Robert Novak touched off a frenzy of speculation with his scoop that “[s]ources close to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip.” Some of the chatter naturally focused on the identity of the running mate, but many instead questioned the timing of the announcement, which seemed suspect because it was so stupid.

The fake news – bolstered by breathless reports that McCain was to meet with LA Gov. Bobby Jindal again! – was evidently a ploy to turn the wattage of Obama’s spotlight down a tad, if only for a few hours. 

Why did the media fall for it? “Boredom,” explains Ken Khachigian, a senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan:  

Today’s overheated fascination with selecting presidential running mates is about boredom relief for opinion writers, political junkies and the media. It provides an escape from the fatigue of an 18-month nomination race – a new rabbit to chase. In 60 days, the presidential election will be about two candidates: John McCain and Barack Obama. Today’s anticipation, excitement and obsession about vice presidential running mates will be a distant memory.

Nonetheless, with pundits suddenly focusing on the McCain veepstakes former MA Gov. Mitt Romney made news of his own that had some moving him up a few spots on their short lists.    

In writing off $45 million in loans he made to his campaign so that donations raised by the party will fatten McCain’s coffers instead of paying off the debt, Romney went beyond subtle signals that he would accept the Number Two spot with this blatant attempt to buy his way onto the ticket much as he bought his first-place finishes at CPAC and the IA straw poll (second item) last year.

The Boston Globe’s Washington bureau chief Peter S. Canellos lays it on the line: 

[T]he news last week that Romney was giving up any chance of recouping the $45 million he loaned his presidential campaign immediately raised the question: What does the cautious, but shrewd, dealmaker think he’s going to get for this money?

The answer, apparently, is his selection as John McCain’s running mate. …

As it happens, Romney’s chances are looking better and better. The intensifying focus on the economy has left McCain – whose strong suit is defense, not domestic policy – in need of a running mate who can make a good case for GOP economic policies, or at the very least be a credible attacker of Barack Obama’s proposals. 

Romney, whose business career has given him literally a wealth of credibility on money matters, was at his most effective during the primaries when talking about economic issues, so there’s little doubt that Romney would be an asset to McCain.

While noting that this is “the largest personal in-kind campaign contribution in history,” Republican political analyst Todd Domke warns McCain not to become besotted by the lucre: 

If McCain picked Romney he’d seem like a flip-flopper himself. 

And Romney, as the loyal running mate, would have to flip back to positions he had flopped from before. His rhetorical contortions would be comical to reporters but dispiriting to Republicans. 

Political strategist Dick Morris also thinks going with Romney would be a mistake, comparing his huge primary campaign outlays to the tycoon who spent oodles of money on all sorts of experts to create and market a dog food that the dogs wouldn’t eat: 

Despite outspending his rivals by huge margins throughout the primaries, the dogs won’t eat it. He lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. The only primaries he won were in Michigan, where Dad was governor; LDS states; and a few states on Super Tuesday in which his California-obsessed rivals couldn’t spare the cash to advertise. … 

Would Romney help McCain? I don’t see how. Social conservatives and evangelicals cannot but smart over his former earnest declarations of his determination to “protect a woman’s right to choose” and his famous statement during a campaign debate that he would be a better senator for gays than Ted Kennedy. In the primaries, evangelicals all backed Huckabee rather than Romney.  

Would he help McCain win fiscal conservatives? If Obama’s tax plans don’t accomplish that, one has to wonder about their sanity.  

McCain should, at a minimum, choose a candidate who won’t cost him votes. And, at a maximum, he should go with a vice presidential choice that redefines his candidacy.  

The Stiletto has plenty of reasons of her own why Romney isn’t good for the ticket (second item), and thinks McCain’s short list should be whittled down to these three contenders (assuming nothing in their pasts that would prove embarrassing or a “distraction”): 

† Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT): If Barack Obama crosses party lines to pick Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as his running mate, Lieberman neutralizes any advantage that would be gained among independents and swing state voters. Also, he would peel away a respectable percentage of the “reliable” Jewish vote from the Dems. Concerned about Obama’s lack of foreign policy creds and unsure how steadfastly he will support Israel, many Jews just need a nudge to vote Republican this time around – and it may even get to be a habit in future election cycles.  

† Sen. John Thune (R-SD): A strong conservative, he is an insurance policy against conservatives staying home on Election Day because they can’t bring themselves to vote for McCain, even if it means someone whose policies and values are an even greater anathema will occupy the White House. The Washington Post’s Mary Ann Akers (AKA The Sleuth) ogles Thune’s assets:  

Thune, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has developed a personal relationship with McCain over the past four years and has traveled with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. But the biggest thing Thune has going for him is – in a word – youth.  

He’s young, easy on the eyes, articulate and personable. At the ripe age of 47, standing tall, trim and fit, Thune’s good looks could counterbalance McCain’s most glaring liability: his old looks. McCain turns 72 next month and, thanks to the toll that battling skin cancer took on his visage, he looks every day his age. 

† Gov. Bobby Jindal (D-LA): He’s the young, brilliant (Rhodes Scholar) son of immigrant Indian parents, and a true American success story – a minority who got where he got without the benefit of affirmative action – who puts the lie to the America-is-a-mean-country-that-crushes-your-dreams nonsense Michelle Obama has spewed from the campaign trail. He’s very popular in LA, and voters think he’s done a bang-up job in turning the state around in the short time he’s been governor. Many believe him to be a true Reagan conservative – which certainly can’t hurt McCain’s efforts to woo the decidedly restive base. Columnist Kathleen Parker makes the case for Jindal: 

Reed-thin, Jindal has the metabolism of a hummingbird and the kind of intellect that makes Vulcans uneasy. Often referred to as the smartest man in the room, Jindal’s mind can wrap around anything but the idea of repose.  

More to an important point, he’s not another white guy. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal is both the Republican Barack Obama and the anti-Obama. To a vote, he’s a fiscal and social, pro-life conservative who came to the governorship on a promise of reform in the wake of Katrina.

While then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco told President Bush she’d get back to him about what she needed after the hurricane, Jindal orchestrated a national emergency system of volunteers, faith-based agencies, retail providers and truckers to donate and deliver supplies to the drenched and homeless. Affectionately told stories of his gritty performance are the stuff of future legend.  

That can-do spirit is a thread that runs through Jindal’s life. … 

Oh, and he delivered his third child when his wife awoke in the middle of the night in labor. 

And while we’re on the subject of veeps, Barack Obama would be a fool not to pick AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano as his running mate:  

† A moderate, she has proven herself a calm, competent and commonsensical executive.  

† She is on the front lines of the border battle over illegal immigration, and has signed into law one of the few employer sanctions for hiring forged documented aliens that withstood legal challenge. 

† Having her on the ticket will force McCain to contest AZ to ensure he carries the state.  

† She helps Obama court women voters – and donors – who are still furious that once again an inexperienced man edged out a more competent woman for the top job.  

By the way:  Some McCain aides are predicting the Big Announcement will occur before the Olympics, according to the WaPo. If The Stiletto could put in her two cents, she advices McCain to make the announcement five minutes after Obama starts delivering his acceptance speech at the Dem convention. The TV news shows will be forced to do a split screen and jump back and forth between the two breaking news events. 

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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