The Veepstakes Sherm-O-Meter

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Photo: Clockwise from top left: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Jeff Swensen/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In our latest rankings, Marco Rubio goes from near-Shermanesque to noncommittal, Chris Christie pretends that his family might be opposed to him joining the ticket, and Tim Pawlenty just wants to be a volunteer.

Mitt Romney may not have a vice-president shortlist yet, but through rumor, guesswork, and sometimes even actual evidence, the political media has already assembled one for him. It contains household names like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, and less famous politicians such as Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte. Over the course of the next few months, these potential running mates will be bombarded with questions about the prospect of joining Mitt Romney's ticket, and they will respond by performing a rhetorical balancing act for our amusement. Sound too enthusiastic, and you alienate your constituents (assuming you have them) and set yourself up for embarrassment when you're not picked. But sound too disinterested, and why should Romney pick you at all, you jerk? Or, you may honestly not want the gig, in which case an outright Shermanesque refusal would make your intentions perfectly clear.

It is this delicate dance of thinly veiled bullshit that we intend to chronicle until a running mate is finally chosen. By ranking the major veep candidates based on the eagerness of their most recent veepstakes-related remark — on a scale of William Tecumseh Sherman to "That's the Ticket," which is a reference to something Jon Lovitz used to say on SNL a long time ago — we hope to illuminate the majesty and awkwardness that is the veepstakes.

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty

  • 1
  • Former Senator Rick Santorum

Senior adviser John Brabender, April 10: "I think that as he has said in the past, he is ready to help America in whatever way he can do best."

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty

  • 2
  • Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

May 3: "Of course you’d consider it. But I’m not asking for it, interviewing for it. I just want to see Mitt Romney win."

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

  • 3
  • Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan

May 4: “It’s someone else’s decision.”

Photo: Pool/Getty

  • 4
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

May 8: "There's a lot of people who have a say in that other than me. Their names are Mary Pat, Andrew, Sarah ...."

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty

  • 5
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio

May 7: “I’m not going to discuss the vice-presidency. Governor Romney has a process in place and I’m going to respect that.”

Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

  • 6
  • Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

April 17: "I haven’t heard from candidate Mitt Romney on that but it’s certainly a great honor to even be mentioned as a possibility ... Well that is, that is something that we would just have to wait and see."

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 7
  • Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

April 15: "I haven't gotten the call and I doubt I will. I just go merrily on about doing my business."

Photo: Melina Mara/WP

  • 8
  • Ohio Senator Rob Portman

April 11: "I want to help. I don't need to be on the ticket to do that."

Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty

  • 9
  • Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey

March 23: "I think that's so extremely unlikely that I don't spend any time thinking about it. I've got a great, great job that's very challenging, it's fascinating, it's exciting and it's rewarding ... I think there's a whole lot more that I can accomplish, so I'm focused on being the very best senator I can be."

Photo: Gabriel Gonzalez/Bloomberg

  • 10
  • Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno

March 13: "I love my job, and I really — I want to stay here, if I can. I really enjoy what I'm doing, I'm looking forward to another four years of continuing to turn a corner here and making our economy grow."

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP

  • 11
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

May 3: "Look, I’ve got the job that I want ... but I’m definitely going to be supporting Mitt Romney and whoever he selects as his running mate.”

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 12
  • New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte

May 6: “It’s an honor to be mentioned in that vein, but my focus is on serving New Hampshire and there’s so many good candidates out there that governor Romney has to choose from.”

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 13
  • Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

May 7: “I think he's going to have a lot of great people to pick from ... the best way I can help is as a volunteer.”

Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

  • 14
  • Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

April 22: “I think I would demand reconsideration and send Mr. Romney a list of people I think could suit better.”

Photo: Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty

  • 15
  • Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

April 16: "Rice also said she would not be interested in joining Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his running mate."

Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty

  • 16
  • South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

May 2: “The governor appreciates the investment the people of South Carolina made by allowing her to serve as governor. She wants to honor this commitment by finishing the job she was hired to do,” a spokesman said.

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

  • 17
  • New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

April 17: "No ... Emphatically ... I am going to say that I am very honored and very humbled but I must decline."