While the GOP buzz about Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick is focused on rookie Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, key sources say that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is fast moving up the veep list and likely now is the second choice behind Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.
Pawlenty, himself an early GOP presidential candidate, is a good friend of Romney and was an ally when the two were governors. What's more, their wives are friends, sometimes lunch together and that's a special relationship that would ease life in the White House, say the sources.
A source who's worked with Pawlenty and Romney said that sales pitch to the nation on a Romney-Pawlenty ticket would be something like: "We might be a little bit boring, but we know what we are doing."
On Tuesday, Romney was forced to shoot down reports that Rubio wasn't in consideration. But several GOP advisors said that Rubio isn't in the top tier partly because he is a new senator with little previous Washington experience, a resume some compare to President Obama's before he was elected.
Another name that is getting renewed attention, said the GOP insiders, is South Dakota Sen. John Thune. In fact, pollster John Zogby said that Thune meets the characteristics of what he calls Romney's "TAMAS" vice presidential requirements: "tall, anglo, male and safe." Thune, he said, "fits all four of those."
Larry Sabato and his University of Virginia "Crystal Ball" deputy Kyle Kondik agree with the emergence of Pawlenty and on Thursday will move him up in their latest edition from No. 7 to No. 2. "He has emerged as another safe choice for Romney. is conservative credentials, like Portman's are pretty solid," they write in the new edition of "Sabato's Crystal Ball" provided in advance to Secrets.
They also pared the list from 23 to 11, eliminating CIA Director David Petraeus, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Sabato-Kondik list is:
1-Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio.
2-Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
3-Sen. John Thune, South Dakota.
4-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
5-Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin.
6-Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida.
7-Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey.
8-Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire.
9-Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
10-Former Florida Jeb Bush.
11-Gov. Bob McDonnell, Virginia.