First of all, this is a prime example of the political press in action. Romney is commencing to shake the Etch-A-Sketch. Just today he said his support for the Arizona immigration law was only for the E-Verify system. What? When he said he thought the Arizona law was a model for the whole country, did you think he meant the WHOLE THING?
Rather than delve into the mechanics of Romney's no doubt soon to be drastic re-positioning on the issues or actually looking at what the policies of each candidate might mean to the average American, the press will content itself to ruminate on the horse race. With the primary contest over and faced with the bleak prospect of having to chart Romney's various positions on the issues, it's so much easier to wonder about just how vociferous Rubio is in his declarations that he doesn't want to be VP.
Anyway, there's little sense in trying to figure it out, beyond the amusements of a parlor game. Vice Presidential candidates don't really make a difference, at least not in a positive way. Palin was a disaster. Biden hardly brought a swing state. Neither did Cheney or Lieberman or Edwards.
If the rumors of skeletons in Rubio's closet are true, then he's out. Romney won't repeat the Palin catastrophe. Since Romney is running as a business man (rather than as the moderate governor of Taxachusetts), he will need to decide if he wants to double down on his message - the way Clinton did by picking Gore - or work to shore up a policy weakness - the way Cheney did when he picked himself.
Romney also has a restive base, so he won't be reaching out to, say Olympia Snowe.
If he picks Portman, he's doubling down on the budget stuff. Of course, picking Bush's budget director might not be the swiftest move. Same goes for Mitch Daniels. McDonnell brings some social conservatives along and acknowledges that foreign policy won't be an issue in this election.
There is one pick that would have the pundit class coo like doves and might actually shake up some dynamics of the race at least temporarily: Condoleeza Rice.
She brings some foreign policy experience (she was one of the least nuts of the Bush foreign policy cabal). She's got a vagina (reputedly) and that might help with the "war on women" thing. She's melanin enhanced, which will free up the fringes to note that while they think Obama lived in a mud hut with a bone in his nose, they're not racists because CONDOLEEZA RICE! Or as John Derbyshire would put it: Amulet of gold!
But frankly, I don't imagine she's all that interested. Plus, eventually that puts us back into debating the Bush years and I don't think Romney wants that. Of course, that works against Daniels and Portman, too.
Whatever. If gas gets below $4 a gallon and unemployment falls below 7.5%, George Washington wouldn't be able to help Romney.