Okay, Mitt Romney's gotten enough mileage out of all the speculation about his choice of a running mate so let's end the suspense by telling you who he's going to pick. I can tell you he's decided he wants Ohio Sen. Rob Portman at his side when he accepts the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa next month.
How do I know? Because the same anonymous source who told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that Romney didn't pay any taxes for ten years told me. No, not really. Then it must be that I have a crystal ball? No, not that either, as I made clear in a recent post about Theodore H. White warning political reporters against predicting the unpredictable.
It's because of this simple fact: No Republican has been elected president without carrying Ohio. Simply put, if Romney loses the Buckeye State and its 18 electoral votes, he loses the election, just as President Obama must win Ohio to stay in the White House. In fact, Obama knows that the last Democrat to win without Ohio was John F. Kennedy in 1960, which no doubt is why Obama's been there nine times this year, more than any other state besides his next door neighbors Maryland and Virginia, and why Romney is returning there for the umpteenth time next week.
Romney, whose campaign aides say he'll announce his choice in the next few days, is widely reported to have narrowed his choice to three people -- Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
But I'm sorry T-Paw, as much as I'd like to see my home state burnish its reputation as the Mother of Vice Presidents -- see Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale -- and as much as I'm frightened by the prospect of having Ayn Rand disciple Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency, it's simply not in the cards for either of you.
The reason I'm betting the whole banana stand on Portman is not only that he virtually assures Romney of carrying Ohio but that he has it all -- he's intelligent, well-spoken and the right age (56 to Romney's 65); he's solidly conservative (though obviously not enough to satisfy GOP neanderthals); he has no skeletons in his closet (at least none that surfaced after running for office seven times and being vetted as George W. Bush's budget and international trade chief); he's dealt with key economic issues at the highest level (again, it's the economy stupid, which will be the key issue for voters in November), and he won't raise doubts about his readiness for prime time (unlike Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle).
In addition, having Portman on the presidential ticket would boost Republican hopes of taking control of the Senate by helping defeat Ohio's embattled senior Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. And Republicans would almost certainly keep Portman's seat if he's elected to higher office.
The case against Portman is that he's not exciting and not conservative enough, although certainly more so on both counts than Pawlenty, whose state hasn't voted for a GOP presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972. But he doesn't have be exciting to help Romney; he just has to convince enough swing voters that he would help Romney make good on his promise to promote economic growth. And he doesn't have to be a Paul Ryan conservative since they certainly aren't going to vote for Obama.
And what if, in the extremely unlikely event that I'm wrong? No problem. I'll just remind people of what President Franklin Roosevelt told his press secretary Steve Early when Early asked how he should respond to reporters' question about some controversial comments Roosevelt had just made in a speech in Pittsburgh.
"Steve," FDR said, "Tell them I've never been to Pittsburgh."
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