While Mitt Romney is overseas, his campaign dispatched 7 of the top contenders for the Vice Presidential nomination to key battleground states in what has to be regarded as a final test of their potential as Romney's running mate. After all, before making a hiring decision, a CEO wants to see how his choice measures up to the challenges of the job. And job #1 for the VP nominee will be campaigning solo in the toss-up states.
The first item of note is those who were not out campaigning for Romney: Kelly Ayotte, Chris Christie and Condoleeza Rice. Ayotte is campaigning in North Carolina and Virginia--but with John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Scratch Ayotte, Christie and Rice off your list of contenders. Secondly, Paul Ryan only campaigned in his home state of Wisconsin. Scratch him also.
That leaves Bob McDonnell, Rob Portman, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio. There's your list of finalists.
McDonnell went to Iowa, appearing jointly with Bobby Jindal, before going back to campaign in his home state of Virginia. Portman was in his homestate of Ohio over the weekend, but goes to Pennsylvania today. Put a question mark by their names.
John Thune was in Virginia Thursday to open a campaign office in Springfield and made other campaign appearances in the state. Thune hardly excites anyone. Talk about a boring pick. Except for his good looks and Mid-west background, you could scratch him also.
That leaves Pawlenty, Jindal, and Rubio. All three of whom were offering up red meat to enthusiastic crowds in key states outside of their own home bases.
Pawlenty was in North Carolina at events in the Raleigh area Saturday. And he will be in Ohio at events in Dayton and Springfield today. He told the cheering crowd in Raleigh that:
"We've got a problem because we've got a president who's all foam and no beer. I don't know about you but I'm tired of hearing these teleprompter speeches and no results!" he said. "You know his big fancy speeches from four years ago; those speeches, those words don't put gas in our cars do they? And his teleprompter speeches don't pay the mortgage do they?"
Bobby Jindal was in Iowa Thursday, where he held several events (McDonnell was only at the first one). He then went to South Florida to campaign. Continuing Pawlenty's beer theme, Jindal launched into a withering attack on Obama, saying
You know it's bad when the Europeans are giving us advice about too much spending and too much borrowing. That's like the town drunk telling you you've got a drinking problem.
Marco Rubio was in Nevada, giving a speech at the elementary school that he attended as a boy. He was to then fly to Iowa, but his plane was diverted to New Mexico for mechanical reasons. He spoke to the crowd in Iowa by telephone, while the Iowa Governor, Terry Branstead gave him a quasi-endorsement for VP. Rubio eschewed the alcohol analogies, choosing instead to pose the election as a choice between the free enterprise system and big government:
He [Obama] doesn't believe in the free enterprise system and, quite frankly, he doesn't understand it. It is a choice between two very different visions of the world. . . . Now is not the time to abandon the American miracle.
Pawlenty, Jindal, and Rubio: three great choices.