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Whispers and rumors spread about Romney's veep

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That makes it hard for voters to know what's real and what's simply for show. Which is just fine with Romney.

Take all the recent attention on Portman, busy raising his own profile. He invited reporters to an off-the-record dinner during the primaries, chatted them up on the press bus during a Romney tour of Ohio, and held a round-table with national media Saturday in New Hampshire, where he headlined a fundraiser for the state GOP. He said he was in the state "mostly on a college tour" with his daughter, but also expected to speak at some events in Boston on Monday to benefit Romney's campaign.

Who's really floating his name as a veep contender?

"Is that a Romney float or is that a Portman float or is that a friends-of-Portman float?" asks Paul Light, a professor of government at New York University. "You just don't know."

There's an easy remedy available to wanna-be contenders who've been left off the short list, says Light. All it takes is a well-placed whisper from a friend of a friend to land on the veep list.

"Instead of saying, 'I could've been a contender,' you can say, 'I am a contender' even if you're not," says Shrum.

No one's owning up, but Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., managed to get mentioned as a veep contender in 2008 although the notion that he was under consideration was laughable to GOP nominee John McCain's campaign.

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