Rumor turns talk to McCain

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ROCHESTER, N.H. | With the American press corps - make that the entire global media conglomerate - tracking every move of Sen. Barack Obama across the Middle East and Europe, how on earth does Sen. John McCain break into the news?

By floating a little veep talk, that’s how.

Of course, no one in the McCain campaign would talk publicly about the genesis of a rumor that swept through the traveling press corps after a veteran conservative columnist reported that the Republican “will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week.”

Nevermind that the timing seemed absurd - Americans are weary of election politics and busy with backyard barbecues, and every one of the possible vice-presidential choices comes with drawbacks and are still being vetted by McCain advisers.

“I don’t think McCain should pick a running mate before Obama does,” said David Norcross, a Republican National Committee member who ran the 2004 presidential nominating convention in New York. “McCain doesn’t gain anything by doing it now.”

More problematic, though, is who will be the Arizona Republican’s choice. None of the most frequently mentioned names seems to be without significant drawbacks, and if the list of choices is accurate, McCain officials are busy vetting as many a dozen people.

The senator drops in on Thursday to New Orleans, where he will hold an event with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom many mention as a top choice but who some top McCain aides say is not among the finalists.

“McCain probably has socks and ties that are older,” pollster John Zogby said of Mr. Jindal, who is 37. The 71-year-old senator would be the oldest president elected if he wins, and most political pundits agree that he needs a second in command who needs no on-the-job training.

Insiders thought South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford would be a sure bet because he is highly regarded by conservatives. He is young, good-looking and not the type to upstage Mr. McCain.

But he has twin problems: Conservatives may not be so hot on him when they are reminded that he strongly supported Mr. McCain in the 2000 Republican presidential primary, even though Mr. McCain was the target of conservative criticism and had dished out criticism of his own about conservatives.

Second, in a recent national TV interview, Mr. Sanford flubbed his lines so badly that even his biggest fans were embarrassed for him.

The wildfire began when Robert Novak posted a brief item that said this: “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. The name of McCain’s running mate has not been disclosed, but Mitt Romney has led the speculation recently.”

Mr. Novak, clearly miffed, said on Fox News that his report may have been “a dodge” to turn news coverage away from Mr. Obama.

“I got a suggestion from a very senior McCain aide … that he was going to announce it this week” and that the campaign “suggested I put it out.” He said he called another aide who mused, “Wouldn’t this be a terrific week to announce it … so I just put something on the Internet.”

“They were trying to get a little publicity to rain on Obama’s campaign. That’s pretty reprehensible if it’s true,” Mr. Novak said.

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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