The veepstakes talk has ramped up to a near-fever pitch this week, now that Mitt Romney has all but clinched the Republican nomination. The usual names have been bandied about: Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie. But if Romney wants to make inroads with the female vote, there's one candidate who would be a compelling choice.
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte isn't a household name inside the Beltway, but has a resume that should instantly attract attention from Romney advisers. The first female attorney general in New Hampshire history, she prosecuted several high-profile murder cases and won plaudits from Republicans and Democrats alike - including the state's Democratic governor John Lynch. She campaigned for the Senate on a fiscally conservative platform, and beat a sitting Democratic congressman by a whopping 23-point margin. She was one of Romney's earliest backers among elected officials, endorsing him in the run-up to his comfortable New Hampshire primary victory. And New Hampshire is, after all, a swing state, albeit one with just four electoral votes.
The female candidates getting the most buzz are, by and large, unrealistic options. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has insisted she has no interest in becoming vice president. As a Hispanic governor, New Mexico's Susana Martinez looks great on paper, but it's quite the leap from being a county district attorney several years ago to being on a national ticket.
Ayotte had serious hesitations about running for the Senate initially, wary about stepping into the high-profile role. But she's quickly made a name for herself, fluent in policy and also comfortable on the cable news circuit. She may not be the favorite to become Romney's running mate, but she's a sleeper worth paying close attention to in the months to come.