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Mr. Barton, founder of the national pro-life group WallBuilders, said the downside for picking either Mr. Romney or Mr. Huckabee is that evangelicals still would vote for Mr. McCain on Nov. 4 - given the alternative of Mr. Obama - but not work as hard organizing and getting out the vote.

“Romney would bring to the ticket as much enthusiasm from supporters as Huckabee would bring, but Romney’s would be from fiscal conservatives and Huckabee’s would be evangelicals,” he said.

Similarly, a Huckabee choice would leave fiscal conservatives voting for Mr. McCain but otherwise sitting on their hands. Mr. Romney has long been a successful fundraiser - a skill needed because Mr. Obama is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Republican strategists close to the Romney camp are promoting the former presidential contender behind the scenes.

“Romney really doesn’t think he will be chosen, and that there are far better veep choices for McCain. But in my view, Mitt checks a lot of boxes: He’s vetted, he’s a Washington outsider, he’s conservative, he’s a proven vote-getter in Michigan, and he can raise a ton of cash fast for the McCain campaign. He can be the economic voice for the McCain campaign,” a conservative Republican strategist close to the Romney organization told The Times.

Donald Lambro contributed to this report.