Mitt Romney has begun the search for a presidential running mate nearly six months ahead of November's US election in a bid to avoid a repeat of the disastrous appointment of Sarah Palin whose gaffes and inexperience undermined the Republicans in 2008.
After the rushed vetting of Mrs Palin failed to expose gaping holes in her knowledge of foreign and economic policy, Mr Romney has appointed Beth Myers, a lawyer and one of his closest aides, to mount a forensic examination of potential candidates. Ms Myers, who served as Mr Romney's chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts, has promised to provide the fullest possible files on candidates to her boss, a former management consultant who is known to make decisions by immersing himself in the data.
"I'll put all the information on the table," Ms Myers said in an interview with ABC News. "He is the decider."
The choice of vice president is seen as doubly important for Mr Romney, who has proved a lacklustre performer on the stump during this year's Republican primary campaign..
Mr Romney was found to be the least popular presumptive nominee of any party since 1984, according to a poll by 'The Washington Post', whilst a CNN poll found him trailing Mr Obama by more than 20 points with women, Hispanic voters and on soft factors such as likeability and decisiveness. Religion is also an underlying factor, with Mr Romney, a Mormon, performing consistently badly with evangelical Christians and Tea Party activists.
Early choices for running mate appeared to be between charismatic performers -- such as Chris Christie, the Catholic governor of New Jersey, or the Catholic Florida senator and Tea Party darling, Marco Rubio -- who could both fill the gap left by Mr Romney's inability to enthuse the voters, and a safer pair of hands that would not upstage him.
Conservative commentators have raised concerns that Mr Romney might put personal and egotistical considerations over national ones.
"Romney should not be afraid to pick someone who is his equal. Strong vice-presidential candidates -- like Biden for Obama, Gore for Clinton, Lyndon Johnson for Kennedy or Bush for Reagan -- say 'I want someone who is just as experienced as I am and is not my junior partner'," Mr Lord said.
"There are people who have star power on their own -- like Christie and Rubio -- and Romney should not shy away from them, particularly because of his own weaknesses. If this evolves into a personality thing, and it's all about loyalty to Mitt Romney, that's not good." (© Daily Telegraph, London)