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 update, Rick Santorum plummets, Chris Christie is all ears, and some of the top contenders have gone suspiciously mum.

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: Pool/Getty

  • 1
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

July 3: "I love being governor of New Jersey, you can tell ... But the fact is, if Gov. Romney picks up the phone and calls, you have to answer the call and listen at least."

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 2
  • Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

June 24: "I have indicated that I think I can best serve Governor Romney in other ways, in particular as a volunteer and surrogate speaker in places where he can't go. I've encouraged people who've asked this question to — in the campaign to look at other prospects, but, obviously, anybody who would be asked to serve in a position like that would be honored to be asked."

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP

  • 3
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

July 10: "We're not commenting at all about the VP process or anything like that, referring all that to the Romney campaign at their request."

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty

  • 4
  • Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

June 26: "I'm not discussing the vice presidential vetting process ... You can address those questions to the Romney campaign."

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty

  • 5
  • Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan

July 3: "Next question."

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty

  • 6
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio

June 24: "I'm not discussing the vice-presidential process anymore."

Photo: Melina Mara/WP

  • 7
  • Ohio Senator Rob Portman

July 7: "With those questions on the vetting, I have said from the very start that it's really up to the campaign, and I am not going to address them."

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 8
  • Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

June 10: "I think there's a greater likelihood that I'll be asked by Madonna to go on tour as her bass player."

Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

  • 9
  • Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin

July 5: "It's fun to talk about, it's certainly nice that Oklahoma is getting some attention, but the Governor's focus continues to be on Oklahoma and on her work here," a spokesman said.

Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty

  • 10
  • Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey

June 17: "I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to serving as your Senator with Mitt Romney as President of the United States in the White House."

Photo: Gabriel Gonzalez/Bloomberg

  • 11
  • 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: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

  • 12
  • New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte

July 11: "I'm flattered to be mentioned, but I enjoy representing and think it's a privilege to represent New Hampshire in the Senate."

Photo: Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty

  • 13
  • Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

June 26: "I'm saying that there is no way that I will do this."

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty

  • 14
  • Former Senator Rick Santorum

June 17: "It is pretty much a flat no."

Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty

  • 15
  • South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

July 10: "I have made it very clear from the very beginning that I love my job, I love South Carolina and I made a promise to the people of my state [to complete my term] and I have to keep it."

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

  • 16
  • 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."