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Romney surrogate blitz begins

WASHINGTON -- Portman. Pawlenty. Rubio. Jindal.

Those are just a few of the headliners of Mitt Romney’s summer surrogate tour, a whirlwind blitz that begins Thursday and will feature the presumptive nominee’s most prominent supporters hitting swing states throughout the country while he is overseas.

NBC News has learned at least eight surrogates will make campaign stops in the key battleground states over the next six days.  Some of those names are believed to be under heavy consideration to be named Romney’s vice presidential running mate in the coming weeks.

While speculation was rampant last week that the former Massachusetts governor could make his VP pick before heading off to London, at least one benefit of delaying his pick will be on display this weekend.

Instead of having just one running mate to campaign in the states while Romney is abroad, he’ll instead have a team spread throughout the country, most of which will be getting attention as the potential next vice president of the United States.

Voters in six battleground states -- Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- will see Romney campaign buses traveling the state and hearing the politicians on the stump.

The surrogate surge begins on Thursday when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal head to Iowa.

“I've told Governor Romney anything I can do to help him win in Virginia or any other state, I'm glad to do. So they asked me to go to Iowa and I'll be there with my friend Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and we're going to talk to the people of Iowa about what's important for the country when it comes to getting us back on track,” Gov. McDonnell said while speaking at one of Romney’s “We Did Build This” events in Richmond, Va. today.

Also on Thursday and Friday, South Dakota Sen. John Thune will be in Virginia where he will bracket President Barack Obama’s visit to the Old Dominion state on Friday.

On Friday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani heads to Florida, a place where voters know him well.  During his 2008 presidential run, Giuliani spent the majority of his time and campaign resources in the Sunshine State.  He’ll host a “Cafe Con Rudy” to reach out to Hispanic voters.

On Saturday, former Minnesota governor and one-time presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty will make an appearance in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It was in the Tar Heel State last month where he gave a rousing and well received speech at the state's Republican convention.  While North Carolina has seen limited attention from Republicans in recent weeks, it will likely be a hotbed for activity next month as Republicans prepare to distract from the Democratic National Convention being held in Charlotte at the beginning of September.


And while Pawlenty is in the East, one of the party’s most popular young conservatives will be representing the Republican ticket in the West.  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will spend Saturday in Las Vegas, NV, the city where he spent a majority of his youth. There he will hold a rally in the elementary school he attended as a child, marking his first solo public appearance on Romney’s behalf.

Also on Saturday, Jindal hopscotches to Florida to hold an event for the presumptive nominee.

Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus will be traveling on a bus through Wisconsin this Sunday.  Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin may also join.

Not to be forgotten is the man who many consider the frontrunner in the VP search -- Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. He has spent most of his weekends away from Washington helping Romney in some capacity in his home state.  Last Friday he attended a Romney fundraiser in Lima, Ohio, and the weekend before that, he both bracketed  President Obama’s campaign stop in Cincinnati, OH and helped to open a Romney Victory office the southwest part of the Buckeye State.

On Monday he’ll take his act on the road to campaign in Pennsylvania.  It will mark the second time Portman will hit the Keystone State in hopes of turning the traditionally blue state to red.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has not campaigned for the GOP nominee for months, will also hit the trail in the coming days.  She will travel to Michigan on Romney’s behalf.

Two potential VP contenders -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte -- are notably not on this weekend’s surrogate blitz. However, both Christie and Ayotte have campaigned for Romney in recent weeks.

The rush of Romney surrogates over the next five days across the country seems to indicate it will be a full on sprint from now until the November election for the Romney campaign.