Republican Mitt Romney would gain the most by picking a “moderate” running mate and suffer the most political damage if he opts for a “religious conservative,” according to a national survey released Wednesday by LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab.
“Our data shows pretty convincingly that Romney’s biggest advantage comes by appealing to the middle,” Kirby Goidel, director of the group, said in a prepared statement.
The telephone survey included 1,009 randomly selected registered voters nationwide, according to the study. It was conducted from April 20 to June 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Speculation on whom Romney will pick, as in most presidential contests, regularly includes a wide-ranging list.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have been mentioned by national media.
So have Gov. Bobby Jindal, former U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
The survey included one question asking respondents for a vice-presidential candidate, but most voters said they had no preference.
In addition, 70 percent of those questioned said it would not matter if Romney picked a religious conservative and 75 percent said picking a moderate would make no difference — both signs that running mates have minimal influence in presidential picks.
Part of the speculation is whether Rommey should pick a candidate favored by GOP conservatives to fire up the Republican base or go with a candidate more appealing to independent voters.
Goidel said that, if Romney chooses what he called a moderate running mate, he would gain five percentage points.
The net loss for choosing what the survey called a religious conservative would be 11 percentage points, he said.
The survey did not define “religious conservative” or “moderate,” said Michael Climek, operations manager at the lab, which is supported by the Reilly Center for Media & Politics.
One of the key questions asked: “Would you be more or less likely to support Romney for president if he ran with a religious conservative individual as the VP?”
The other one asked: “Would you be more or less likely to support Romney for president if he ran with a moderate individual as the VP?”
Goidel said support for a moderate vice-presidential running mate showed up among both rank-and-file registered voters as well as Republicans.
He said 13 percent of registered voters said they would be more likely to support Romney while eight percent said they would be less likely.
Among Republicans, 15 percent said they would more inclined to back Romney with a moderate running mate while nine percent said they would be less inclined.
The survey showed that 8 percent of registered voters would be more likely to back Romney if he opted for a “religious conservative” while 20 percent would be less likely.
Goidel said that, among independents, support for Romney would drop by seven percentage points under that scenario.
The survey said Romney has little to gain in the presidential contest by picking a racial minority, Hispanic or a woman.