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GOP Veepstakes: Who’s Best for the Economy?

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By David Chalian

As the veepstakes drumbeat grows louder and louder in the days leading up to Governor Romney announcing his running mate, The Daily Ticker took a closer look at the economic backgrounds and philosophies at two of the most serious contenders for the post: former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

"Tim Pawlenty, like Mitt Romney, was governor at some time in the past of a state that's more Blue than Red and had a more moderate record than Republicans are running on currently," said Slate's business and economic correspondent Matthew Yglesias. "Pawlenty's record doesn't reflect the hard core conservative posture that Republicans have been taking for the past couple of years," he told Yahoo! Finance's The Daily Ticker.

One example of his departure from conservative orthodoxy in the past was his support for exploring a cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions. During the first of many debates in the Republican nomination race last year, Pawlenty called his earlier support for the policy "a mistake."

"In biographical terms, he is a good contrast to Mitt Romney," Yglesias said. "One of the problems Romney has is that as someone who is so personally wealthy it tends to bolster Democratic arguments that Republicans are just in it to help the rich. Pawlenty has a similar policy profile, political profile to Romney, but a very different biography."

Ohio Senator Rob Portman would potentially bring an important skill to the race in communicating conservative economic principals, specifically around trade, to the heart of the manufacturing sector in the midwest.

"It's pretty bold to run a USTR guy. He ran trade negotiations under the Bush administration and then he got elected in the state of Ohio which is a big manufacturing state, not a place that's known for its love for international trade. He has some skill in selling the conservative economic agenda in places where it can be a little bit tough," Yglesias said. "In philosophical terms, this is a guy who has been selling free market conservatism to a kind of rust belt working class audience and that's something Romney is going to be looking for."

However, Portman would also carry some political baggage him with him onto the ticket should Romney place him there. He was President George W. Bush's budget director at a time when fiscal restraint and discipline did not seem of the utmost importance to the administration.

"I don't think anyone looks back at the George W. Bush budget and says to themselves 'This was really sound practice.' They had a lot of spending, a lot of tax cuts, a lot of deficit increase. There wasn't the kind of giant recession that typically justifies those kinds of things. It was really off the rail. I think most Republicans have been trying to move on from the Bush years," said Yglesias.

Republican voters on the other hand have a different opinion of who they'd like to see as next in line to the high office.  According to a new CNN/ORC poll released Friday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tops their list with 28 percent of the vote, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Gov. Romney is expected to announce his choice for vice president as soon as this weekend as he embarks on a four day battleground state tour to Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Those are the four largest battleground states worth a total of 75 electoral votes or a little more than one-quarter of what's needed to win the presidency.

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