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GOP VP sweepstakes quietly under way

April 9, 2012 at 10:05 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- U.S. congressional members are geared for months of talk about possible running mates for the Republican presidential candidate, aides said.

About a half-dozen members have been mentioned as potential vice presidential contenders to run with Mitt Romney, who helped solidify his front-runner status and delegate count last week with a sweep in the Wisconsin, Maryland and District of Columbia GOP primaries, Roll Call reported Monday.

A candidate needs 1,144 delegates at the Republican National Convention in August.

RealClearPolitics.com indicated Romney had 656 delegates to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's 272. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 140 and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has 67, the delegate count showed.

Aides and supporters of those thought to be on Romney's short list of told Roll Call they are preparing to deal with months of speculation. Other sources said they expected staffers to take a low-key approach when advocating their congressional member, whether to party insiders or to the media.

Leading the list is freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who some GOP insiders said they believe is a lock if he wants it and can survive the vetting process.

Also among top-tier prospects are House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who campaigned with Romney before the state's April 3 primary and whose budget plan Romney has endorsed; Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Republican Conference chairman; freshman Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a veteran of the House and the George W. Bush administration; and freshman Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

"I think it could get competitive among the staffs," a Republican strategist not affiliated with any of the possible contenders told Roll Call. "The members themselves know it would be bad form to engage in over-positioning. But staffs are definitely aware of what each member is doing. There is jockeying -- no question about it."

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