After Tim Pawlenty bowed out of the GOP presidential sweepstakes in August following a third-place finish in the Iowa straw poll, he joined Romney's campaign as an adviser and has appeared at GOP events on Romney's behalf.
The conservative National Review characterizes Pawlenty as "Romney's traveling salesman," available to do what is needed for the Romney campaign.
"I'm happy to help where I can," Pawlenty told the Times from his home in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Eagan. He turned aside questions about being Romney's possible running mate, saying, "I think I can best serve him in other ways, but anybody would be honored to be asked."
While the vetting process has been extremely secretive, several Republicans close to the campaign told The New York Times they think Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio stand out among those being considered.
Some of Pawlenty's supporters say he could help blunt the criticism of Romney's wealth.
"An appealing counterbalance to Romney being a son of a wealthy man and going to elite schools is Pawlenty being the son of a truck driver who went to the University of Minnesota," Ray Washburne, a Dallas businessman who began helping Romney's campaign after Pawlenty left the race, told the Times. "He's not elite in any sense of the word."