The Vice Presidential pick for both the Democrats and Republicans has become more of a media fascination than any time in modern history, because each of the remaining candidates has some divisions to sew up within their own party. Senator McCain needs to take someone to make conservatives happy, "they" say. Senator Obama may need to get someone on the ticket who appeals to white people in Appalachia. Senator Clinton might need someone who appeals to Obama's base.
Names are being thrown all about, and segments on the talk shows debating the pros and cons of all the potential picks are already in full swing. In fact, for the first time in a long time, Senator McCain created "breaking news" on MSNBC, when it was reported that he was meeting with Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, and Mitt Romney this weekend.
All of this points to the eventual VP pick announcement being a major news event, with a longer cycle in the news than maybe ever before. That's why my best guess is that Senator McCain announces his VP on June 5.
That, of course, is the second day after the last Democratic primary. Most likely, however, the Democratic nomination won't be settled. Senator Obama will likely have more delegates at that point and Florida and Michigan may be temporarily settled via the convention Rules Committee. But, there will likely still be a large number of undeclared superdelegates, keeping Obama from reaching whatever the "magic number" is at that point.
Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe seemed to foreshadow this weeks ago, when he told reporters that this nomination wouldn't be settled on June 3, but on June 15. That near two week lag would be the time for the rest of the superdelegates to come out, and if the numbers still hold for Senator Obama, the time when the Obama and Clinton camps will start haggling over how to end this thing.
That sets the stage for everything to play out this way, for McCain:
WED, JUNE 4, 2008 - It will be a muddled news day, but squarely focused on the question, "So now what for the Democrats?" That kind of story -- Democrats in disarray -- is good for McCain. So he'll let it play out for 24 hours, and allow tensions to boil a little bit among surrogates for both Dem campaigns.
THURS, JUNE 5, 2008 -- Then, just when things become even more unclear, on Thursday, McCain announces his VP. That's his own major news cycle which goes through Friday and the Sunday shows. The comparison couldn't be more stark for the Russerts of the world -- Democrats can't figure out what is happening, and meanwhile, the McCain campaign is a well oiled machine with an exciting VP pick. My bet would be Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, by the way. He's OK with conservatives (Rush Limbaugh said he was the next Ronald Reagan), a very affable guy, and has a great American story of his own. Oh yeah, and he's young.
MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2008 - FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2008 -- Enter into the next week, and McCain and his VP begin to campaign around the country separately, covering twice the ground that McCain can cover on his own. The national party rallies around him.
Meanwhile, back in Dem-land, things are getting worse, because McCain's effectively played some mind-games. Precisely during the delicate haggling period that McAuliffe laid out, McCain is freaking people out. Especially Obama supporters. Now that McCain has a VP and is getting days and days of great news, they feel the pressure more than ever to get started on their own general election campaign. It's very possible that Obama's campaign and supporters, feeling the urgency, begin to push Clinton's team a little bit too hard, causing the Clinton team to push back. Instead of coming together, the split is becoming deeper and nastier.
Past this, things get murky. Obama and Clinton could come to a resolution soon after. Or, it could go on while superdelegates don't want to force anyone out. Or, they could decide to force someone out of the race, which would lead to a general election nightmare, where the loser's base will feel incredibly jilted.
Whatever the case, McCain's mission is clear -- keep Democrats fighting, especially past the point when Democrats can say that the fight is 'energizing' the Democratic Party. The more McCain can do to make the split between Democrats nastier and longer, the better it is for him.
I can't think of a better way for him to do that than to announce his VP pick on June 5.