Opening Act: Sanford

SANFORD, Fla. – I’ll be in this city for a few days as the outrage and leaks about the Trayvon Martin shooting keep flowing.

Phil Rucker discovers the flexible Romney.

The conventional thinking has been that after a long and divisive primary campaign, the challenge of uniting the GOP would force Romney to pick a running mate with strong appeal to tea party activists and evangelicals. But Romney’s team thinks he may be liberated from that pressure if he can finish off remaining rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in the next few weeks.

Conservatives are aghast at this, probably because it’s so logical. But I don’t know what serious running mate candidate would be anathema to the base. Rick Santorum’s wins are mostly situational; he’s not really a darling of the Tea Party. Marco Rubio, who’s endorsed Romney, hasn’t been out in front against any particular Obama outrages. The only troublesome names in Rucker’s lists might be Rob Portman, who earned some Milbank ink love for talking up tax reform, and Gov. Brian Sandoval, who’s also not orthodox on taxes. But we’re not talking about Romney forcing a pro-choice running mate on Tampa.

Nia-Malika Henderson asks where the Paul surge is.

Although Paul is running to lead a party that looks like him — older, whiter, Southern — his crowds are younger, war-weary, more diverse and less likely to identify with one party or to vote. The same independent streak that leads the young and the restless to Paul’s libertarian philosophy seems to make it more unlikely that these supporters will pick a side and a party, which is a requirement for many of the primary and caucus contests.

Well, sure, but the mega-crowds are a little misleading. Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich pack in multiple rallies each day, in different parts of primary states. Paul has only been holding “giant town hall meetings” at college campuses. His next tour, a swing of California, takes him to Cal State - Chico, UCLA, and UC - Berkeley. All Paul fans in the area come to the rally that’s within 100 miles.