Pity the poor Republicans deemed to be on Mitt Romney’s short list for vice presidential running mate: If they want the job, tradition and politics dictate that they have to say they don’t, or won’t get picked, or are too busy in their current job to give the veepstakes much thought. For candidates who really don’t want to be on the list, it’s worse: They are still going to be asked about the No. 2 slot on the ticket in every interview, and how many ways are there to say no, without offending Romney and other powerful figures in the GOP? Here are some of the more creative ways short-listed Republicans have said (believably or not) “thanks, but no thanks” to VP speculation:
1. Mike Huckabee: His talents are best used elsewhere
Why he’s in the veepstakes: Huckabee is already a household name, thanks to his 2008 run for president and subsequent Fox News show, and he’s popular with social conservatives and right-leaning economic populists. He’s also an ordained Baptist minister with a sunny public disposition.
Why he won’t be chosen: “I think there’s a greater likelihood that I’ll be asked by Madonna to go on tour as her bass player than I’ll be picked to be on the ticket,” Huckabee told ABC News on June 10.
2. Jeb Bush: Not interested in toeing the party line
Why he’s in the veepstakes: The former Florida governor, and younger scion of the Bush clan, is a Republican’s Republican, a uniting figure who can bring together different factions of the GOP — and could help Romney win Florida.
Why he won’t be chosen: Being Romney’s running mate is “not in the cards for me,” Bush told ABC News on June 1. “I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this. I have been repeating it for the last two years. I’ve been pretty consistent…. I am not a candidate. I’m not going to be asked…. This will prove I’m not running for anything: If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we are going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement, put me in, coach.”
3. Marco Rubio: The Freudian slip
Why he’s in the veepstakes: The freshman senator from Florida is Latino, photogenic, and popular with the Tea Party, and he is popular at home, in the biggest of the swing states.
Why he won’t be chosen: “I don’t want to be the vice president,” Rubio told National Journal in April. “But you know he’s not going to ask. That doesn’t work. He’s watching this interview right now…. Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president — I’m sorry, if I do a good job as a senator instead of a vice president, I’ll have a chance to do all sorts of things, including commissioner of the NFL, which is where the real power is.”
4. Chris Christie: Too big to make the cut
Why he’s in the veepstakes: The tough-talking New Jersey governor has been campaigning for Romney since last fall, and he’s endeared himself to the Republican base by taking on public service unions as policy and politics — Christie’s short videos of himself verbally smacking down critics at town hall events have gone viral on YouTube.
Why he won’t be chosen: “Do I look like somebody’s vice president?” the famously portly Christie said at a December 2011 Romney rally in Iowa. “If you were a betting woman, I wouldn’t bet on Romney-Christie. I wouldn’t lay any money on that.”
5. Condoleezza Rice: Doesn’t like politics, or Washington
Why she’s in the veepstakes: As former secretary of state and national security adviser, Rice’s foreign policy experience would fill a gap in Romney’s ticket, and in a CNN poll in April, 26 percent of Republican voters named her their VP pick, putting her at the top of the poll. As a black woman, Rice would also bring some diversity to the ticket.
Why she won’t be chosen: Being Romney’s No. 2 is “not going to happen,”Rice told an audience at the Executives’ Club of Chicago on May 17. “I love policy, I don’t really love politics…. One can do a lot with policy not in Washington.”
6. Mitch Daniels: Won’t even answer Romney’s call
Why he’s in the veepstakes: Serious-minded Republicans tried exhaustively, and failed, to recruit the Indiana governor for a presidential run, and they still want him on the ticket. Wonky, fiscally conservative GOP types like Daniels because of his experience and acumen with budgetary matters — a plus for a candidate running on a pledge to narrow the budget deficit.
Why he won’t be chosen: “It’s not an office I want to hold, expect to hold, have any plans to hold,” Daniels told Fox News on May 21. “If I thought that [Romney VP vetting] call was coming, I would disconnect the phone.”
7. Rob Portman: Too boring to qualify
Why he’s in the veepstakes: The Ohio senator has a long, impressive résumé that includes 12 years in the House and stints as George W. Bush’s trade representative and budget director. Some commentators say Portman’s lack of apparent charisma makes him appealing to Romney, because he wouldn’t upstage the top of the ticket.
Why he won’t be chosen: “My sense is… [lengthy pause], given all the various… [lengthier pause] … candidates he’s looking at, that it’s unlikely that question will ever be posed. He’s got some great candidates,” Portman told a group of reporters in late May. “I told my staff that I’m so boring that I didn’t even know I was boring.”
8. Bobby Jindal: A picture’s worth 1,000 words
Why he’s in the veepstakes: The popular second-term Louisiana governor’s anti-tax stance makes him the top pick of, among others, powerful anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist. Jindal is also considered a reliable social conservative, and his up-by-the-bootstraps success story as a second-generation Indian-American could humanize Romney’s elite background.
Why he won’t be chosen: In a May 23 appearance on MSNBC, Jindal ran through a series of talking points about why Romney won’t pick him, before host Chuck Todd stopped him: “Governor, that’s not a denial. You know that, right?” Jindal smiled silently, says Christian Heinze at The Hill, “making this the most uncomfortable pause since Jim Irsay asked Peyton Manning if he wanted to be Andrew Luck’s backup.