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Running mate speculation picks up steam (if that's possible)

  • Article by: PATRICIA LOPEZ and BOB VON STERNBERG
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • July 29, 2008 - 6:25 PM

Two governors named Tim, both hailing from the Twin Cities, might end up running against each other for vice president -- based on tea leaf reading.

Speculation about the prospects of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty becoming John McCain's GOP running mate has gone from simmer to full boil this week.

Simultaneously, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine appears to have emerged near the top of Democrat Barack Obama's short list of potential running mates. Although Kaine grew up in suburban Kansas City, he was born in St. Paul and lived there until he was 2 years old.

For all the buzz about a possible imminent announcement -- in both parties -- neither McCain nor Obama nor their campaign staffers have breathed a word about the choice.

The GOP guessing game picked up steam Monday when one of National Review magazine's political blogs stated that "Pawlenty is John McCain's choice, and that the announcement is coming very soon." The assertion was attributed to "a source."

The backtracking began promptly, and in less than 24 hours, was amended to "McCain's list is down to Pawlenty or Mitt Romney."

Asked about the report, a McCain spokesman had no comment.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney still boasts economic prowess, strong Republican establishment connections and proven fundraising ability, but apparently lacks a crucial element for a gut-driven candidate like McCain -- a personal relationship. Pawlenty is a political newbie, but has the relationship in spades.

Once again Tuesday, he adamantly refused to talk about his future job prospects.

"I stopped talking about the vice-presidential issue ... for all the reasons we talked about last week and earlier today, but I really appreciate you asking," he said during a news conference.

Pawlenty is headed to Chicago today to address a group of conservative state legislators and activists. On Saturday, he is scheduled to be in Iowa at a campaign office open house held by the state Republican Party.

Romney, meanwhile, has been vacationing with his family in Ontario and New Hampshire and is making plans to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

Minnesotan Annette Meeks, a conservative activist, says she is getting bombarded with calls from national journalists asking about Pawlenty's chances.

"It's been building to a crescendo that really seemed to reach a peak today," she said Tuesday. "People are just waiting for something to happen."

Meeks, who had been a Romney supporter in the early presidential contest, said that while Romney has a number of advantages, "personal relationships and loyalty really carry weight with McCain and the service Pawlenty has performed for the campaign is nothing short of heroic."

Meeks is helping to organize the coming Republican National Convention and has already begun to consider the possibility that Pawlenty might be not just the host, but part of the ticket. "If that happens, we'd have to do something really special for the convention," she said.

plopez@startribune.com • 651-222-1288

vonste@startribune.com • 612-673-7184

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