- Associated Press - Monday, April 16, 2012

BOSTON — Don’t look for a vice-presidential shocker from Mitt Romney. His choice of a running mate — a search he announced Monday he has begun — will be guided by both his methodical, risk-averse corporate training and the lessons his party learned from Sarah Palin’s selection.

Preparedness to serve and loyalty to Mr. Romney are likely to trump other credentials as the all-but-sure Republican nominee looks to avoid the blowback John McCain faced four years ago with his surprise choice of the little-known first-term Alaska governor for the GOP ticket. Questions about Mrs. Palin’s readiness to serve, Mr. McCain’s decision-making and his advisers’ vetting came to define the Arizona senator’s flawed campaign.

Mindful of that, Mr. Romney will put experience at the top of his list as he chooses a No. 2, according to senior advisers and GOP operatives.

“The hallmark for Governor Romney’s candidacy, and how he would be as president, is that he approaches these decisions in a well-thought-out methodical way,” said Steve Duprey, a former Mr. McCain adviser and current New Hampshire-based member of the Republican National Committee. “It won’t be like the McCain campaign, where there was a big surprise and effort to create a game changer.”

For all the secrecy surrounding the process, the former Massachusetts governor did give a few hints about his plans Monday, disclosing that he had chosen his former chief of staff and 2008 presidential campaign manager, Beth Myers, to lead the vetting and analysis of prospective running mates.

He said the selection certainly would happen before the Republican National Convention in late August. But he wouldn’t provide any more guidance on any internal deadline his team has set. When asked about potential choices — and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, specifically — Mr. Romney hedged, as he has consistently in recent months.

“Well I think he’s one of the terrific leaders in our party, but I think it’s way too early to begin narrowing down who the potential vice-presidential nominees might be,” he said.

Mr. Romney is expected to avoid a candidate with the kind of star power that might distract too much attention from the party’s main campaign themes — Republicans are working to make the election a referendum on President Obama.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman also is near the top of many speculative lists.

Mr. Romney also is likely to consider rising conservative stars such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. But that group has just five years of gubernatorial experience among the three.

More experienced Republicans also are likely to be in the mix.

Former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a working-class background that contrasts nicely with Mr. Romney’s wealth. GOP budget guru Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, also came from humble beginnings. Both have campaigned for Mr. Romney.