Is Ayotte Really in the Running to be VP Pick?
The buzz feeding the Vice Presidential sweepstakes: real or manufactured?
The running-mate selection team pored over resumes until they saw political stars:
- Strong woman leader. Savvy. Executive. Likable. Tough on Crime.
No, not U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). It was U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), when then Governor Shaheen's name landed on the "short list" of vice presidential picks for Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Gore wound up selecting Joe Lieberman, and we all know how that turned out.
Now it's Ayotte's turn.
Similar chemistry and character and qualifications are being put under microscope, along with New Hampshire's four electoral college votes. Call it a trial balloon, perhaps. Or, as Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, calls it:
"A parlor game."
There are a score of states where a local leader is floated as a possible pick, many of whom are never seriously in the running, Cullen said. Unlike four years ago, he expects the GOP presidential nominee to pick a well-known, experienced candidate.
"I'm a fan of Senator Ayotte's," Cullen said in an interview, "but I think it's just one of those parlor games."
Another New Hampshire Republican, former state lawmaker and consultant Fran Wendelboe, said Ayotte is an attractive choice with great qualifications. The question, she said, comes down to whether Romney and his team find her qualified enough to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
"I don't think anybody has an inside view of who's in the running," Wendelboe said ahead of Romney's visit.
Ayotte has said, in an interview with the Nashua Telegraph, that she is honored to be mentioned, but that she is focused on representing New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.
In some major fashion, Ayotte will continue to be a surrogate for the campaign. She recently appeared on a press conference call as Democrats ramped up claims that Romney is some kind of anti-woman candidate, to argue that President Obama's economy is disproportionately leaving women behind.
Ayotte, a mother of two, was elected in 2010, her first run for public office. The Nashua native served as New Hampshire Attorney General for five years, previously serving as Deputy Attorney General, and as chief of the Homicide Unit. Joe Daley, her husband, is a small businessman and recently retired Lt. Colonel from the Air National Guard who flew combat missions during the Iraq war.
Ayotte was legal counsel to Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, who appointed her Attorney General in 2004. She was subsequently nominated and appointed twice by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, and the Executive Council.
In the Senate, she sits on the Armed Services, Budget, Commerce and Small Business committees.
A year and two weeks after winning her Senate seat, Ayotte stood on the steps of Nashua City Hall in November 2011 and endorsed Romney for president. As the story line went, Ayotte was the rising Republican star.
Last week, the Americans for Prosperity-NH honored Ayotte as "Conservative of the Year." At that party in Concord, former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu suggested that the year's just getting started, as far as Mitt Romney's road to the White House goes.
“I suspect he is going to have a lot of work for you over the next six and half months,” Sununu said to Ayotte. “So get ready to work the country for Mitt Romney.”