N.H. Sen. Ayotte Considered For Romney's V.P. Slot

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Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is the latest politician to appear on the campaign trail with presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That's fueled speculation that Ayotte is being considered as a running mate.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now that he appears to have finally locked up the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney has had no shortage of company, people wanting to join him on the campaign trail. And that includes some who may be trying out for the number two slot on the Republican ticket.

REP. PAUL RYAN: It's not too late to put our country back onto a path of prosperity. Guess what? We have a leader who can do that.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN: In his business career, he created over 100,000 jobs. It'd be nice to have somebody in the White House that knows how to create jobs, wouldn't it?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: And he happens to be here today. His name is Mitt Romney, the next president of the United States.

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GREENE: That was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan. Monday it was New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte's turn. New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: Standing under a cloudless sky on Portsmouth's fish pier, a beaming Mitt Romney by her side, Kelly Ayotte got five minutes at the podium. The former state attorney general dutifully hit the message du jour, that over-regulation is killing the economy.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: I just have one message for our fishermen and to every small business owner in this country who struggles every day to earn success and who fights for the American dream, help is on the way.

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ROGERS: Kelly Ayotte's never been a powerful orator, but in a career marked by a knack for being in the right place at the right time, that hasn't much mattered. As AG, Ayotte defended a state parental notification law at the U.S. Supreme Court. She also won the New Hampshire's first death penalty conviction in 70 years.

The GOP establishment got behind Ayotte the moment she entered the 2010 Senate race, and she ultimately routed a sitting Democratic congressman by 23 points. Kelly Ayotte backed Mitt Romney early in the presidential primary, and he told the crowd her support helped New Hampshire send him on his way.

MITT ROMNEY: You got the ball rolling for me. I became the presumptive nominee, I think, because the presumptive folks of New Hampshire gave me your vote and got be me on track and I'm going to become the next president of the United States, with your help, in November.

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ROGERS: Prior to Romney's speech, campaign adviser and former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu told reporters that Ayotte's one of about 20 candidates under serious consideration to be Romney's running mate. But at the same time, Sununu acknowledged that a ticket featuring two New Englanders might not work.

JOHN SUNUNU: That probably ends up on the negative side of the ledger, but the ledger has a lot of entries, including capacity, philosophy and certainly the ability to convince people that the selection could be president.

ROGERS: Other longtime New Hampshire politicos, even staunch Ayotte-backers, are more skeptical. Ruth Griffin, a former RNC member who served more than 30 years in elective office here, says the need for a ticket with true national appeal dooms Ayotte's chances.

RUTH GRIFFIN: It isn't going to be Kelly Ayotte, even though she's probably more qualified than most of the people whose names they're tossing around.

ROGERS: Senator Ayotte herself, meanwhile, is playing the part of a potential VP candidate to a T. When asked, she downplayed the possibility of even being in the running.

AYOTTE: My focus is on representing New Hampshire in the United States Senate and getting Mitt Romney elected president so he can turn our country around.

ROGERS: Yet Ayotte didn't completely close to door to being Romney's running mate. She said she'd do whatever the campaign wants to get Mitt Romney elected.

For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire.

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