WASHINGTON, D.C. — The principal reason why former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has climbed to the top of Sen. John McCain's practical wish list for vice president is the possibility that he could bring Michigan's 17 electoral votes to the Republicans for the first time since 1988.
Private polls show Romney could make all the difference in Michigan. A McCain-Romney ticket carries the state by a moderately comfortable margin. With any other running mate, McCain loses Michigan.
George Romney, Mitt's father, was a Detroit auto executive and the popular three-term governor of Michigan. The younger Romney won the 2008 primary in Michigan over McCain, who had won there in 2000 against George W. Bush.
Reports of a decline in the popularity at home of Louisiana's first-year Gov. Bobby Jindal over his mishandling of more pay for state legislators have been greatly exaggerated. His long-shot chances for the Republican vice presidential nomination remain.
A private Louisiana survey of 800 registered voters taken July 6-8 by The Polling Company shows 60 percent favorable (with 39 percent strongly favorable) and 18 percent unfavorable for Jindal. Those numbers contradict Jindal's reported precipitous decline after the 37-year-old governor reversed himself twice on the legislative pay issue but ended up opposing it.
A footnote: A select audience of New Hampshire Republicans was startled Tuesday when McCain told them "you are really going to like" Minnesota's 47-year-old Tim Pawlenty — what sounded like a possible tip-off of his vice presidential choice. But McCain's intimates are accustomed to hearing him praise Pawlenty.
Sen. Barack Obama is employing his fundraising prowess to raise money not only for his presidential campaign but also for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, seeking a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Recipients of Obama's summer mailing include many lobbyists who are called "switch hitters" in political parlance — contributors to lawmakers of both parties who seek to open Capitol Hill doors to them on a bipartisan basis.
A footnote: While Democrats have a good shot at picking up four more Senate seats to put their majority at 55 to 45, collecting the 60 seats needed to break filibusters without Republican help seems out of reach.
Although former Sen. Phil Gramm's resignation as national co-chairman of McCain for President was considered to be essential by the campaign, he resigned on his own without being asked.
As this column reported a week ago, Gramm apologized to his old friend and political ally John McCain for embarrassing his candidacy, and McCain told him not to worry about it. Shortly thereafter, Gramm resigned rather than become an attack target for having called America "a nation of whiners" whose recession is "mental."
The same McCain strategists who felt Gramm had to go also consider his departure a major loss. McCain valued Gramm's economic and political advice.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski, a 71-year-old, 12-term congressman from a solidly Democratic Wilkes-Barre, Pa., district, may be the only incumbent House Democrat to lose in what shapes up as a disastrous 2008 for the Republicans.
Kanjorski is running behind Lou Barletta, the Republican Mayor of Hazleton, Pa., who has made a national reputation as a foe of illegal immigration. Kanjorski has a big money advantage and is waging a substantial television campaign, while Barletta has not yet been on television. But Barletta has 89 percent identification in the district, four to one positive. Kanjorski, who voted against the Iraqi troop surge, has been under fire for saying he "forced" President Bush to make the move.
A footnote: Barletta did not show up for Sen. McCain's rally Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. No more than 600 of the 2,500 theater seats were filled for the event.
To find out more about Robert D. Novak and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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