In the next few weeks Mitt Romney will make one of the most significant decisions of his campaign when he selects the person who will be a heartbeat away from the presidency if he is elected. Since no decision has been announced, it provides the opportunity for some pointless but amusing speculation as to whom it will be.

Will Romney choose someone with experience and gravitas such as President George W. Bush did in 2000 when he selected Dick Chaney? Or, will he take a gamble on an unknown fresh face as Sen. John McCain did in 2008 when he surprised the country by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin?

Your guess is as good as mine but here is my list of the top candidates:

1. Gov. Bob McDonnell, Virginia. McDonnell would be a safe, reliable conservative from a state Romney needs to win in November. Virginia has become more of a toss-up for Republicans as the Washington D.C. metro area continues to expand across the Potomac. President Obama won Virginia by six points in 2008. McDonnell chairs the Republican Governors Association and has been an effective surrogate for Romney in recent weeks.

2. Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio. Portman would be a similar to McDonnell — a safe, conservative pick in a swing state. No presidential candidate has won the presidency without winning this bellwether state since Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960. Needless to say, Ohio is a must win and Portman would help Romney do that.

3. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota. It would be a longshot for Romney to win Minnesota, but Pawlenty would add some much needed blue-collar color to the ticket. With a strong record as governor, he was considered a front-runner for McCain’s pick in 2008 before Palin was named to the ticket. But Pawlenty is plain vanilla Republican on a ticket that needs some excitement. Nevertheless, he would play well in the Midwest.

4. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida. As one of the big up-and-coming Republicans, Rubio is the vice presidential candidate who consistently has been talked about the most. Because of that, he likely will not be the pick. But his ability to appeal to Hispanic voters and nail down Florida makes him an attractive selection.

5. Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana. Jindal would be a favorite of social conservatives and the Southern states – two groups Romney has locked but still needs in big numbers at the polls. Jindal will be the keynote speaker at the Arkansas Republicans’ Reagan-Rockefeller dinner this month in Hot Springs, so Arkansans will get a closer look at him.

6. Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin. Ryan is an economic heavyweight among conservatives and is known for proposing his bold Ryan budget as chairman of the House Budget Committee. But Ryan is perhaps too bold for Romney, who may go with a safer pick.

7. Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey. A Christie selection certainly would add some excitement to the ticket. His record of reform in New Jersey, along with his quick wit, would make for an interesting vice presidential stump, but it perhaps would outshine Romney. In addition, New Jersey is not considered a swing state.

8. Secretary Condoleezza Rice, California. Rice got a lot of buzz last week as a possible choice. As the former secretary of state for President Bush, she would carry a lot of weight on foreign policy. In spite of being a bold pick, she has moderate views on social issues that would trouble the base.

In the end, Romney likely will end up making a decision similar to his other decisions – a safe, expected selection based on who will be most adequately suited for the role in his administration.

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Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com