Billed as a relaxed gathering of pals amid Arizona's scenic red hills, the Memorial Day weekend barbecue at John McCain's ranch was a high-pressure affair for one of its most important guests: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
Crist had just become a nationally broadcast name as one of a handful of possible McCain running mates gathered in Sedona. And he didn't get on the short list just because McCain is fond of him.
McCain needs Crist because McCain needs Florida.
Republicans say they can't win the White House in November without Florida's 27 Electoral College votes -- exactly 10 percent of the total needed for victory. And no Florida Republican can help like Crist, who already helped McCain seal the party nomination in the Sunshine State's winter primary.