Matt Drudge threw the McCain press corps into a frenzy on Monday when he posted an item that predicted the Republican would pick his running mate this week
“Sources close to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip,” veteran reporter Bob Novak wrote on the Human Events website. “The name of McCain’s running mate has not been disclosed, but Mitt Romney has led the speculation recently.”
Drudge added links to stories about Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both veep contenders.
The stories hit just as McCain was leaving Portland, Maine, en route to Buffalo, N.Y., for a fundraiser. Several reporters on the Straight Talk Express plane began talking about the stories, and conspiracy theories were quickly born.
McCain could be meeting Giuliani in New York to give him the job. One reporter speculated that McCain, who would later head to Manchester, N.H., would be close to the Wolfsboro summer home of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has risen to the top of the speculation stack.
Some reporters called their editors to report that something was afoot. And as they spun out of control, the New York Times’ Elizabeth Bumiller and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter decided to get the answer directly from the horse’s mouth.
Inching up to the front of the plane, they pulled aside the curtain separating the candidate from the corps de press. McCain greeted them graciously: “What do you little jerks want?” he said with a smile.
“Are you going to announce your VP pick tomorrow?” Bumiller asked. McCain waved off the question, smiling mischieviously.
But the story didn’t end there. Top McCain aide Brooke Buchanan came back to the press in the plane on Monday to announce “We don’t have any announcements today.” Today?
“That just fed endless speculation that he’d pick today,” one reporter said.
Later Monday night, Senior aide Mark Salter was badgered in the bar of the Raddison Hotel, but wouldn’t say a word. “I do not comment on the vice president,” he said Tuesday morning.
NBC News took the whole thing seriously. The network planned no live report from Manchester, but a satellite truck was dispatched so that correspondent Kelly O’Donnell could do a live shot on the topic for “Good Morning America,” one reporter said.
The McCain campaign apparently liked the speculation, which is also cutting in to coverage of Sen. Barack Obama’s European campaign trip. The Tuesday schedule has an item listed that says: “1:20 p.m. Senator McCain departs Rochester Opera House en route TBA OTR.” In English, that’s a “to be announced off-the-record” event.
But if we’re making predictions based on folly, here’s one: McCain will pick his veep August 29, the Friday after the Democratic National Convention concludes. The selection would end a weeklong Democratfest, be all over the Sunday talk shows and run smack into the Republican National Convention, which begins the following Monday, Sept. 1.
— Joseph Curl, senior White House correspondent, The Washington Times