Arizona US Senator John McCain didn’t do much right as a presidential candidate though he perfectly timed the announcement that Alaska governor Sarah Palin would serve as his running mate.
Palin’s introduction to the nation sucked out all of the oxygen from the just adjourned Democratic National Convention and the surprise choice knocked the wind out Obama’s political apparatus.
For a brief shining moment, it looked like McCain had a chance, as Barack Obama’s own running mate humbly mused about the wisdom of his own selection.
Even the Democratic Party’s hapless 2004 candidate scored on his running mate roll out, though the man selected later proved to be cad.
The media’s frenzy over the identity of Massachusetts US Senator John Kerry’s pick led to a botched front page “scoop” by the New York Post, which featured a picture of then-Missouri US Representative Dick Gephardt under the headline “Kerry’s Choice”, which naturally focused even more attention on the Democratic ticket.
Romney would be making a terrible mistake not sitting on his choice for running mate until the eve of the convention or even later.
The speculation buzz going into the convention allow him to dominate the mainstream media while keeping the Democratic Party’s attack machine off-balance as they would have to spend time and resources developing multiple plans of attack.
In contrast, announcing early would allow Obama & Co. to mercilessly blast Romney’s selection and plant seeds of doubt that maybe the GOP presidential nominee should go in a different direction while there is still time.
For a charismatically challenged presidential candidate, Romney needs to keep as much lightning in a bottle as possible and avoid an anti-climactic convention.
There’s also the Paul factor.
Thousands of Texas US Representative Ron Paul’s supporters will be converging on Tampa Bay for two competing Paul events: an unsanctioned three-day “PaulStock” music and politics festival at the Florida State Fairgrounds sans their icon though featuring Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and an official Ron Paul rally at the University of South Florida Sun Dome where the libertarian champion will address his delegates the day before the convention.
It would not be in Romney’s interests to allow Ron Paul and his supporters to overshadow the start of the convention’s proceedings, especially if Paul doesn’t deliver an endorsement though both events would have a tough time competing for attention with Romney’s unveiling of his running mate.
The more the media speculates about potential running mates, the more Romney keeps his face and message on the networks. If Romney’s folks are smart (and this might be a bit of an assumption), he and his surrogates will continue to tease and drop hints to the salivating press corps up until Tampa.
Better yet, he might not even publicize the pick until the Monday or Tuesday of the convention at a major appearance in a swing state.
The opening sessions of the convention tend to be “dead days” where party apparatchiks get their two minutes of fame reading bland canned speeches that are equally ignored by the CSPAN viewing audience and those assembled in the hall.
The start of the convention could use some excitement as it’s unlikely George W. Bush or Dick Cheney will be called upon to fill in the gaps.
The general public isn’t going to pay much attention to the presidential campaign until after the national conventions. People right now care more about Great Whites stalking kayaks than policy or the election.
Romney would be wise to refrain from deploying his “weapon of mass distraction” until “shark attack season” draws to a close.
Mike Bayham is a political consultant in southeast Louisiana. He posts his political column at www.mikebayham.blogspot.com.