Lots of Veepstakes reporting yesterday. First Marco Rubio was reported to be out of the running; a follow-up had a list of finalists down to Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, Paul Ryan, and Bobby Jindal. By the end of the day, Mitt Romney himself was saying that Rubio was still alive.

My main response is: why should we believe any of this? Oh, I’m not blaming the reporting. It’s just that there’s a long history of nominees who do plenty of spinning and misdirection on their way to selecting and announcing a running mate. Most of that is with good reason; it’s generally good politics to appease various party factions by pretending that their favorites are serious Veepstakes players, even if it isn’t actually true. Don’t forget, also, that there’s actually a reason for the vetting, and it’s certainly possible that things could turn up that disqualify a candidate.

(Although: has that ever happened? Have we had good postmortem debriefings of the VP vetters focused on how the vetting part of it actually goes? Obviously the vetting team didn’t screen out Palin in ’08, Edwards in ’04, or Cheney in ’00 — yes, I know — so we’re getting some Type II errors, but as far as I know we have a lot less information on whether the vetting process actually does disqualify anyone, correctly or not).

As for the specific names…my sense of this has always been that the research establishes a clear strategy, because the upside (a couple of points in the home state of a running mate who is popular back home) is much less than the downside (hard to know exactly, but probably a couple points nationwide in the case of a disaster pick). And I think the best way to avoid a disaster, Edwards sort of notwithstanding, is to choose someone who successfully survived a nationwide campaign. Unfortunately for Romney, there’s really only one person out there who fits. Which is why, at least based on what we know on the surface, that I think the Huck is the best bet. But beyond that? Find someone who has been successful statewide, and hope for the best. I’d avoid those who were first elected in 2010 (unless they have other credentials; Portman sort of does). I’d certainly avoid Paul Ryan for multiple reasons. Beyond that, you’re really just hoping that you get lucky.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.