Ryan and Romney on election night in Wisconsin in April (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)NORFOLK, Va.--Mitt Romney will name his vice presidential running mate on Saturday.
According to a statement the campaign released late Friday, the presumptive Republican nominee will announce his running mate at an 8:45am rally here on the USS Wisconsin--the first stop of his four-day bus tour of key battleground states. The campaign offered no further details, and aides traveling with Ronney declined to comment.
But Republican sources told NBC News, the Huffington Post, the Associated Press and CNN that Romney is expected to name Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin--reports the campaign refused to confirm. In addition, ABC News's Jon Karl reported that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio--all of whom were said to be on Romney's short list--have all been told they are not the pick.
Soon after the Romney campaign announced the Saturday appearance, speculation about the VP pick began, with Romney's choice of venue for the announcement offering a potential clue. The USS Wisconsin is the ship named after the home state of Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee who has created buzz among conservatives recently. But the announcement also takes place in Virginia, whose governor, Bob McDonnell, has also been rumored as a possible vice presidential pick.
CNN reported late Friday that Romney phoned several Republicans believed to be on his short list to tell them he had made a pick--though he didn't identify who that person was, nor did the network identify who he phoned. A Romney spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The campaign has tried its best to stoke the buzz over Romney's VP pick. In recent weeks, the campaign has sent out emails to supporters soliciting contributions as part of a contest offering a chance to meet Romney and his running mate. More recently, the campaign unveiled a mobile phone application, Mitt's VP, that promises to reveal the name of Romney's running mate before it is announced to the media.
Romney has also repeatedly declined to offer any hints about who he might pick--most recently in an interview with NBC News on Thursday. Asked about the vice presidential announcement during a media briefing on Friday, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom directed reporters to download the campaign's mobile app.
Romney and his vice presidential candidate are scheduled to travel throughout Virginia Saturday, before heading to North Carolina on Sunday, Florida on Monday and Ohio on Tuesday. Romney aides are hoping the VP pick will offer new energy to a campaign that has been besieged by negative attacks from President Barack Obama's campaign and negative headlines about Romney's own strategy.
Ryan, 42, has been viewed by Republicans as a game-changing pick for the Romney campaign--a rising star Republican who has been praised as a conservative intellectual. Perhaps most importantly, Ryan and Romney get along. In the run-up to the Wisconsin primary in early April, the two campaigned together nearly everyday for a week--with Ryan even playing an April Fool's Day joke on the GOP candidate. Reporters trailing Romney at the time noted the budding "bromance" between the two men--a description Romney aides did not dispute.
Romney flew from Boston to Norfolk late Friday afternoon with several of his senior aides, including Fehrnstrom and senior strategist Stuart Stevens. He made a brief appearance in the press cabin, where he made small talk on yogurt. There were no major hints that a vice presidential announcement was coming. Indeed, the campaign's mood was so relaxed that several reporters skipped the flight to Virginia and had downgraded plans for coverage of the bus tour thinking that a VP announcement would not come until next week.
Upon landing, the presumptive Republican nominee boarded a new campaign bus touting his plan to "strengthen" the middle class but not his VP. Less than an hour before the campaign announced that Romney would unveil his VP pick, senior Romney aides were spotted mingling with reporters in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Norfolk, where the candidate and his entourage are staying, but gave no indication an announcement was imminent.
Reached by email about the VP news, aides all offered the same response "Keep an eye on the app," one said.