WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney is planning to announce his vice presidential pick on Saturday morning in Norfolk, Va., ending weeks of intense speculation and capping a tightly-controlled selection process.
Speculation has focused in recent days around former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
NBC News early Saturday reported that the former Massachusetts governor will pick Ryan, an architect of the Republican’s budget blueprint that cuts spending and recasts how Medicare and Medicaid are delivered. That report could not be confirmed. Ryan is considered one of the leading intellects of the GOP, but his stance on entitlements could hurt Romney among senior citizens, a key voting group. At 42, Ryan is considered among the party’s top young leaders and would offer a youthful counterpoint to Romney.
Ryan has been recently pushed by several conservative commentators.
The announcement is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. at the USS Wisconsin, perhaps a sign that Romney may choose the Republican from that state.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, whose name had also been floated as a potential pick, has been scheduled to appear with Romney at events on Saturday as well.
Romney is launching a four-day bus tour on Saturday, planning to travel to several swing states, including North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Announcing his pick at the start of the tour will allow Romney and his new running mate to immediately begin campaigning together and drumming up energy and support in crucial states. It could also help Romney further extend his fund-raising edge over President Obama.
The choice comes after a trying few weeks for Romney, in which he has been damaged by Democratic ad attacks, with Obama gaining in both national polls and surveys taken in key swing states. A trip overseas by Romney, taken at the start of the Olympic Games, was also marked by several missteps.
While Ryan has an ardent following as a GOP intellectual heavyweights, he also carries some risks for Romney. The boyish-looking congressman’s budget plan includes a hotly contested proposal to privatize the Medicare program. Romney has spoken favorably of the plan.
Ryan, who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, endorsed Romney before Wisconsin’s Republican primary in late March. He comes from a state that leans Democrat but could come into play in November, with its 10 electoral votes. The state has been ground zero for a showdown between unions of public workers and governors who seek to curtail their collective bargaining rights.
Ryan’s been the focus of much of the attention in recent days, with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday urging Romney to pick the seven-term congressman.
“The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election,” the paper wrote. “More than any other politician, the House budget chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.”
Portman, 56, has been another candidate on the short list. He is from Ohio, a swing state with 18 electoral votes. Romney’s bus tour will end in the Buckeye State. But Portman also was a budget chief in George W. Bush’s administration and could reignite debates over the economic policies of the Bush administration.
Pawlenty, who also ran for the Republican nomination but dropped out last year, has been one of Romney’s most loyal surrogates. Romney’s campaign announced earlier on Friday that he and his wife, Mary, planned to attend several campaign events on Saturday in New Hampshire.
The Associated Press reported on Friday night that he was planning to keep that schedule.
Others who have reportedly been under consideration included Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
The Romney campaign for the past several weeks has been doing all it can to stoke speculation about the choice. It recently released a smartphone application so that supporters can receive the first official word about the selection.
That message will presumably go out early on Saturday morning.