Are the chances for a Latino running mate for the Republican presidential ticket dead?
If a story in The New York Times is any indication, the answer would be yes.
The Times story says friends of Mitt Romney, the expected Republican presidential nominee, say he apparently has decided on a running mate, and that it seems to be either former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty or U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. The Times story said that an announcement of the decision could come as soon as this week.
The choice of Pawlenty or Portman would dash hopes on the part of some that at least two nationally prominent Latino conservatives – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico – had a shot at being in the job that is one heartbeat away from the Presidency.
The Times story said: “The country received only an abbreviated introduction to Mr. Pawlenty. . .whose working-class roots, experience outside Washington and evangelical faith have formed the core of his appeal to a broad spectrum of Republicans.”
“While Mr. Romney has kept more distance from the rest of his primary challengers, he has embraced Mr. Pawlenty,” the story said, “seeking his advice about running against President Obama and sending him to Republican events on his behalf.”
Other media outlets reported that a top Romney aide was casting doubt on the notion that the GOP candidate has selected a running mate, but did say that a final decision could come this week.
The story cast Pawlenty as someone who could help Romney gain support among evangelicals, an increasingly important and political active constituency, and among middle-class voters. Portman, observers say, could help Romney take Ohio, an important state.
“An appealing counterbalance to Romney being a son of a wealthy man and going to elite schools is Pawlenty being the son of a truck driver who went to the University of Minnesota,” said Ray Washburne, a Dallas businessman who works on Romney’s campaign, according to the Times. “He’s not elite in any sense of the word.”
The focus on a possible choice of running mate comes as Romney has been faced with intensifying questions about his business career.
Rubio, a conservative who has been a darling of the Tea Party, has been at Romney’s side at various campaign events, and often appears on television to tout Romney as the best choice for President and to address controversial issues – such as immigration – that have dogged Romney’s campaign and created awkward moments for the GOP.
Several weeks ago, rumors swirled that despite all the talk about his near-front-runner status for vice presidential pick, Rubio in fact was not being vetted by the Romney campaign.
The campaign moved swiftly to dispel the rumors, and Romney – breaking from the customary secrecy surrounding the vetting process – said that indeed Rubio was among the people being vetted for running mate.
Romney warned people not to take rumors about his vice presidential selection too seriously; he said only he and his adviser on the matter know the facts about his running mate choice.
Rubio was considered by many political observers an attractive running mate who could rally conservative support for Romney, and who could also help Romney appeal to Latino voters.
And of course, Rubio also is seen as someone who would bolster support for Romney in Florida, a crucial state in the election.
Rubio’s press staff declined to comment on the Times story.
The line shined briefly on Susana Martínez recently after Romney’s wife, Ann, said in a television interview that her husband was seriously considering a woman for vice president. But Martínez has showed that she is not beyond criticizing Romney.
In an interview with Newsweek, she questioned the rationale behind Romney’s stated preference for an immigration enforcement policy that would drive undocumented immigrants to “self-deport.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.