The Republican imperative to put together a strong White House ticket is butting up against the party’s dream of preserving the Senate GOP majority.
Republican strategists say Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are two of the party’s most promising vice presidential candidates.
Unfortunately for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), both are running for reelection in swing states that could determine which party controls the upper chamber in 2017.
Republicans believe Portman, who was also seen as a possible VP in 2012, would add gravitas to the White House ticket and help deliver to the GOP column Ohio, which decided the 2004 presidential election.
Ayotte would help the ticket compete for female voters — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s core constituency. She also has solid foreign policy credentials and could up the party’s chances of winning New Hampshire, though it has only four electoral votes compared to Ohio’s 18.
Republicans may, of course, look outside the Senate for a vice presidential candidate.
“Portman could be important,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign. “Portman makes geographical sense.”
Much depends on who wins the nomination; front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all have different strengths and weaknesses.
“If someone like Rubio’s going to win the nomination, he’s going to look for someone in Ohio or someone who does well with white working class voters,” O’Connell added. “Trump on the other hand would like to have someone like Rubio,” who could attract Hispanic voters and has national security bona fides as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations panel.