Take Chris Christie, for example. The blunt-talking, big-boned governor of New Jersey is beloved by GOP audiences. After seeing him speak at a regional conservative conference here, attendees were, by and large, blown away. But running mate? Most said they didn't see him that way.
"Christie is too much of a rock star," opined Sandra Steers, a 67-year-old retiree from the Chicago suburbs who attended Friday's regional Conservative Political Action Conference. "He strikes me as more of a first-place person than a number two. He's too dynamic. He would detract from Romney's style."
And so, despite the roaring cheers and rave reviews for Christie's keynote speech at CPAC Chicago -- which served as a cattle call of sorts for a handful of potential vice-presidential contenders from across the country -- he got just 14 percent of the vote in the vice-presidential straw poll of attendees. (That was good for second place out of 23, behind the 30 percent who picked Sen. Marco Rubio, who did not attend.)
The 2,000 activists who attended the conference seemed to share the notion that has hardened into Beltway conventional wisdom: For Romney's veep choice, boring is better.
Here are some more takeaways from Friday's conference, which also heard from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Sen. Rand Paul, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and three of Romney's former rivals for the nomination -- Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann.
* Portman? Portman who? Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has emerged as the odds-on veep favorite inside the Beltway, but with this crowd, he didn't register. He got just 2 percent of the straw poll vote, ranking 11th of the 23 choices offered. Of the dozen activists I spoke to, just one mentioned him. Still, that was a better showing than fellow rumored short-listers Tim Pawlenty and John Thune, who finished in the straw poll's unranked bottom 10 with less than 2 percent of the vote. Interestingly, though Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has emerged as a conservative hero with his recall election win last week, and was lauded in virtually every speech at CPAC, his heightened profile hasn't translated into a feeling he should be on Romney's ticket, either. Walker also got just 2 percent of the straw poll vote, finishing behind Portman in 13th place.
* Christie: Believe the hype. The New Jerseyan's speech was electrifying and showed why he has to be considered one of America's most talented political performers today. With gruff panache, Christie first demanded the teleprompters in front of the podium be removed, then regaled the crowd with the story of how he bullied the legislature and unions into submission in his state. It was funnier and more riveting than any account of a state budgeting process has any right to be, if highly self-serving. (Christie's summary of his first budget presentation to the legislature: "I fixed your problem, you can thank me later, have a nice day.") Christie also made a forceful case against the president's comment Friday that "the private sector is doing fine." Obama, Christie charged, is blaming the nation's mayors and governors for his own failure to create jobs, which ought to happen as a result of an expanding economy, "not hiring more people for government work."