This weekend could make or break any of eight potential Mitt Romney running mates who are fanning out to key battleground states to keep the GOP presidential nominee’s name in front of voters while he is away on a trip to the London Olympics, Poland and Israel.
Potential vice presidential pick from front-runners Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to those way down the list like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are hosting “victory rallies” and fundraisers in Romney’s absence.
The performances will be closely watched by Romney’s vice presidential vetting team who insiders say is looking for a steady, non-controversial running mate who can rally crowds without making any gaffes. Their “presidentialness” will also be on display, a trait the campaign views as key since their effort will be to unveil a team ready for the White House.
Here’s the vice presidential audition schedule:
-- Rudy Giuliani is working voters and raising money in Boca Raton, Florida Friday.
-- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headlines a victory rally Saturday in Coral Springs, Florida.
-- South Dakota Sen. John Thune is in Springfield, Virginia Friday for a victory rally.
-- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio hosts a victory rally in Las Vegas Saturday.
-- Ohio Sen. Rob Portman helps out in Ohio Saturday and Pennsylvania Monday.
-- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty heads to Raleigh, N.C. Saturday.
-- Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will campaign for Romney Sunday in his home state.
-- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has a trip to Michigan scheduled for next week.
In the rankings of who matters in the vice presidential race, Larry Sabato, who heads the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, only Jindal, Rubio, Portman, Pawlenty and Ryan count.
In his latest Crystal Ball he seemed to dismiss others down the list, and took a shot at the Drudge Report for playing up the possibility that former Secretary of State Condi Rice is in contention. His review of the second tier:
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH): Sarah Palin’s experience may make it difficult for Romney to choose a woman this cycle.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (FL): Wrong last name. He wasn’t interested, and the sentiment was apparently returned.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): One boardwalk confrontation too many.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR): We’re confident that his Fox TV show pays better than VP.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Have we ever mentioned transvaginal ultrasounds? Also: He’s too busy saving prestigious universities.
Sen. John Thune (SD): In the boring, competent white guy department, Thune places well but is trumped by Pawlenty and Portman.
P.S. We took former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice off our list last month, and others should have too — Drudge, this means you.