Romney VP Pick Boils Down to Rob Portman or Bobby Jindal

The Republican National Convention is slated for late August in Tampa, Fla. If former Governor Mitt Romney’s strategy is anything like Senator John McCain's, he will likely wait until right before the convention to name his vice presidential pick. The logic behind the late announcement is to maximize media attention and energy during the final two months before the November election.

Romney is already off to the races. Political analysts are having a field day speculating whom he will pick for his No. 2 position. Unlike previous campaigns, Romney has the opportunity to announce his VP pick several weeks before the convention. If the pick is right, he could even use the early announcement to generate buzz around his campaign, drum up additional support, and boost his campaign funds.

The vetting process is extensive. Potential candidates undergo background investigations and turn in financial documents, while campaign officials scrutinize details about voting history and policy positions.  While the Romney camp has been rather tight-lipped, it is always enjoyable to hypothesize about the list of candidates. We can see many options for the Romney pick, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and even former Republican candidate Rick Santorum.

But two names are starting to emerge as leaders of the pack: Ohio Senator Rob Portman and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Let’s take a quick look at both their profiles and consider why Romney may tap either as the VP pick.

Portman, although a freshman senator, boasts a long history of leadership within the Republican Party. Portman has been the go-to person within the party when presidential and leadership candidates need to prepare for national debates. He’s got the brains and the skill to truly understand different policy perspectives and positions. "I don't try to imitate the president, per se," Portman told Yahoo News in an interview. "Just take the policy positions and some of the same rhetoric. It's a good way to learn what the other side is thinking and how they approach problems."

Portman has won the appreciation and respect of Democratic senators. Ben Cardin, Democratic senator from Maryland, worked with Portman on pension reform in the House and acknowledged his ability to “protect the integrity of a process that was bipartisan.”

His looser economic record when leading the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under George W. Bush's administration, however, would give Democrats a point of attack if he were selected as the VP candidate. During his time as OMB director, the debt ceiling was repeatedly raised, ashe voted to raise it, and the national debt increased by $500 billion through the year. Portman would need to find a way to refute the Democratic claims and may choose to turn to his record of lower unemployment rates and his tireless work on the Super Committee crafting the bipartisan deficit-reduction plan, even though it eventually failed to create a working deal.

Jindal has served two terms as governor and is building his portfolio within the Republican Party. Although relatively fresh on the panel, Jindal is quickly rising in prominence and respect. His first gubernatorial campaign focused “on rooting out political corruption and turning around a state budget heading to financial crisis.” His main success was reducing the deficit through spending cuts, including a reduction in state employee pensions.

Jindal has strongly criticized Obama’s policieswhile simultaneously proposing innovative GOP alternatives.  The federal government needs strong reforms and the country needs to see bipartisanship back at work for the benefits of millions of Americans. Jindal has proven that he can make bold reforms in his state of Louisiana.

Education is an issue of growing national attention, and Jindal has quite the record in Louisiana. In April, he signed a school choice bill that will allow around 380,000 students from low- and middle-income households to escape substandard schools. This comes on the heels of Obama’s 2013 budget that would end the school voucher program and Jindal’s other decision to create the country’s second-largest school voucher program. 

Perhaps of greater note, Jindal has taken to criticizing Obama’s energy policy. Eighty-eight percent of the United States’ offshore rigs are on Louisiana’s outer continental shelf.  So since Obama ordered a moratorium on Gulf drilling, 50% of Louisiana’s offshore companies have laid off employees and around half of these companies have moved out of the Gulf.

While Portman and Jindal are both strong picks for Romney, they are only two candidates on what could be an extensive shortlist. The vetting process will speak volumes in the coming weeks.  When looking at success, records and clout in the Republican Party, these two individuals shine bright. The next few weeks will say a lot about what could be Romney’s first, or last, big decision.