"It's not something I am seeking out," Wisconsin Rep.… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)
It's clockwork every four years. When the slow season arrives on the campaign trail -- with the candidates focused on fundraising, and the voters more interested in blockbusters and the beach -- the endless speculation about the vice presidential pick begins.
For Mitt Romney in the post-Sarah Palin era, all odds are on a steady, reliable choice. "The one quality that comes to mind immediately is that you want someone who, without question, could lead the country as president if that were necessary," the Republican nominee told CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" in mid-April. "All of the political considerations pale in comparison with the consideration of who has the capacity to lead America at a critical time."
With that criteria in mind, some of the names bandied about most often are Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. In an interview that aired Friday on Bloomberg TV's Political Capital with Al Hunt, Ryan said he was keeping his options open in the veepstakes.
PHOTOS: The search for Romney's running mate
"It's not something I am seeking out," Ryan told Hunt. "I want to do what I can to help save this country from a debt crisis, get back to an opportunity society. Don't underscore how important Congress is. I feel like we've done a lot to move the center of gravity in this debate."
The youthful chairman of the House Budget Committee added that he believes "America is on the cusp of a renaissance, an opportunity society, upper mobility, economic growth, if we get the policies right."
"If that bridge ever comes," he said when asked about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's suggestion that Ryan could be Romney's choice for running mate, "I'll decide."
Ruling himself out of the running (again) this week was Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who some in the party view as a "home run" pick. But while others like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have said they're not interested and then hedged -- Christie told a group of New Jersey high school students in early May that Romney "might be able to convince me" -- Bush has tried to say no as firmly as he can.
"I'm not going to do it. And I'm not going to be asked. And it's not going to happen," Bush told "CBS This Morning" host Charlie Rose on Thursday. "That doesn't mean I don't enthusiastically support Mitt Romney. I intend to do that. I'm doing it. But I'm not going to be a candidate with him…under no circumstances."
While Bush may be out of the mix, other potential picks have spent time brushing up their foreign policy credentials in recent weeks.
Portman, a former trade representative under President George W. Bush recently returned from a visit to Israel where he focused on the threat of a nuclear Iran in talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Rubio made a visit to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base last week shortly before an address to The Council on Foreign Relations and posted pictures of the Cuba visit on his Senate website.
In a straw poll conducted by the Washington Times of some 500 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Chicago Friday, Rubio edged out other possible VP rivals as the top choice by a two to one margin.
No doubt Romney's aides at his headquarters in Boston were paying close attention.