DENVER -- Speculation about Sen. John McCain's vice presidential pick is at a fever pitch, even reaching to the Democratic National Convention here, as top advisers to nominee Barack Obama Thursday spent time trying to dent the armor of some of the leading candidates.
"Whoever he picks doesn't change the fact that it's John McCain's agenda on the ballot," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters. "If you liked the last eight years he's going to give you more of the same Bush economic policies."
Democrats have complained about how successfully Republicans have inserted themselves into the Denver gathering this week, noting that Republicans have earned plenty of free advertising by producing daily Web videos and commercials that run repeatedly on cable networks desperate for material to fill their wall-to-wall coverage.
And Mr. McCain might be poised for the biggest party-crash this year.
If he were to announce his running mate Thursday night, he would steal some of the spotlight that would usually be trained on Mr. Obama, who will be delivering his speech accepting the Democratic nomination.
Already, the looming VP choice had both Republicans and Democrats speculating and jousting.
If Mr. McCain chooses former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, "all he's done is sort of double-down on [being] out of touch, and being on the side of the big corporate special interests," Mr. Plouffe said. "Romney's an expert on things like Cayman Islands tax shelters."
Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod suggested Mr. McCain has sold out to conservatives in his party by abandoning an earlier stance that he would be willing to consider a running mate who is pro-choice on the issue of abortion.
"You've seen basically people in his party holding a gun to his head and saying, 'You cannot pick a pro-choice candidate' and setting the parameters of this," he said. "He's not been fully embraced by conservatives in the party and now he's not really trusted by moderates either because he's made this Faustian bargain to be the nominee of the Republican Party."
Selecting Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats' own vice presidential nominee eight years ago, would mean selecting a running mate who "didn't subscribe to 80 percent of [Mr. McCain's] positions," Mr. Axelrod said.
Mr. Axelrod added that Mr. Lieberman donated $250,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which "might be a source of consternation to his new comrades" if he is the pick.
A Republican Party official told The Washington Times Mr. McCain is planning a campaign tour of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri with several of those believed to be on his short list as a show of unity.
Republican National Committee members meeting in Minnesota, where their convention kicks off Monday, say they have heard the McCain campaign plans to leak but not confirm his vice presidential choice Thursday night, around the time Barack Obama is slated to give his acceptance speech in the stadium where the Denver Broncos, the city's football franchise, play.
Some delegations to the Republican convention vow not to accept Mr. Lieberman on the GOP ticket.
The Washington Times has learned the Wisconsin delegation would vote against him on a roll-call vote, and the North Dakota delegation is considering walking out of the convention. Other largely pro-life delegations are also likely to rebel.
The Politico newspaper reported that top Republican strategist Karl Rove had asked Mr. Lieberman to withdraw his name from consideration -- something Mr. Lieberman refused to do.
Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was in Denver as part of the Republican response operation, said he wouldn't comment on the nomination search, and said his plans right now do not include traveling with Mr. McCain Friday.
"I am scheduled to be in Minnesota tomorrow," Mr. Pawlenty said, though his performance at the press conference made it clear he is in the running.
He fielded nearly all of the questions asked, despite the presence of Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and other senior Republicans, and with repeated barbs aimed at Mr. Obama he showed he is ready to fill the traditional attack-dog duties of a running mate.
He also did not shy away from listing the credentials that could make him an acceptable vice president: six years as governor, and before that state Senate majority leader. He noted being governor means being commander-in-chief of Minnesota's National Guard.
Mr. Plouffe said regardless of the selection's identity, there will be some crossover campaigning in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where both the McCain and Obama tickets are planning to stump.
"It's going to be an interesting weekend cause you're going to have both of the new teams out in some of these Midwestern battleground states," he said.
-- Ralph Z. Hallow reported from Minneapolis. Stephen Dinan, reporting in Denver, contributed to this article.