Aug 08, 2012.
The countdown has begun. Mitt Romney will announce his VP pick any day now. His campaign is milking the anticipation. And Republicans and Democrats alike are biting their nails, knowing this could be a game-changer. Or a giant, screaming "look at me!" from the top of the high dive, just before a massive belly flop in the deep end.
Drum roll, please.
Strategists, pundits, campaign staffers and, of course, the ever-nosy media (mostly out of desperation to feed an insatiable 24-hour news cycle) have been sifting and sorting for clues in campaign schedules, convention speaker lists, Tweets, off-the-cuff comments and, now, Wikipedia updates. They're the equivalent of tea leaves in the bottom of the campaign cup in these digital times, or picking at sheep guts if you prefer ancient oracle analogies.
Knowing the feeding frenzy to be first it will cause when it happens, Beth Myers, who's heading up the vetting for Romney's vice presidential shortlist, toyed with reporters via Twitter. She blasted out a #FollowFriday list with what many seized upon as the names of the potential VPs.
On it: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
It was like pouring blood in a shark tank.
Reporters ripped into it like Jaws. But all they could do was speculate. No one from Romney's camp, least of all Myers or the candidate himself, said what, if anything, it meant.
Timing is everything. Romney's campaign wins by building up the anticipation, and stirring the waters a bit whenever they want to divert attention things like his bungled overseas tour or his continuing, and baffling, refusal to release more tax returns.
And they won't want the announcement lost in other events. That's why there's no reason to think it will come while so much of the United States is focused on the Olympics.
There's also little reason for him to pull the plug on the pluses he gets from having "potential" picks shilling for him. "Potential" is a much bigger draw than "also ran."
This coming weekend, for example, Romney is making stops in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. With him: In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell; Rubio is supposedly joining him in Florida; and Portman joins him in Ohio on Tuesday.
He's also got several of the others out fundraising for him. Pawlenty, Rep. Paul Ryan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been hauling in contributions and spreading the Romney gospel. How much will people pay to eat rubber chicken with someone who people once speculated might be a potential pick?
Some possibles now appear to be off the list because they made it onto another list -- namely, the list of speakers at the Republican National Convention in August. People who get paid big money to analyze this kind of thing say that naming Rice, Santorum and Susana Martinez as speakers at the convention means they're not being considered.
The Martinez speech should be interesting -- someone who blasted Romney over his "self- deportation" immigration policy will now be singing his praises! Ah, politics, don't you just love it?)
The latest source of tea leaves (or entrails) for the political soothsayers to sift through comes via Wikipedia. The questionable source for so many other subjects has now become a subject of speculation itself as campaign-watchers have seized on how many updates there have been on each of the supposed shortlisters' Wiki pages.
"Sarah Palin's Wikipedia page was updated at least 68 times the day before John McCain announced her selection, with another 54 changes made in the five previous days previous. Tim Pawlenty, another leading contender for McCain's favor, had 54 edits on August 28th, with just 12 in the five previous days. By contrast, the other likely picks -- Romney, Kay Bailey Hutchison -- saw far fewer changes," Tech President’s Micah Sifry noted.
Looking at the current crop, the website noted that Paul Ryan's entry had the most updates of any of the supposed contenders between July 30 and Aug. 6, a total of 10. Rubio had nine and Jindal had 8. Of course, a clearly miffed Dylan Byers at Politico quickly tried to debunk the Wikipedia as oracle talk. He pointed out that Portman shot to the lead on Tuesday, with 16 updates in a single day, but Rubio quickly tied him. Unfortunately, Byers noted, Rubio's edits "were almost all driven by one user's insistence that Rubio was not the 'crown prince' of the Tea party."
In the end: who knows?
Romney is playing his cards very close to his vest. Tuesday, he almost seemed a little snippy when Fox News' Carl Cameron asked about his decision.
"I am not going to give you anything," Romney said. "No clue. All I can tell you is that by the third night of the Republican Convention I will have made a decision and be ready to communicate it."
Well, yeah. And probably sooner. He's going to want to build the momentum going into the convention.
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