Mitt Romney leaves a fundraiser in Baton Rouge, La. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
One of Mitt Romney’s top aides told reporters on Monday that the former Massachusetts governor has not yet decided on a running mate.
With a foreign tour slated to begin next week and the nation’s attention turning to the 2012 Olympics in London, there are few compelling reasons for Romney to announce the decision before August. Romney, who headed the 2002 Olympics Games in Salt Lake City, plans to attend the opening ceremonies in London next week before continuing on to Israel where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There is no decision on the VP,” Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters at Romney’s fundraiser in Baton Rouge, La., on Monday. The candidate appeared with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was considered as a possible running mate for John McCain in 2008 and could be in the running for 2012. Romney did not discuss the VP job with the Louisiana governor on Monday, Fehrnstrom said.
Photos: The search for Romney's running mate
Still, Romney did lavish praise on Jindal, saying that his “brilliant introduction” at the event was “almost as impressive as what he’s accomplished” in Louisiana.
“What I have seen in watching this governor in the short years he’s been here has really opened my eyes,” Romney said. He added that Jindal’s work should be an inspiration to people across the country about “what one person can do if he or she has great ambition, vision, and willingness to do whatever it takes, and share credit where credit is due.”
Romney, who has promised to expand school choice if elected president, cited education as an example and noted that some 80% of the children in New Orleans attend charter schools. “Those kids have seen a doubling of the number that read and do math at grade level now that they’re in charter schools over the last five years. A doubling in their success rate. It’s really remarkable,” he said.
Later this week, Romney will hold events in Ohio—the home state of top VP contender and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Before President Obama’s event in Ohio on Monday, Portman provided a pre-buttal to Obama’s economic message, saying that the president’s policies had slowed the nation’s economic recovery.
Jindal, who recently led a swing state bus tour with another top VP candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, eased into the role of attack dog for Romney at the Baton Rouge event. He criticized recent Democratic attacks on Romney’s tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital.
“Maybe you’ve noticed, our president has run an increasingly desperate and negative campaign,” Jindal told the crowd, referring to the Obama campaign effort to raise questions about the timing and circumstances of Romney’s departure from Bain Capital. “Seems like every time you turn on the TV you hear another false, malicious attack.”
“This president cannot run on his record so he has to lie about Gov. Romney’s record,” Jindal said. “I am thrilled he’s a successful businessman man. You don’t want an unsuccessful businessman in the White House.”
A Boston Globe story last week cited Securities and Exchange Commission documents showing that Romney was listed as the chief executive officer, president and sole owner of Bain until 2002, not 1999, as he had previously said. Romney had said he had no management role in the company after 1999. The later timing would make Romney more vulnerable to criticism over layoffs and job outsourcing during those three years.
Fehrnstrom and other Romney advisors suggested Monday that the Obama campaign was looking to distract voters from high unemployment and weak retail sales reports.
“What President Obama should be focused on is policies that will put more people to work so they can earn paychecks, and spend that money in the private economy, and lift up retail sales,” Fehrnstrom told reporters Monday. “Instead he’s obsessed over what date Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. I can assure you that the nightly conversation at the dinner table that Americans have is not consumed with the question of when was it that Mitt Romney left Bain Capital.”