From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Countdown to the opening ceremonies: Tomorrow's official unveiling of the Democratic ticket has the feel of an opening ceremonies to what will be an unprecedented two-week, two-convention political Olympics. If this is like the actual Olympics, then having the first week of this two-week convention marathon might be the better get. If the old rules apply, then having the last convention will be the advantage. But realize this: The old rules on conventions just may no longer apply. We have a new calendar, and there are just 74 days to go. The next 14 days will give us two VPs and two conventions. Then we'll have a three-week gap until the first debate. And then we'll have four debates in three weeks, followed by a 20-day sprint to Election Day. That's it, folks. Let us know if you have any advice about when we should squeeze in a night of sleep.
*** Emptying the arsenal: Wow, yesterday was quite the day of attacks. Amidst all the VP buzz was one of the harshest exchanges to date on the campaign trail. McCain stepped into it with his Politico interview on Wednesday, when he perhaps committed a gaffe that will go down as either a "grocery scanner" moment or the "I was for it before I was against it" by saying he couldn't answer the question about how many houses/properties he and his wife own. No doubt, he's got a good answer now if he's asked ("I have one home and we own a few investment properties" probably would have sufficed). But that wasn't the answer he gave, and the DNC/Obama folks were downright RNC-esque in their organized effort to amplify this gaffe. Obama's desperately needed a moment to look more in touch with people than McCain, and he may have found it. What's more, the hit provided Democrats with a psychological boost as the polls show the race to be tightening as we head into the conventions. Clearly, Team McCain and its GOP allies were spooked as they unloaded their Rezko/Ayres oppo in one-fell swoop. It felt like an oppo-dump that was probably off the schedule they had in their heads about when they'd unveil these various hits. And if Rezko gets legs, then expect the Dems to fire back with Keating. It's turning into one ugly start to the Political Olympics.
*** Smitten? Thanks to a definitive sounding reporting from Time's Mark Halperin, lots of folks will be chasing Romney-as-McCain-veep rumors today. Moreover, the reporting will lead to plenty of speculation about whether this is a good idea or not. It does seem a little early for this kind of confidence on the pick, but whatever the case is, the McCain folks have been very good this week at keeping the VP buzz a split-screen story. Obama speculation has not dominated the week like many might have thought. For a campaign that worries so much about winning daily and weekly news cycles, that's going to be make folks in Crystal City smile. As for the Romney idea itself… Before Time's reporting, we were going to ask if McCain's house gaffe was the final nail in the Romney VP coffin. Considering how much the Democrats are fired up about the McCain-house gaffe, wouldn't it be odd for McCain to pick the richest guy on his short list as his VP? Wouldn't a McCain-Romney ticket be playing into the Democrats' hands at this point? Tim "Sam's Club" Pawlenty looks more palatable every day, right?
*** How Mitt might fit: But if Romney's the choice, here's a quick rundown of his strengths and weaknesses as McCain's VP. On the plus side, his business and managerial experience could benefit a candidate who once said "economics is not something I've understood as well as I should"; Romney could also help McCain in Michigan, given that his father was the former governor of the state; and the former Massachusetts governor could assist McCain in the competitive Mountain West states, which have strong Mormon populations (for example, 7% of Nevada's population is Mormon). Among the minuses, McCain and Romney disagreed on several issues during the primaries (like immigration campaign finance reform); there were numerous reports that McCain didn't personally like Romney (in fact, one McCain ad -- quoting the Concord Monitor -- called Romney a "phony"; then there are Romney's highly publicized flip-flops (as a McCain Web ad back in January put it, "Mitt Romney's flip-flops truly are masterpieces"); despite his good looks and impeccable appearance, Romney was never a natural campaigner on the stump; and there were plenty of polls suggesting that Romney's Mormon faith was an obstacle with some voters.
*** All's fair in secret keeping? OK, today's the day of ultimate paranoia in the press corps. Today's the day we second-guess our sources and ourselves, rationalizing potential head fakes by wondering: "Will the public care that they misled the big, bad press corps?" And so it goes today and tonight as no one will get any sleep waiting for that text message or that promised call or email. If this isn't a massive head fake and the big bad media is basically right in the three Dems we've all been staking out, then it still appears that Biden is giving off the most confident "I'm the guy" vibe. Yesterday, he was acting like a guy who might be preparing to be away from home for 70 days. Remember, Biden is home more than any other sitting senator. In fact, for a guy who's been in Washington since 1972, he's probably spent fewer nights in the city than the average first-term senator. Evan Bayh is keeping the lowest profile. Either he knows he's not the guy or he's earning big-time chits with the super secretive David-squared folks in Chicago. As for Kaine, he's supposed to be in Denver on Saturday, as is Kathleen Sebelius. Guess we ought to double-check that they actually get on Denver flights, right?
*** Just askin': Why haven't we heard much from the campaigns yet about the news that the US "has agreed to remove combat troops from Iraq cities by next June and from the rest of the country by the end of 2011 if conditions in Iraq remain relatively stable?" This is a timetable for withdrawal, no…?
*** Tepid support? Given some of the numbers from our most recent NBC/WSJ poll, about the last thing the Obama campaign needed this morning was the story in today's New York Times about a "tepid" Hillary Clinton. Her head might say, "Campaign hard for Obama" -- but her heart just isn't in it. The fact is, think back to 2000: It took McCain a VERY long time to get his heart into campaigning for Bush. And even when he did, it seemed forced. It really wasn't until 2004 when McCain looked comfortable supporting Bush. These things do take time for losing candidates. And maybe it is asking too much by the Obama campaign to get her to campaign vigorously for him. And if every story about Clinton stumping for Obama is going to have the word "tepid" in it, is it even worth sending her out?
*** On the trail: Both candidates are down… McCain is in Sedona, AZ, and Obama is in Chicago.
*** Note to our readers: The three of us will be traveling to Denver today, so please be patient with the posting of your comments. Thanks!
Countdown to Dem convention: 3 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 10 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 74 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 151 days
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