Senate VP Poaching: Move Along, Mitt

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opined that "it's pretty obvious this nomination is essentially over."

"I think we'd be a lot better off to begin to rally behind the almost certain nominee and begin to take the case against President Obama to the American people," he said. "I think more and more members are going to be embracing our almost certain nominee, and I think this matter's going to be wrapped up in a matter of weeks."

That didn't include an endorsement from McConnell, who said, "My view, so far, is that the Republican primary voters out around the country didn't need any particular advice from myself."

That embrace-sans-endorsement should have included a disclaimer: When Mitt Romney goes VP shopping, don't stop at the Senate.

The two-week congressional recess over Easter is a time for lawmakers in both chambers to spend energy in their home states campaigning for their favorites and for their own re-elections.

Not up for re-election himself but on the shortlist for Romney's No. 2 is Florida Republican Marco Rubio, in his first term and regularly followed by packs of reporters drawn like fireflies to his rising-star buzz. Swarmed by such a crowd at the opening of a new regional Senate office in Palm Beach Gardens today, Rubio offered his standard "pshaw, not me" assessment of his addition to a Romney ticket.

Having endorsed Romney last week, today Rubio also told the remaining Republican presidential hopefuls to pack up and go home.

"I'm not going to be the vice president but I do endorse Mitt Romney, who I think is going to be a great president," said Rubio.

"What I take away from last night is what I took away last week, and that is, the primary's over. Everyone may not agree with who won, but the primary's over," he added. "So I do believe it's time now to concede that Mitt Romney has won the Republican nomination, that he's going to be the Republican nominee, and that if we all get behind him he will be the next president of the United States."

As the race solidifies we'll know if this is a case of Rubio protesting too much, or even helping Romney gauge interest in a Rubio ticket by playing hard to get and watching the masses weep at the prospect of another veep.

But Rubio isn't the only senator at risk of being poached from McConnell's caucus just as Republicans are trying to eke out enough seats to make Harry Reid the new minority leader.

Sen. Rob Portman is leading some speculators' shortlists as a reliable, steady choice from a swing state, Ohio. The 56-year-old succeeded retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich just last year. Previously, he was director of the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush. The state's other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, seems like he'll be safe in November. It's the sixth highest state in terms of labor union population, but as of June 2011 Republican registration exceeded Democratic registration, 894,535 to 827,342, with the bulk of voters -- more than 78 percent -- now defining themselves as "unaffiliated."