McCain to name his veep choice on Aug. 29?

August 19th, 2008 – 9:21 AM by Bob von Sternberg

According to a report posted online this morning, John McCain plans to name his running mate on Aug. 29, which happens to be his 72nd birthday — and, not coincidentally, the day after Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination.

The report, attributed to unnamed Republican sources by the Politico, emphasized the fact that McCain has kept virtually everyone in the dark about his choice, but referred to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as “prime contenders.”

The report goes on to say:

The campaign has begun building a crowd of 10,000 for Dayton, Ohio, according to an organizer. McCain is scheduled to appear with his running mate at a large-scale event in Pennsylvania shortly thereafter.

Senior Republicans are in the dark about who he’ll name, although they say former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are prime contenders after a trial balloon by McCain gave him very negative feedback about the idea of picking an abortion-rights running mate such as Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and the first secretary of homeland security.

Sources close to McCain say he has wrestled with the choice, torn between a high-stakes, high-reward pick like Ridge or Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman — the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 — or a safer and more conventional selection such as Romney or Pawlenty….

The announcement strategy — provided McCain doesn’t change it — calls for naming the pick early Friday morning to try to suppress Obama’s bounce coming out of his convention.

“You’re going to own the weekend,” a McCain official said.

The Republican convention begins the following Monday — Labor Day — in St. Paul, Minn.

Update: More tea-leaf reading on the veepstakes, courtesy of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd:

“The growing Republican CW is twofold. One, Pawlenty appears to be the safest pick, given that one no one is vetoing him. And two, McCain is more likely than Obama to upend the CW with his decision.”

Later update: The Associated Press is reporting that Pawlenty is heading back on the road to stump for McCain.

Prospective vice presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is gearing up for a weekend campaign swing in Ohio and Pennsylvania on behalf of Republican John McCain.

Minnesota’s GOP governor says he’s heading to the two important battleground states to give speeches and rally McCain supporters. Pawlenty has been on the road for McCain much of the summer, including Monday in Wisconsin.

He refuses to answer questions about his possible place on McCain’s ticket. Pawlenty says he might travel to Denver next week as a McCain surrogate during the Democratic National Convention. No details on that trip have been firmed up.

Tit for tat in the air war: taxes and the economy (God, too)

August 15th, 2008 – 1:59 PM by Bob von Sternberg

In the doldrums of August, with John McCain dominating the current news cycle while Barack Obama wraps up his vacation in Hawaii, both campaigns have been stepping up their attack ads.

McCain’s most recent dumps the Paris Hilton references, but keeps alive his campaign’s “mere celebrity” rap on Obama in his new “Taxman” ad:

Obama’s ad, “Fix the Economy,” uses McCain’s own words against him, pairing his recent sunny assessments of the economy with fear- and despair-filled words of voters:

On an unrelated note, both candidates will stage their first joint appearance of the campaign on Saturday when they travel to California for an appearance at the Rev. Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch. Matthew 25, a pro-Obama Christian group that hopes to enlist religious voters for the Democratic candidate, will air an ad called “Families” during the televised confab:

More ads, back atchya….

August 1st, 2008 – 4:06 PM by Bob von Sternberg

None too pleased about John McCain’s “Celeb” ad that has largely defined the campaign this week, the Democratic National Committee has fired back with this ad:

Figuring their first shot at least drew blood, McCain’s ad shop came back with more mockery of Obama, in an ad called “The One” (the snark nickname McCain staffers have long used for Obama).

Team Obama promptly let it be known it was shocked, shocked: “It’s downright sad that on a day when we learned that 51,000 Americans lost their jobs, a candidate for the presidency is spending all of his time and the powerful platform he has on these sorts of juvenile antics,” said spokesman Hari Sevugan.

Travels with Pawlenty (and a piece of foreshadowing)

August 1st, 2008 – 3:57 PM by Bob von Sternberg

While the breathless speculation about Vice President Tim Pawlenty has largely quieted as the week has wound down considerably, his immediate travel plans have kept the veep buzz alive.

On Saturday, he’ll be campaigning in Iowa, at the invitation of the state GOP. Come Monday, he’ll be in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, for a send-off for Minnesota National Guard troops who are headed for Iraq (great photo op, guv!). Then, apparently after a day back in Minnesota, he’s headlining at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Also, the Strib archives show that before there was vice-presidential buzz about Pawlenty, there was presidential buzz about him.

In early 2005, in the wake of President Bush’s re-election, his name was already in play, bigtime:

His national name recognition probably doesn’t exceed 5 percent,
but in recent conversations about possible 2008 presidential candidates, Gov. Tim Pawlenty was mentioned more favorably by top conservative Republican leaders meeting in Florida than such household names as Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain.

Just Friday, the New York Times named him “a popular conservative considered a rising star.”

Grover Norquist, another top GOP architect who heads the group Americans for Tax Reform, said Pawlenty has caught the eye of elite conservative decision makers. “A successful governor who doesn’t raise taxes, passes concealed carry, reins in spending and who comes from a blue state that’s trending Republican is an attractive candidate for president or vice president.”

“Of the guys in the top 12 for `08, he’s right up there,” Norquist said.

(…snip)

“There’s an undercurrent of talk all the time about Pawlenty,” said Vin Weber, a former congressman, a top Republican strategist and a Washington lobbyist.

During presidential inauguration week in January, Pawlenty was one of the most sought-after interviewees by conservative opinion leaders from George Will to Charles Krauthammer, says GOP Chairman Ron Eibensteiner. He’s constantly getting requests from all over the country to speak at political and public policy events.

Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative who founded the Heritage Foundation and has strong ties to the White House, said that of the candidates who appeal to the Republican base, “I would rank Tim Pawlenty fairly high – in the top three or four nationally.”

Celebrity, elitism and presumptuous politics on the trail

July 30th, 2008 – 3:52 PM by Bob von Sternberg

In the wake of Barack Obama’s largely successful world tour, a new meme has wafted into the campaign, pushed hard by John McCain’s people and validated by some members of the media who have clearly had it up to here with what they see as the Obama campaign’s arrogant insularity.

In full mocking mode, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis got the ball rolling Tuesday with this crack: “Barack Obama has more fans across the world than Paris Hilton does.”

Team McCain followed up Wednesday that features not only Hilton but Britney Spears and Obama’s mega-speech in Berlin. “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world,” says the announcer of Obama. “But is he ready to lead?”

The ad’s running in 11 battleground states, among them Wisconsin and Iowa.

If that’s not unsubtle enough, McCain campaign honcho followed up on a conference call:”Do the American people want to elect the world’s biggest celebrity or do they want to elect an American hero?” And Davis followed up with an e-mail:

Only a celebrity of Barack Obama’s magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered for the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One. Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand “MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew — Black Forest Berry Honest Tea” and worry about the price of arugula.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor tried to laugh it off shortly after the ad was released:

On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking
Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks,
his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He
did it again.’

When reporters caught up with Obama at a campaign stop in Missouri, he essentially blew off the ad: “You know, I don’t pay attention to John McCain’s ads, although I do notice he doesn’t seem to have anything to say very positive about himself. He seems to only be talking about me… You need to ask John McCain what he’s for and not just what he’s against.”

The GOP got even more exercised by a report in the Washington Post that fed perfectly into the Obama-is-elitist frame. The lede: “Barack Obama has long been his party’s presumptive nominee. Now he’s becoming its presumptuous nominee.”

It went on to describe his meeting with Capitol Hill Dems in which he purportedly said, “This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for,” adding: “I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.”

One problem, though. Democrats attending the closed-door meeting said that wildly mangled the real quote: “It has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign — that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. It’s about America. I have just become a symbol.”

Democrats didn’t have much luck with the pushback, snarking about McCain’s multimillion-dollar lifestyle, pointing out at one point that he routinely wears $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes on the campaign trail.

Update: The Obama hit back with an ad of their own, called “Low Road:”

…today on the Pawlenty veep watch

July 30th, 2008 – 10:06 AM by Bob von Sternberg

Not much new to report, but a couple of nuggets are worth passing along.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that, in the eyes of offshore bettors, the odds are looking good for our governor:

The so-called “steam” — slang for a rush of betting action — indicates plenty of recent support for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Pawlenty has emerged as a co-favorite with Mitt Romney to be McCain’s running mate. Odds are about 2-1.

On the Democratic side, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh are the betting co-favorites at similar odds in the 2-1 range to serve as Obama’s running mate in the November election.

You can read the whole thing here.

Meanwhile, ABC News is reporting, per “sources,” that everybody ginning up the vice-presidential speculation should take a few deep breaths:

The frenzied speculation last week that a McCain pick was “imminent” has proven to be nothing more than that. Sources say McCain has not made up his mind and is unlikely to announce his selection until later next month–with the caveat that the independent McCain, who will make this decision on his own, could, of course, always make up his mind and announce next week.

The report goes on to say that the conundrum facing John McCain is that there’s no sure-fire conservative pick on his short list; “Each candidate on his short list–his former opponent, Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman–has drawbacks.”

And Pawlenty gets this less-than-flattering assessment:

Pawlenty has an established relationship with McCain and has been a visible surrogate for him on the political talk shows. He’s spoken powerfully about changing the Republican Party from the Country Club to Sam’s Club–which, if he could do, would help in those key states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But nothing suggests at this point that Pawlenty could actually deliver those states, so what does he add? And can you really say, “President Pawlenty?”

As Leno said last week, Tim WHO?

July 28th, 2008 – 4:34 PM by Bob von Sternberg

In the absence of anything resembling real news (much less fresh facts) about John McCain’s decision about a running mate, here’s some fresh entrail-reading, courtesy of the Rasmussen Reports polling firm.

In what amounts to little more than a national name-recognition pop quiz of the 1,000 likely voters the company surveyed, it turns out that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s north of zero, but just barely.

As Rasmussen puts it:

The names most frequently in circulation these days are former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who challenged McCain for the GOP presidential nomination, and two sitting governors, Charlie Crist of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that the two possible Republican running mates with the highest favorable ratings among voters – Mike Huckabee and Joseph Lieberman — are not even on most of the short lists currently being discussed.

What the numbers also suggest, given the high percentages of “not sure” responses, is that many voters are not even aware of most of the possible vice presidential candidates. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters, for example, were unsure what their view of Pawlenty is; 47% say the same of Crist.

(…snip)

In the new survey, Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, rates highest, with nearly half of voters (47%) saying they view him at least somewhat favorably. Fifteen percent (15%) rate their opinion of him as Very Favorable. Huckabee is seen at least somewhat unfavorably by 39%. Huckabee, like Romney, ran against McCain in the spring GOP primaries.

Lieberman, a sitting “independent” Democratic senator who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, is seen at least somewhat favorably by 46%, with 10% rating their view of him Very Favorable. Again, 39% have at least a somewhat unfavorable view of Lieberman.

But all is not lost for the guv’s prospects. A futures market operated separately by Rasmussen finds that he’s still in the thick of things: “On Monday morning, Pawlenty is doing better in the Rasmussen Markets and is given a 34.9% chance of being McCain’s choice. But Romney is still slightly ahead at 36.5% and Crist and Palin tied for third with 13%.”

…perhaps not the kind of attention he appreciates

July 25th, 2008 – 10:18 AM by Bob von Sternberg

Well, Gov. Tim Pawlenty may have quit talking about the veepstakes, but the buzz surrounding him made its way into Jay Leno’s Tonight Show monologue Thursday night.

No video yet, but here’s the transcript, via The Politico:

“Well, it was leaked … John McCain could be leaning towards [Minnesota governor] Tim Pawlenty. I know what you’re thinking — THE Tim Pawlenty? [Laughter] Apparently, McCain wants to lower his profile even more. [Laughter] I’m not even sure who Pawlenty was. And so I Googled him and it said, ‘Who?’ [Laughter, rim shot] … Pawlenty, doesn’t it sound like a dish at the Olive Garden?”

Pawlenty: Nope, uh-uh, zilch, nada, zero to say about VP

July 24th, 2008 – 5:27 PM by Bob von Sternberg

It was billed as a press conference to tout John McCain’s energy policy, starring Gov. Tim Pawlenty at a suburban service station, but — surprise — alll the gathered press wanted to talk about was the veepstakes.

Pawlenty wasn’t biting this afternoon — any more than he has all week, as speculation has continued to mount that he may well become McCain’s running mate. Besides, the back-and-forth between the campaigns over gas tax holidays and offshore drilling was old stuff.

So the questioners tried their best to trip Pawlenty up, but he’s got his answer down pat: “I’m honored to have my name mentioned, but I’ve stopped engaging in speculation,” he said, the first of several variations on that theme he tried out.”

“I’ve said all I can say on it,” he said. “It doesn’t advance anything — it just leads to more speculation,” he said as he headed for his car.

Don’t be surprised if the dance resumes Friday morning, either during his weekly radio show, or afterward, as reporters try to squeeze something more out of him.

Pawlenty veep watch, red alert?

July 23rd, 2008 – 9:39 AM by Bob von Sternberg

In a week when John McCain’s aides have been mocking Barack Obama as The One, it’s worth asking if Gov. Tim Pawlenty might just be The One McCain has decided to choose as his running mate.

The GOP veepstakes speculation cranked into high gear Monday amid speculation that McCain might go public with his choice this week, in part to wrestle the media spotlight away from Obama’s globetrotting tour. (Columnist Robert Novak, who has impeccable Republican sources broke the news, which he later walked back saying he believed it was just a ploy by McCain’s people intended to, you guessed it, gin up media attention.)

In any case, the frenzy inevitably tossed Pawlenty’s name into the mix, compounded this morning by CNN, which reported that McCain privately told a group of New Hampshire Republicans that he thinks they are “really going to like” Pawlenty. The unnamed GOP source said McCain’s endorsement came “out of the blue.”pawmac.jpg

For his part, Pawlenty is zipping his lip. He told both MSNBC and Minnesota Public Radio that he’s done commenting about the whole thing. Per MPR:

“I just have stopped engaging in the discussion because there’s just so much speculation and comments back and forth and things. I just have taken the position that I’m just not going to engage in the speculation any further.”

Meanwhile, Pawlenty’s political spokeswoman said Monday she’s no longer responding to questions about the veepstakes, referring all future queries to the McCain campaign. McCain spokesman Tom Steward confirmed that, saying campaign officials “certainly are not going to be talking about the selection process publicly.”

Pawlenty’s on the road again this week, attending a meeting in Washington, D.C. Monday (and, according to CNN, meeting with McCain aides at campaign headquarters). Today, he’s scheduled to appear at a GOP Lincoln Day dinner in Michigan.

Update: On this morning’s Chris Mathews Show, conservative pundit (and Obama acolyte) Andrew Sullivan flatly predicted that not only is Pawlenty The One, but that McCain’s already made the decision. The transcript, via the Huffington Post:

SULLIVAN: I think the vice-presidential picks are both going to be boring and underwhelming. We hope for a big moment, but actually…neither candidate wants to mix their brand up with another strong brand. I think that Pawlenty will probably be McCain’s number two – I think he’s already made that decision, actually – and I think Obama has yet to pick, but he doesn’t want someone that will outshine him.

MATTHEWS: So that ticket is going to be known as good and Pawlenty.