Romney May Choose Woman as Running Mate, Wife Says

Could she have been talking about New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez?

Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, disclosed in a television interview that was broadcast Thursday that her husband is considering choosing a woman as his running mate.

Martinez, a conservative Republican and the first Latina governor in U.S. history, is among the people Mitt Romney has mentioned as someone he's considered for the vice presidential nominee slot, or a cabinet position.

"We've been looking at that, and I love that option as well," Ann Romney told CBS News in a joint interview with her husband, who is the expected Republican presidential nominee. She added: "There's a lot of people that Mitt is considering right now."

The disclosure came as the Republican presidential candidate faces mounting criticism from inside the party about the state of his campaign and while the Romneys spent the week relaxing with their family at their lakeside estate in Wolfeboro.

At least a dozen people have been mentioned by Romney himself or those close to his campaign as possible GOP running mates. Among the women, besides Martinez, they've included New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte -- who walked in a July Fourth parade with Romney on Wednesday -- as well as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

Officially, the campaign says that Romney is doing what he's done for the past decade -- enjoying family time during a weeklong holiday in New Hampshire. It's also a break from the campaign trail and a chance to relax before the pre-convention push.

But unofficially, the bit of down time is a chance for the contemplative Romney to consider who to tap for his No. 2 slot, how the campaign is going and whether to adjust strategy as necessary in a contest that polls show is close.

Romney declined in the interview to describe the status of the vice presidential search, saying: "That's something I'm keeping close with my team."

And he didn't respond to growing calls within Republican circles for him to shake up his staff in the wake of a series of missteps. Among them: his campaign's initial refusal to side with Republicans who agree with the Supreme Court that the penalty that's part of President Barack Obama's health care mandate amounts to a tax. Romney eventually agreed with that assessment and, in doing so, broke with a key spokesman.

All that has conservative opinion leaders calling for Romney to shake up his top staff.

There's also been a growing chorus from within GOP circles in key states calling on Romney to talk about issues beyond his key message -- that the economy remains weak under Obama -- and provide more details about what he would do as president.

William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, wrote Thursday that Romney's strategy "strikes me as a path to (narrow) defeat." The Wall Street Journal editorial page also criticized the campaign's "insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity."

"Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that is weakening for the third time in three years. But Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage, and if anything he is losing ground," the newspaper wrote, calling for "a larger economic narrative and vision than Mr. Romney has so far provided."

Ann Romney, for her part, took issue with the Obama team's strategy, saying in the interview that the Democrats will "do everything they can to destroy Mitt."

"Early on we heard what their strategy was. It was kill Romney," she said, adding a message to Obama: "Not when I'm next to him you better not."

She also sketched out her own requirements for what she'd like to see in a running mate, saying the person should be "someone that obviously can do the job but will be able to carry through with some of the other responsibilities."

She said the person should be someone who will have her husband's back and who he will enjoy being around him and have "the same personality type." She added: "Competent, capable and willing to serve this country. I think there's lots of good people out there that fill that bill right now."

For her part, Martinez has showed that she is not past questioning Romney's position on certain things, including immigration.

In an interview with Newsweek in May, Martínez was unusually outspoken on immigration, in particular about Romney’s support of enforcement policies that would make undocumented immigrants so miserable that they will opt for self-deportation.

“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” she was quoted as saying in the story, which described her as snapping her answer. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there’s an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”

“Republicans want to be tough and say, ‘Illegals, you’re gone.’ But the answer is a lot more complex than that,” Martínez said in the story.

Martinez said she favors comprehensive immigration reform, which generally means tightening enforcement programs like border security and more vigorously going after employers who hire undocumented workers, as well as allowing for a pathway to legalization for certain people who are here unlawfully.

Inside Republican circles, speculation also is high about who Romney will choose as his running mate, with his search well under way and his self-imposed deadline for picking someone "before the convention" looming large.

It's the biggest decision he will make between now and when he accepts the GOP's presidential nomination in late August.

Talk among GOP insiders has focused on men as likely top prospects, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

It's been four years since John McCain selected then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a rock-ribbed conservative who was little-known outside of her home state, to be the first female on a Republican presidential ticket as he sought a way to both fire up the GOP's core supporters while narrowing Obama's advantage with women voters.

It wasn't long before questions about Palin's readiness to be president -- and criticism of an inadequate vetting process -- became a major problem for McCain, with critics using the pick to pummel the nominee on his decision-making.

This year, Romney has let that experience drive his criteria: He's said preparedness to be president is his No. 1 requirement for a vice president. Unlike four years ago, Republican base voters are energized largely by a desire to beat Obama.

But polls show that Romney still badly trails Obama among women and putting one on the ticket -- or even just raising the possibility of a female running mate -- could help carve into that support. He also badly trails Obama among Hispanics, even those who say their number one priority is not immigration, but who say they find the GOP tone when discussing the topic offensive against Latinos.

Earlier this week, Romney and his wife huddled Tuesday at the estate for at least 45 minutes with campaign manager Matt Rhoades, senior adviser Beth Myers and top strategist Stuart Stevens on the deck that overlooks the lawn behind his home.

Further fueling the running-mate talk: Portman was headlining a fundraiser in Concord, N.H., this weekend, and also wrote an opinion piece published in an Ohio newspaper this week to counter Obama's campaign appearances in the state Thursday and Friday. Pawlenty and Jindal both were in Ohio for the same reason, to campaign for Romney near Obama's events.

This story contains material from The Associated Press.

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