Veepstakes 2012: Republicans Pick Santorum, Rubio As Tea Party, Indies Split

 @DanRivoli on May 03 2012 4:40 PM
santorum
As Mitt Romney marches toward the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Santorum is making his latest "last stand" in his home state of Pennsylvania. REUTERS

Republican voters say Mitt Romney's former GOP primary rival Rick Santorum or freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio should be his No. 2 on the Republican 2012 ticket, a poll said Thursday.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll testing 19 potential running mates, Santorum and Rubio topped the list with 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Independents and Tea Party supporters -- two constituencies that are critical for Romney to cobble together a winnable coalition this November -- are divided on who they want to see as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

For unaffiliated voters, 18 percent chose Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who dropped his presidential campaign in April. He also had a relatively high favorability rating among independents at 20 percent.

Rubio, however, is a dud with independents, 4 percent of whom would support placing the Cuban-American senator on the ticket. They also gave him 12 percent favorability rating; 12 percent having an unfavorable view of the senator.

Tea Party supporters, however, have a warm spot for Rubio, whose Tea Party popularity who ran a successful insurgent campaign for  Senate.  Almost a quarter of these voters -- a group that the Romney campaign is courting to shore up a right flank that was skeptical of the former Massachusetts governor during the primary -- want Rubio as the vice presidential nominee. Tea Party supporters surveyed also gave him a 59 percent approval rating.

The runners up in the veep stakes poll include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- both of whom get support from 13 percent of the vote of registered Republicans -- and 2008 contender and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, with 12 percent.

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