It’s Lieberman ! No, It’s Pawlenty ! No, It’s Romney !

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As the nation waits for Barack Obama’s Vice-Presidential announcement, attention is also turning to the question of who John McCain will choose as his running mate. And, it’s pretty clear that nobody has a clue right now.

Last night, National Review’s Byron York reported that the list had narrowed to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman:

Been distracted much of the day by all this McCain houses stuff. But I’ve been talking to more people about the veep thing, and the picture I get is this: McCain is sitting in front of a console with a switch with two positions: GAMBLE and PLAY IT SAFE. If he moves the switch to GAMBLE, he picks Lieberman. If he moves it to PLAY IT SAFE, he picks Pawlenty. It seems increasingly clear that a Tom Ridge gamble doesn’t make a lot of sense, and a Mitt Romney choice isn’t a big gamble, but it isn’t really safe either.

But then Time’s Mark Halprin said that McCain had settled on Mitt Romney, and the New York Times is reporting that the list is down to Pawlenty and Romney:

SEDONA, Ariz. — Senator John McCain has narrowed his list of potential running mates to a handful of candidates and appears unlikely to select anyone who supports abortion rights, several advisers close to his campaign said on Thursday.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota are the top candidates as Mr. McCain and his advisers gather over the next several days at Mr. McCain’s cabin near Sedona, they said.


Mr. Romney, who is Mormon, might not be the easiest sell to Christian conservatives, and there remains some opposition to him among evangelical Christians.

Advisers said, however, that as a successful businessman he would bring an economic fluency to the ticket that Mr. McCain lacks, as well as family ties to Michigan, a crucial swing state, where Mr. Romney’s father was governor.

Mr. Pawlenty, an evangelical Christian, traveled frequently with Mr. McCain during the primaries, but he is little known outside Minnesota.

Given all the attention that’s being paid to Barack Obama’s long, drawn out, selection process, it’s hard to read the tea leaves on what McCain and his advisers are thinking.

As I’ve noted before, the idea that Joe Lieberman is really a serious contender for the VP slot seems to be little more than a political wonks fantasy. If McCain wins, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him tap Lieberman — who has pretty much burned his bridges with the Democratic Party at this point — for a Cabinet position such as Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, but there’s simply no way he’s going to be the Vice-Presidential nominee.

Notwithstanding their sometimes bitter rivalry during the race for the Republican nomination, it seems as though McCain and Romney have made their peace with each other as typified by Romney’s speech at CPAC earlier this year and his endorsement of McCain a week later. Since the Republican race ended, Romney has said more than once — see here and here — that he would be willing to serve as McCain’s running mate if asked. Moreover, while Romney may not be an attention-grabbing pick he would seem to be, under the circumstances McCain faces, a good one that meets the criteria that McCain needs for a running mate. Finally, though I don’t know that McCain is thinking along these lines, selecting Romney has the added advantage of blunting the 2012 and beyond ambititions of Mike Huckabee.

And Pawlenty ? I’ll confess to not knowing much of anything about him. He is apparently a basically successful Governor, which is saying something I suppose, but there is always a danger in selecting a running mate that isn’t known at all on the national stage, as George H.W. Bush can attest.

My guess is that it will be Romney, but there’s the possibility that McCain is waiting to make a final decision until after Obama makes his announcement.