Ann Romney has sparked a storm of speculation about whom Mitt might pick for a vice-presidential running mate.

She leaked a juicy tidbit on national TV during a joint appearance with her husband on CBS News: Asked whether the presumptive Republican candidate for president is considering a woman for the No. 2 slot, Ann said, "We've been looking at that, and I love that option as well."

The whole subject is sure to spawn many a joke about Romney looking for another wife, but with razor-thin margins in the polls, that's just a side-show. The core question is how to get more votes from critical demographic sectors -- women being one of several -- and finding a way to translate new into electoral votes on Election Day.

With the right running mate, Romney may get the nudge he needs to capture the White House.

Ann Romney sketched out her own requirements for what she'd like to see in a running mate. For one thing, the person should be "someone that obviously can do the job but will be able to carry through with some of the other responsibilities."

The Veep also should be somebody who will have her husband's back and who he will enjoy being around and have "the same personality type" -- in Ann's words, "competent, capable and willing to serve this country. I think there's lots of good people out there that fill that bill right now."

She's right about that. But the question of a woman is particularly worth exploring. Romney has said he's going to pick No. 2 before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 27.

Conventional wisdom has an all-male (translate boring) list: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

But some impressive female names have made the semi-short list:

First, there's 44-year-old Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who walked in a Fourth of July parade with Romney on Wednesday. Before being elected to the Senate, Ayotte served as the Attorney General of her state.

She's got real credentials. For example, in 2003, a federal district court struck down a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification of a minor's abortion. The ruling was appealed and upheld. Then, in 2004, Ayotte, having replaced Heed as New Hampshire Attorney General, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, over the objection of incoming Democratic governor John Lynch. Ayotte personally argued the case before the Supreme Court. In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of New England, the Supreme Court vacated the ruling by the District Court and remanded the case back to the District Court.

New Hampshire has four electoral votes.

Then there's South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the second governor of Indian descent in the U.S. She is the first woman to serve as governor of her state. At age 40, she is the youngest current governor in America. She signed a law cracking down on illegal immigration in June 2011, and she supports a law requiring photo identification at the polls. But South Carolina should be fairly secure territory for Romney, even if he is a Mormon.

New Mexico is not secure for Romney, however. Current polls show a decided tilt toward President Obama. So how about New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez? The 52-year-old is the first female governor of New Mexico and the first female Hispanic governor in the U.S. If she could deliver New Mexico's five electoral votes -- and perhaps influence the Hispanic and women's vote nationally for Romney -- she could swing the outcome.

Or what about former eBay CEO Meg Whitman? She's a lot like Romney in terms of big business, but maybe too much. And she doesn't come with electoral votes, so she seems a long shot.

And then there is a perennial female favorite who continues to dodge offers for political office: former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice. She's an intellectual powerhouse, brilliant and well-spoken. Rice was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost for six years. She also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.

Aside from being well liked by Americans generally, Rice has impeccable credentials in foreign affairs, and Romney would do well to remember that the rest of the world still exists. Somebody like Rice (were she to be induced to run with him) would complete a stellar ticket.

Are women more likely to vote for women? Hard to say as the polling is mixed on this point. But it's about time America had a woman in high office. Certainly there is a galaxy of qualified women from which to choose.

Should Romney choose a woman?


Should Mitt Romney choose a woman to be his vice-presidential running mate? INSERT BOILERPLATE HERE))))))))