Tim Pawlenty VP Odds Low: Romney Will Look to Rubio, Santorum, and others

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s stock has risen recently, spurred by recent comments from Team Romney. And while the odds of him being selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate increase, don’t make an impulse bet on the former Golden Gopher. While Pawlenty fits the mold identified by Governor Romney—he’s experienced and competent, the intangibles—but it’s hard to see Romney, who made his fortune crunching numbers, ignoring the numbers stacked against Governor Pawlenty.

Pawlenty would make a solid choice. For Romney, who has hinted through innuendo that he wants to avoid picking another Sarah Palin, Pawlenty would be a strong selection. The two-term governor is unlikely to feed Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update any material, and as the first 2012 candidate to drop out and support Romney, Pawlenty has but a dutiful Romney surrogate. Like Romney, he spent his time governing in a historically blue state. And despite his intellectual side, Pawlenty, the son of a milkman and first generation college student, can connect with blue collar workers in ways Governor Romney can’t.

However, these traits aren’t unique. There are other Republicans who connect with blue collar workers, and resumes to match Pawlenty’s. But unlike Pawlenty, there are other VP candidates who can bring in electoral votes.

The election is a sheer numbers game, the first one to 270 wins. The popular wisdom is that a VP rarely helps the candidate in this game, and can sometimes hurt the campaign, e.g. Sarah Palin. The two areas that a VP can positively influence the race are in reaching out to groups the presidential nominee can’t, and bringing voters from their home state aboard. This is where Pawlenty comes up short against his competitors. While many potential VPs come from key battleground states where Romney would love to pick up votes, the odds are forever against a Pawlenty selection picking up Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes.

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 40 years, the longest streak of any state. And it shows no signs of changing. In current polls, President Obama has a 15 point lead over Governor Romney. With these ominous polls, Governor Romney should look elsewhere for his VP.

What Governor Romney needs is a VP who can help him in the Rust Belt—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio—Virginia, or Florida. According to a recent WSJ/NBC poll, Obama has a strong hold on 201 electoral votes with Governor Romney trailing at only 170, and approximately 167 electoral votes still up for grabs. Fifty four of those undecided come from Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio, and another 13 in Virginia, all of which Obama has a slim lead of 2% or less. Another 29 come from Florida where the candidates are in a dead heat.

The numbers are clear. The election hinges on what happens in Florida, Virginia, and the Rust Belt. Several potential nominees—Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Governor Bob McDonnell (VA), Rick Santorum (PA), and Senator Rob Portman (OH)—offer what Pawlenty can’t, blue collar cred and an inside track to winning a key battleground states. With the numbers stacked against Pawlenty, Romney should look elsewhere.