… But he’s going to make the media and punditocracy wait until he declares his choice via  text message on Saturday, after which he plans a joint appearance with his running mate at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, IL, where he announced he would run for president. [Update: It’s Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), according to press reports. New York Times columnist David Brooks explains why it’s a good pick. Read on for The Stiletto’s take on the downside for Barack Obama, as well as the choice facing John McCain.]

For days, pranksters have been yanking the media’s chain by sending out fake text messages announcing that everyone from Sen. John Kerry(D-MA) to Olympian Michael Phelps had been named. 

The media did not learn their lesson last month when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)used a classic Pavlovian stimulus-response technique (second item) to get pundits and political reporters to stop drooling over Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) on his tour of the fashion capitals of Europe and instead salivate over his “imminent” announcement of his running mate choice. Now that the Dem and Repub conventions are nigh, speculation – often indistinguishable from prognostication – is running rampant.     

This endless – and baseless – speculation has given rise to “a new phenomenon in the annals of veepstakes mania: the pre-reaction,” writes Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz:  

It’s like everything else in our fast-forward media culture: Why wait for the actual event? Whip out that keyboard and tell everyone what you think about Obama’s VP choice right now. 

Don’t know who it is? So what? You’re not going to let a little thing like that get in the way, are you? 

Slate’s media critic Jack Shafer is bored with the “faux drama” and accuses the press of willingly being used: 

By hinting to reporters the names on their short lists, the presumptive presidential candidates can get the press to save them time and energy by vetting their potential veeps for them. After all, it was reporters Clark Hoyt and Robert Boyd – not campaign aides – who discovered that vice-presidential nominee Tom Eagleton neglected to tell George McGovern that he had been treated with electroshock therapy, forcing McGovern to dump Eagleton after 18 days and find another running mate.  

Nor are the candidates always the worst perpetrators. You’re nobody in political Washington unless the press has assessed your veep quotient, so some of the malarkey about who is on the short list comes directly from the politically vain. … 

Candidates and the reporters who cover them share a problem from the time the campaigns begin until the voters cast their final ballots: how to keep the story alive. Why do reporters abet the orchestration of this media event every four years, fighting like wolverines to claim a “scoop” that’s so meaningless that nobody can remember a month (a week?) after the fact who scored it? Is it evidence of their cynicism or of their credulity? 

Of course when speculating, the trick is to include a CYA graf, in case a reporter is wildly off the mark or was fed bad info. For instance, when Time magazine’s Karen Tumulty, tried to divine Obama’s intentions by deconstructing quotes from several recent interviews she concluded with this caveat:   

I would say the pick is either Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana (low profile, both executive and foreign policy experience, but a supporter of the Iraq War), or a surprise whose name has not been circulating on the pundits’ short lists.  

So it will be Bayh or it won’t. Wow. This is what pundits get paid the Big Bucks (well, under Obama’s tax plan) for?  

At the risk of indulging in “pre-reaction” Saddleback changed everything for both candidates.

Heading into the conventions, McCain has closed in on Obama, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll conducted between August 15th through 18th, and Zogby’s August 15th through 19th polling in 10 battleground states moves FL into McCain’s column. And with CO and NH now up for grabs, Obama has fallen below the electoral victory threshold of 270. According to Zogby’s map, the states in which Obama leads bring his electoral college total to 260, with McCain at 173 and 105 undecided. 

Obama can no longer afford to pick someone who is merely inoffensive as is Bayh or Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and must find his complement, who will shore up his weaknesses in foreign policy and national security issues, unify the party and neutralize a resurgent McCain.

DE Sen. Joe Biden’s name has been batted around over the past few days since his return from Georgia, but if Obama chooses him, he risks yet another comparison to W: A foreign policy naif whose veep knows more than he does, and is really running the show behind the scenes (Biden once said that he didn’t think Obama was ready for the presidency, which is “not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.”) So The Stiletto can’t see Obama picking Biden. With his résumé, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) could fulfill the same function as Biden, but without overshadowing Obama – but then, you’d have two minorities on the ticket, which won’t win over those Dems who are already disinclined to vote for Obama.

There’s only one rational choice, if Obama really means to win the White House: Hillary. Rodham. Clinton.

But Politico.com reports that despite statements meant to appease Hillary’s supporters that  she “would be on anybody’s short list,” the Obama campaign’s veep vetters Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder never asked her for financial or medical records, and that she was waiting to find out whom Obama anointed via text message “like everyone else.” 

That’s OK – regardless of whether she is Obama’s veep she would have to wait eight years for another chance to run if he wins – she’d be a year younger than McCain by then, and would have to battle ageism in the next go-round – but only four years if McCain wins,  especially if McCain takes Peggy Noonan’s advice. In four years, the passion of her older supporters who feel she was cheated this time around could still be burning bright, giving her a built-in advantage. In eight years, they might not care as much – and the first-time voters who are in grade school now won’t care at all.

As for McCain, he no longer needs a “Hail Mary” pick like LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (second item) or CT Sen. Joe Lieberman (whom Associated Press political correspondent Nedra Pickler called a “prick” in a typo-cum-Freudian-slip), because he has finally solidified his base – which also means he can’t jeopardize this hard-won support by picking a pro-abortion candidate like former PA Gov. Tom Ridge or former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows Obama leading in MI by 7 percent – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), whose father was the governor of MI – will help McCain overall. In fact, many evangelicals are still dead-set against Romney.

So McCain’s problem is the polar opposite of Obama’s: He must choose someone who is inoffensive to conservatives, evangelicals and Republicans. To The Stiletto’s thinking, the field is narrowed to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN). The latest Minnesota Public Radio and University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute poll has Obama ahead of McCain by 10 points in MN – which tips the balance in favor of Pawlenty, in The Stiletto’s opinion.

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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