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Happy Birthday, Sen. McCain! (And Veepstakes Roundup)

DAYTON, Ohio — As our friends in Denver recover from their collective hangover in the wake of Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech last night, those of us watching the McCain campaign are gearing up for a very exciting day of our own. First, today is Sen. John McCain’s 72nd birthday — and what better way to celebrate than by announcing your running mate? As we all know by now, McCain is expected to do just that at a noon rally at Wright State University’s 12,000-seat Ervin J. Nutter Center. The Dayton Daily News reported yesterday that tickets, which were being given away free in three states, were still available. The Daily News reports this morning that at 7 a.m., 250 people were already waiting in line outside the arena.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling feverishly as to who McCain will bring onstage with him. The most frequently mentioned names include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, most controversial, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)

However, Pawlenty seems to have taken his name out of the running by telling a Minneapolis radio station that he will remain in Minnesota today to attend the state fair. From Politico:

“I will not be in Dayton, Ohio, so I think that’s a fair assumption,” [Pawlenty] added in an interview with the Twin Cities radio station, when asked

if this was an indication that he would not be chosen.

Fox News reports this morning that Romney is out of the running — and NBC’s Chuck Todd says Romney is not even going to be in Dayton today.

So where does this leave us? Politico’s Jonathan Martin reported yesterday that Lieberman is vacationing in Long Island, N.Y. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily take him out of the running.

On MSNBC, Mark Halperin just said that former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge was never fully vetted — indicating he is not the pick either.

The cable news networks are currently transfixed with a mysterious Gulfstream jet that arrived at a private airport in nearby Middletown, Ohio late yesterday from Anchorage, Alaska — the home of Gov. Sarah Palin, who was also mentioned as a potential running mate. From Marc Ambinder:

Thanks to the readers who pointed me to the journey of a sturdy

Gulfstream 5 with the [tail] number of N22GY. Anchorage, Alaska to Hook Municipal Field in Ohio. Nearby Dayton. 30 miles away. And the plane was in Flagstaff, AZ recently. [McCain reportedly met with potential veeps at his residence near Sedona yesterday.]

And where was the plane registered? To an entity called Gypsy Two LLC. It shares an address with a tax exempt organization called the Dean Weidner foundation. Dean Weidner is a Republican donor.. and a guy named William Weidner, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands corp, is a McCain bundler.

Palin, a young, pro-life governor with a reputation as a reformer — she came to prominence as a whistle-blower in a state famous for corruption and patronage — would be the dark horse of dark horses. If she is selected, it could indicate the McCain campaign is looking to pull some moderate women — namely former supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — to his column. She may prove a solid middle ground choice in McCain’s efforts to court moderates and pro-life conservatives. However, she could also undercut McCain’s message of experience versus youth — a first-term governor who is younger than Obama would be one step away from the presidency.

Of course, this is all hearsay and conjecture. We’ll be eagerly monitoring this situation and will let you know as soon as we learn anything new.

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