McCain Prepares to Announce His Running Mate

Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, arrive in Dayton, Ohio, where a rally with the Republican running mate is scheduled for noon today.
Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, arrive in Dayton, Ohio, where a rally with the Republican running mate is scheduled for noon today. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)   |   Buy Photo
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 29, 2008

Sen. John McCain will hold a noontime rally with his running mate today in Dayton, Ohio, kicking off his "Road to the Convention" tour in front of thousands of supporters at Wright State University.

The identity of McCain's partner remained secret last night even as McCain's campaign arrived in the crucial battleground state in advance of the rally, which will be followed by appearances at minor league baseball stadiums in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

McCain aides have said they hope to use the announcement of the GOP vice presidential candidate to help slow the political momentum from the Democratic convention, which ended last night.

As the secret held, furious speculation about McCain's choice for a running mate centered yesterday on two conservative Republicans: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty abruptly canceled his schedule yesterday afternoon, while reports of Secret Service sweeps of a Romney family member's home in Michigan suggested it was him instead.

A senior Republican operative said there was no evidence of an effort to reach out and soothe conservatives, a move that would probably be vital if McCain picked a candidate who favored abortion rights, such as former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge or Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).

"There's no battle plan to talk to conservatives," the operative said. "That's pretty dispositive in my mind."

Top advisers said late Wednesday night that McCain had made his decision and planned to tell the lucky partner the next day. But in a Pittsburgh radio interview taped Wednesday and made public yesterday, McCain said he had not yet made up his mind.

"I haven't decided yet, so I can't tell you," he told KDKA NewsRadio.

As the day progressed, the top handful of McCain aides who are privy to the decision went "radio silent," in the words of one top Republican. That left reporters and most Republicans speculating and reading tea leaves.

One national reporter mused on his newspaper's blog that a 6 p.m. McCain rally tomorrow -- the Jewish Sabbath -- might portend good news for Lieberman, since observant Jews do not work before sundown on Saturdays. But a senior GOP official later warned: "There are two sides to every leaf."

Early yesterday, McCain advisers teased that they would air an "exciting" and "historic" ad just at the moment that Sen. Barack Obama takes to the stage for his speech. Speculation swirled that McCain might use the airwaves to announce his running mate.

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