Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.
Stephen Morton  /  AP
Presidential candidate and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., speaks during a breakfast with local residents, Thursday, during a campaign stop in Bluffton, S.C.
updated 3/29/2007 5:23:46 PM ET 2007-03-29T21:23:46

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Thursday dropped some names of potential running mates in the 2008 race, but added such speculation is a bit premature.

Among those Romney mentioned for the second slot on the Republican ticket were three Southerners: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

"There's some wonderful people right here in this state, as you know, Governor Sanford being one of them," the former Massachusetts governor said to a round of applause after being asked about vice presidential picks by a member of a crowd of about 400 people gathered for his campaign stop in this early voting state.

"I have to be honest with you, I haven't given a lot of thought to that, so I don't want to put any names in that hat right now," Romney said, but also gave a nod to Bush, calling him "quite a guy."

"I love him. If his name weren't Bush, he'd be running for president, I'm convinced," said Romney, who added he also was "pretty partial" to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

Talking with reporters later, Romney said the names he mentioned are part of a list of vice presidential contenders that anyone winning the GOP nomination would have to consider. "When I'm in South Carolina, I'm not going to fail to mention some of the ones that are closest," Romney said.

Romney has lagged behind former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain in the polls, often with support registering in the single digits. He also trails such better-known Republicans as Gingrich and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson - who are weighing presidential bids - when their names are added to the mix of candidates.

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