Washington (CNN) – They don't get a vote, but if they did, who would rank and file Republicans want as their party's vice presidential nominee?
According to a new national poll, although there is no favorite among Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin top the list. But the survey indicates that the candidates Mitt Romney may be considering as his running mate are not well known.
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A CNN/ORC International poll released Thursday indicates that 28% of Republicans would like to see Rubio as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's running mate, with Christie and Ryan tied at 16% apiece.
No other potential running mate tested on the poll, including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, crack double digits.
So who will Romney choose?
"When Republicans are asked to put on their pundit caps, Rubio again comes out on top with 30% predicting that Romney will tap the freshman senator, who's very popular among conservatives," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But again the field is divided. One reason is that the guys on Romney's presumed short list are not well-known to most Republicans, or to most Americans."
Although Rubio tops the list, for example, four in ten Republicans and nearly half of all Americans are unfamiliar with him. According to the survey, a majority of Americans are also unfamiliar with Ryan, and a whopping 72% have no impression of Portman.
"The good news for Romney: Without a clear favorite in the running, he is probably free to pick whomever he likes without angering a significant chunk of the party. And politicians who are not well known by the general public tend to arrive with very little baggage, giving them the opportunity to make a good first impressions on the public," adds Holland.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, with 1,010 adults nationwide, including 419 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points for questions only answered by Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report