Remember folks you heard it here first! (along with many bad predictions over the years: Pawlenty soaring in IA to an easy nomination, Coakley narrowly winning, Hillary and McCain not running, Rudy winning the nod, Ogonowski narrowly beating Tsongas, Bayh being VP-honestly I am worse than the BMG Editors-but I did latch onto Deval and Barack before they were cool so I get credit for that!)
My reasoning is five fold
1) Romney needs a woman and Ayotte is the only one
It’s well known now that Romney has a woman problem, down by 9 points according to CNN (1) and losing by similar margins in several important swing states where women will make the difference (CO, VA, FL, NC, NV, and OH). This deficit will continue even if Romney picks Ayotte due to the abortion question and the contraception flap, but he might make enough headway into Obama’s lead to make a statistical difference in some states. He needs a female Veep for these reasons, and also since it will show some risk taking on Mitts part after the Palin fiasco.
As the New Republic (2) and other outlets have shown, Sen. Ayotte is no Palin. In my own view she sounds far more competent and straight forward when I’ve seen her on the Sunday shows than Palin ever was. She has sound ability to discuss foreign and domestic policy and to trade blows with Democratic sparring partners. She also wouldn’t overshadow the nominee or go off message (ie Rogue) like Palin would, she would complement rather than top Mitt. As a prosecutor she has had ample experience prosecuting high level cases, has been a reliable conservative voice on foreign affairs in an articulate way on Armed Services, and in general has the most experience and least scandals of the potential female conservative Veeps.
2) Ann likes her
Several articles have demonstrated that Ann holds huge sway over Romney, that she was the driving force behind Mitt picking Healy, Mitt refusing to release his tax returns, and Mitt distancing himself from some of the outliers in the Republican field. She apparently has rooted for Ayotte for years, contributed to her campaign, and gets along with her great. While I do not trust Mitt to make his decision based on Ann’s voice alone, her voice will matter.
3) Swing state advantage
Supposedly the VEEP gives a 2.5-3% bounce in a swing state. This bounce is arguably more needed in Ohio, but Portman is still an unknown and in cases where he is known, controversial figure. He likely wouldn’t give Romney a big enough bounce to make that the only reason to pick him. Ayotte was elected by a wider margin in NH and is a long known quantity there, a lifelong New Hampshireite and a chance to move NH from the toss up column into more solid red territory allowing Mitt to expend resources elsewhere without having to defend his own backyard. The all Northeast/New England ticket could show that conservatives are competitive everywhere and are not just a Southern or regional party.
4) Loyalty and Obedience
Its unlikely Jindal or Pawlenty will get picked since Team Romney values loyalty and obedience to the nominee above all else. Everything in Ayottes career shows she knows how to rise up the ladder without rocking it too much. She was the first NH politician to endorse Mitt right after the primary and when Mitt was still weakened by the Santorum and Gingrich surges. Unlike Jindal she did not attack Mitt or vigorously endorse his opponent, unlike Pawlenty she did not run against him, and unlike Christie or Rubio she has not tried to give Mitt advice or criticize or threaten to overshadow him. Remember the docile Healy and how Mitt easily smoothed her path to the nomination? Or the near blood feud and lack of speaking to Jim Rappaport who all but begged Mitt to run and even promised him a smooth nomination only to be shoved aside after his usefulness to Romney had expired? (3) Team Romney likes loyalty and obedience and she would be a true soldier for the nominee without advancing her own interests.
5) Safety with the veneer of risk
In many ways she is about as safe as Portman. No weird religious baggage like Jindal or Thune, no fear of overshadowing or going rogue like Christie or Ryan, no help to the opposition like Pawlenty or Jindal, no real scandals or gross lack of experience like Rubio, Haley or that other Republican Veep nominee. Yet unlike Portman, Ayotte would add a real balance to the ticket. While that man was born to be Vice President, Ayotte comes from a humbler background, has a sincere Sams Club conservatism, has great law enforcement and some foreign policy experience, and is not tainted by scandal or guilt by association. And since she is not a man, she is something completely different from what the pundits expected without actually being a real risk. Remember Romney is a man excited to take risks, so long as he has a readily available escape hatch (be it not running for re-election, leaving awkward positions or dogs by the wayside, or having Bain promise him his old job in case he fails at his new job) and its the safest risk of all time. Ayotte is easy money, and knowing that and my track record he will pick someone else.