- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mitt and Marco, Mitt and Bobby, Mitt and Condoleezza. Guessing when and where Mitt Romney will reveal his choice of running mate now fixates journalists, strategists and voters. It’s almost as popular a pastime as trying to figure out how many golf games President Obama has played since he took office. Indeed, when Mr. Romney’s stages his big reveal, it will be prime political theater commanding intense scrutiny.

Recall that even four years later, the nation still remembers the moment when then-presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his surprise vice presidential choice, a mere 67 days before election day.

The nation cheered, squawked and argued — obsessed by a woman with “strong principles and a fighting spirit,” as Mr. McCain put it, and transfixed by her political prowess, unapologetic style, trademark updo, sleek suits and the daring Naughty Monkey brand high heels that appeared time and again on the campaign trail. And voila. The Republican Party had instant charisma. Americans of all political persuasions followed Mrs. Palin, whether they adored or reviled her.

Here we go again.

Will Mr. Romney make a strategic veep decision when the time comes? You betcha. Will he seek to intimidate Mr. Obama and his campaign handlers? But of course. Can he control the trajectory of his choice in the press, once the decision has been made? No. But the Romney campaign is already assuming a victorious posture, labeling Mr. Romney and his mystery running mate as “American’s Comeback Team” and offering lucky supporters a chance “to meet Mitt’s choice for VP” when the choice is announced.

“This is an exciting time — and an even more exciting chance to meet America’s Comeback Team. Who in America wouldn’t want to be a part of this?” the campaign insists.

THE LONE STAR EFFECT

If it’s the beginning of a workweek, then the White House is in re-election mode. Indeed, President Obama heads to Cincinnati on Monday for “campaign events.” OK. But on Tuesday, he’ll journey to the very heart of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s territory; namely, Austin and San Antonio. Some 700 music fans and students assemble at Austin Music Hall for an afternoon event hosted by country music kingpin Jerry Jeff Walker, the man who wrote the old anthem “Mr. Bojangles.” Young Democratic locals have billed their state capital as “a blue oasis,” as Lone Star progressives gear up to greet Mr. Obama.

“Let’s give him a great big Texas welcome to show him that we have his back this November,” says Austin MoveOn, a local branch of the activist group. A noisy rally is planned.

Meanwhile, the president is expected to “set new fundraising records” when he visits San Antonio, according to advance speculation from the San Antonio Express News. The guest list for one fundraising lunch ballooned from 300 to 1,000 attendees; Democratic insiders estimate Mr. Obama could raise up to $4 million at one event hosted by Mayor Julian Castro, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez and actress Eva Longoria. Mr. Obama is expected to raise another $1 million at a private VIP fundraiser hosted by local power lawyer Mikal Watts a few hours later.

THE MANLY FACTOR

Are there he-men in the nation’s capital? Depends of the criteria. Politicians and lobbyists agree that Washington is the planet’s prime staging area for rough-and-tumble politics. But alas.

The District of Columbia only ranks No. 42 on the list of “America’s Manliest Cities,” according to Sperling’s Best Places, a research group that analyzed such factors as the number of sports teams, pickup trucks, steakhouses and home-improvement stores found in the top 50 metropolitan areas. The numbers of those employed in “manly occupations” such as law enforcement and construction were also taken into account.

Nashville, Tenn., was in first place, followed by Charlotte, N.C.; Oklahoma City; Memphis, Tenn.; Columbia, S.C.; Cleveland; Birmingham, Ala.; Milwaukee, Houston and St. Louis. Los Angeles was in last place.

“Cities also lost points for an overabundance of emasculating criteria the number of home furnishing and decor stores, cafes/coffee shops, sushi restaurants, ‘modern’ male apparel stores and cupcake shops. Cities with higher concentrations of these types of stores lost rating points,” the researchers said. And on that particular list? Washington ranked No. 9.

HISTORIC MUDSLINGING

“McGovern was nominated by the cast of ‘Hair.’”

— Speaker of the House Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill on Sen. George McGovern, South Dakota Democrat and 1972 presidential nominee, to PBS on Oct. 17, 1988

A CORRUPTION PRODUCTION

Do experts assign an economic cost to political corruption? Apparently so. The Hudson Institute offers a symposium Wednesday appropriately called, uh, “The Costs of Political Corruption in America,” showcasing Stanford University public policy and economics professor Bruce Owen.

His specialties include media, telecommunications, regulation and antitrust, economic analysis of law, economic development and legal reform, and intellectual-property rights. And of course Mr. Owen is currently at work on a book about political corruption in America.

The event will be streamed live online; questions can be submitted via Twitter @Hudson Institute. For information, visit www.hudson.org.

POLL DU JOUR

• 78 percent of Americans currently disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

• 16 percent of Americans currently approve of Congress.

• 10 percent approved of Congress, on average, in 2011.

• 39 percent approved on average in 2009; 84 percent in 2002, 57 percent in 1998.

• 18 percent approved of Congress in 1992, 42 percent in 1988, 19 percent in 1979 and 47 percent in 1975.

• 18 percent of Democrats currently approve of Congress.

• 14 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of independents agree.

Source: A Gallup Poll of 1,014 U.S. adults conducted July 9-12.

Memories, hopeful speculations, stern advice to jharper@washingtontimes.com