But when the decision is made, I'll make that announcement. It's not made yet. But I can't tell you when it's gonna be," Romney said. "That's something which we'll decide down the road."

JEB TELLS ROMNEY: PICK RUBIO! Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made a personal appeal to Romney recently, suggesting to him that he should pick Marco Rubio as his running mate, the AP's Brendan Farrington reported. "Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush thinks Sen. Marco Rubio is ready to be vice president and he shared those thoughts with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, he said Wednesday," Farrington wrote. "Bush said he has been a huge fan of Rubio's for years and hopes that Romney chooses him. He said he made his pitch to Romney in a recent conversation, but the former Massachusetts governor didn't reveal which direction he was leaning. Bush said the choice is a personal one and respects Romney for keeping his thoughts close to his vest."

CHRISTIE OPEN TO 2016 RUN: New Jersey Gov. Christie told the Associated Press Wednesday that if Romney fails to obtain the presidency this fall, he'd be open to a presidential run in 2016, ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reported. According to the Associated Press, Christie said he hopes Romney beats President Obama and is running for his second term in 2016, but if not he will "certainly think about it." "If there's an opportunity for me to serve in another capacity and I think I have something to add to the mix, I don't think I'd back away from it," Christie said at the event Wednesday in Ocean City on the Jersey Shore.

AYOTTE TO HOLD DEFENSE CUTS TOWNHALLS: Sen. Kelly Ayotte will hold a series of defense cuts townhalls with Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham next week, ABC News' Sunlen Miller reported. The tour dubbed, "Preserving America's Strength," will highlight the "devastating impacts of the looming defense cuts now scheduled to take place under budget sequestration next year." The three senators will hold townhalls in Tampa, Fayettefille, N.C., and Norfolk, Va. on Monday, followed by a townhall in Merrimack, N.H. Tuesday.

McDONNELL SLAMS OBAMA ON 'YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT' At a press conference with small business owners in Richmond Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell criticized President Obama for his "You didn't build that" comment, the Washington Post's Anita Kumar reported. "Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a surrogate for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and possible vice presidential contender, blasted President Obama Wednesday for his 'you didn't build that' remark in Roanoke last week. The comment 'reflects a president and an administration that's just out of touch, out of ideas and, as far as I'm concerned, out of time to prove they can restore the American dream here in Virginia,' McDonnell said at a Richmond business adorned with a massive white-and-blue 'We did build it!' sign. McDonnell was joined by a pair of small business owners, including Melissa Ball of Ball Office Products who said she was insulted by the president's comments."

JINDAL'S RELIGIOUS FACTOR: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal witnessed a friends exorcism while he was in college, causing some to wonder whether his brush with this unusual religious experience would hurt his chances as VP, National Review's Katrina Trinko reported. "Does Bobby Jindal's college experience of witnessing a friend's 'exorcism' doom his chances to become Mitt Romney's running mate?" Trinko wrote. "If he were picked, would it overshadow everything else about him? Robert Mann, a longtime staffer for Louisiana Democrats ad now a communications professor at Louisiana State University, wrote a June blog post with the headline 'Why Bobby Jindal won't be Mitt Romney's running mate, in one word: Exorcism.' Jindal, Mann wrote, 'cannot exorcise the fact that he participated in a quirky religious ritual that - if he were on the ticket with Romney - would draw a great deal of negative and very unwelcome attention to Romney's Mormon faith.' As the buzz about Jindal's chances of being second on the ticket has increased, Mann has been joined by others. Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza wondered in a post last week if Jindal had 'too many known unknowns' in his past, including 'his participation in what some have described as an exorcism during his college years.' Time's Alex Altman mentioned the incident and wrote that 'without casting any aspersions on Jindal's beliefs, it's safe to say that Romney - who has dealt with an undercurrent of bigotry toward his own faith - likely wants to avoid a protracted discussion of religious practices that would overshadow his focus on the economy.'If Jindal is selected, his experience will no doubt be a focus, an obsessive one, among commentators on a certain cable channel. For most voters, however, Jindal's views on the economy, spending, and other issues should trump any discomfort they feel about an incident he was involved in two decades ago."

PAWLENTY'S TROUBLE SPOTS: Yahoo! News' Chris Moody details the trouble spots in Tim Pawlenty's record which Democrats would use to take aim at the former Minnesota governor, including the $600,000 in fines his gubernatorial campaign paid due to illegal coordination with the state party, serving on a board of a company whose subsidiary was charged with scamming customers, and his former campaign treasurer who duped homeowners facing foreclosures.

PORTMAN LEGISLATION: Sen. Rob Portman introduced legislation Wednesday that would aim to avoid a government shutdown, The Hill's Erik Wasson reported. "Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at ending the threat of a government shutdown once and for all. The bill would automatically extend government spending at current levels for 120 days when funding expires. If Congress continues to fail to act, spending would be cut by 1 percent across the board every 90 days," Wasson wrote. "'Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington's fiscal house back in order,' Portman said in a statement. The triggered cuts could give fiscal hawks a negotiating advantage, since simply failing to reach a deal would reduce spending by default."


@robportman: Good discussions this afternoon on DoD budgets, sequestration, and Afghanistan with Reserve Officers from @ NDU_EDU

@reppaulryan: Spoke with @ SykesCharlie about the cost of Obamacare & the President's confusion w/ free enterprise & civil society -

@bobbyjindal: Welcome to New Orleans Mr. President. …

@govchristie: Want to know how to help me track down the # CorzineDems and get them the hell off the beach? # EndlessSummer

@governorva: Special elections in Virginia Senate District 5 and House District 45 will be held Sept. 4 …

@kellyayotte: "We have a responsibility not to break faith with our troops" # stoptheclock

@senjohnthune: The Senate made a united call for transparency today by passing my # Sequestration legislation, I urge the president to quickly sign the bill