Are you already sick of the endless series of articles extolling the virtues of various potential Mitt Romney running mates? Are you also sick of the posturing—TV ads, major foreign policy speeches—of wannabe VP candidates? Too bad. If Romney follows precedent it will be quite some time before he selects his partner on the Republican ticket.
Geoffrey Skelley analyzed past picks and found a pretty clear trend. Candidates don’t announce their running mates until the last minute before their party’s convention. On average, the vice presidential candidate has been rolled out four days before a convention since 1992, with John Kerry’s selection of John Edwards an outlier at 20 days before the start of the 2004 Democratic convention.
Even if Romney tilts toward the earlier end of the selection spectrum, that still means we’ve got months of the Veepstakes remaining. The Republican convention in Tampa doesn’t kickoff until August 27. However Romney is already in the phase of testing out potential VPs. Romney campaigned with Marco Rubio in Pennsylvania last week, and is sharing a stage in Virginia with Bob McDonnell today. He has good reason to start the process early. Many of the most highly touted potential partners are relatively inexperienced at the national stage. Beyond a few holdouts from the Bush-era like Rob Portman or Mitch Daniels, the options are either senators who joined Congress in 2010 or governors like McDonnell or South Carolina’s Nikki Haley who haven’t been subjected to the harsh glare of the national media. Everything about Romney’s past—both in business and campaigning—screams cautious calculator. As one of the first definitive decisions a presidential candidate must make, I imagine Romney will take as much time as possible to play out the different scenarios before making a final decision. In the meantime the media should take a deep breath and relax the speculating hyperbole a bit. The potential running mates should have their records parsed and examined, but every little event or announcement from the Romney campaign shouldn't be read for indications of who he might select—at least not for a few more months.