Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to announce his choice for a running mate just as Democrats start wrapping up banners and packing lights after four days of convention frenzy.
According to several US media reports, McCain has already made his choice. The announcement was widely expected to be made at a rally in Ohio, Friday. But according to Matt Drudge, propietor-editor of the Drudge Report, a US-based news aggregation Web site, the announcement could take place as early as Friday morning.
Two other Republican rallies have been planned in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Missouri over the weekend, ahead of the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, which kicks off on Monday.
In the run-up to the announcement, there were four dominant contenders for the post, according to the Beltway rumor mill. These included Joseph Lieberman, a senator from Connecticut, Tom Ridge, the first US Secretary of Homeland Security, businessman and former McCain rival for the Republican candidacy, Mitt Romney, and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
After a four-day media frenzy over the Democratic convention in Denver, some analysts say McCain’s public announcement might be timed to detract some of the attention from the Democrats.
McCain’s running mate announcement comes in the wake of Democratic challenger Barack Obama’s own announcement Saturday. Analysts suggest his timing may have been partly strategic, allowing him time to adjust his decision depending on Obama’s pick.
Can Romney be a match for Biden?
Obama’s choice of Sen. Joseph Biden, an experienced politician with a strong foreign policy track record, has brought the issue of youth-versus-experience to the forefront. Before the Biden announcement, it was assumed that McCain, who turns 72 on Friday, would opt for a running mate who had time on his side.
Forty-seven-year-old Pawlenty seemed to be an acceptable choice. But with Biden’s formidable experience and his legendary way with words, Pawlenty’s relative youth and lack of experience is now perceived as a disadvantage.
Romney has become an increasingly popular name in Republican ranks as the US economy worsens. A self-made billionaire who lost to McCain in the primary race, Romney has since rallied behind his former rival.
Romney’s social conservatism could also give him an edge over Ridge. A former Pennsylvania governor and Secretary of Homeland Security, Ridge is known as an abortion rights supporter, something that rubs Republican hard-liners the wrong way.
But George Yates, head of the European chapter of Republicans Abroad, warns against placing too much importance on the personal beliefs of a running mate. Quoting Ridge, he said, “It’s the president who determines the politics.”
‘He is as old as McCain and not conservative enough’
In the course of his long political career, McCain has developed a reputation for stubbornness and a dogged political independence.
That, analysts say, is what could boost Lieberman’s chances. The junior senator from Connecticut who ran as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, Lieberman is listed as an Independent Democrat in the US Senate, but has increasingly joined ranks with McCain, especially on security and foreign policy issues.
A Lieberman pick, according to Yates, “would show McCain’s independence.” According to Yates, “it’s important for Americans that it is someone who is able to put the interests of Americans before those of his party.”
But some Republicans have expressed fears over Lieberman’s Democratic background.
“Anything but Lieberman,” said Kate Pesey, 26, who heads the Paris chapter of Young Republicans. “He is as old as McCain and not conservative enough.”