Would David Petraeus say yes to Mitt Romney? Why that's a long shot.

Why Mitt Romney would court the CIA chief and war hero as his pick for running mate is clear. But David Petraeus has said he 'will never be' a politician. 'No way, no how.' 

Yuri Gripas/Reuters/File
US Army General David Petraeus gestures during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington in this 2011 photograph.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is courting retired General David Petreaus – now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency – to be his vice president.

That is the Drudge report story making a big splash on the web.

Certainly, having General Petraeus – a decorated and widely respected war hero and military strategist – as a running mate would be a boon for Romney by boosting his national security credentials.

So it is easy to fathom why Mr. Romney would want Petraeus on his ticket.

But how would Petraeus benefit – and what are the chances he would say yes?

The odds he would agree to join Romney on the campaign trail are, in a word, slim.

For starters, Petraeus is known to be fiercely protective of his reputation in the media.

A student of strategy, Petraeus is no doubt well aware of how politics can muddy sterling military reputations – a la General Wesley Clark’s 2004 presidential run after retiring as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.

He has also studied the career trajectory of Ulysses S. Grant. He spoke to NBC’s David Gregory in August 2010, noting “how historians changed their views of Grant over the years, initially, of course, regarding him as the true hero, of course. And then, over time, in the 1900s there was a period when a bit more disparaging views of him, and then it’s actually come up again in recent years.”

Some Republicans, meanwhile, are not so sure he would be an ideal pick.

True, “Petraeus fulfills the Republicans’ perpetual desire for an authoritative father figure,” notes Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain. “But that’s a psychological issue among Republicans, not an actual job qualification.”

Most tellingly, Petraeus has made no secret of his lack of political ambition.

“I am not a politician, and I will never be, and I say that with absolute conviction,” Petraeus told Mr. Gregory. “No way, no how.”

The White House, however, remains wary that Petraeus could be lured into a campaign.

Some analysts argued that his appointment as CIA director in September 2011 was the Obama administration’s effort to give Petraeus a job that he would see as a great intellectual challenge – but that would also keep him out of the spotlight, effectively sidelining him.

Though the Drudge Report Tuesday said President Obama had “whispered to a top fundraiser” this week that he believed Romney wanted to name Petraeus as his veep and had secretly met with him in New Hampshire, the White House denied the report.

“I can say with absolutely confidence, such an assertion has never been uttered by the president,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. “And again be mindful of your sources.”

The CIA for its part issued its own disavowal of the report. “Director Petraeus feels very privileged to be able to continue to serve our country in his current position,” said CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz. “And as he has stated clearly numerous times before, he will not seek elected office.”

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