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For example, few predicted that Arizona Sen. John McCain would plucked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin out of her state to run with him in 2008, or that Bill Clinton would select fellow southerner Al Gore in 1992 and violate the tenet that a candidate should do their best to “balance the ticket” along ideological or geographical lines.

“I mean, this is Washington’s favorite parlor game,” Ms. Taylor said. “As soon as the nomination’s done, we’ll move onto the next shiny object. … I think most people are going to be voting for the top of the ticket or against the top of the ticket.”

Despite persistent prodding on the question, Mr. McDonnell said he thought the next time people would hear from him on the topic would be his congratulating whoever is selected as the vice-presidential nominee.

He laughed when asked whether that might be a self-congratulation, and said he intends to do everything he can to make sure Mr. Romney is elected.

“I told Gov. Romney anything I can do to help him, I’m going to do,” he said.