As I said in my last Twitter post, I am predicting that Tim Pawlenty will be named as John McCain's running mate this Friday. Although he doesn't have Mitt Romney's business acumen or name value, Pawlenty has a few of things going for him that will ensure him the number two spot on the Republican ticket. First and most important, McCain likes him. Don't underestimate that. McCain is a man who places a lot of value on loyalty and friendship. Pawlenty stood by McCain when his campaign collapsed last summer, and McCain will remember that.
Second, Obama has a lead of about 4.5% in the Real Clear Politics average of Minnesota polls, but it's a fragile lead built on an outlier poll by Minnesota Public Radio that put Obama up by ten. If we factor out that poll Obama's lead is closer to 2.6%. Pawlenty, the popular two-term Minnesota governor, coming out on stage next week in Minneapolis as the vice presidential nominee could well put the state in the McCain column, and if Obama doesn't win Minnesota, he'll be hard-pressed to make up those electoral votes elsewhere.
Third, Pawlenty has a vision for the future of the Republican Party. He sees Republicans becoming the party of small businessmen and the middle class, what he calls the "Sam's Club Republicans." He's trying to connect with this neglected class of voters in the country and build a winning coalition, and that's admirable. Some seem content to try and follow the Democrats template of building the Party on the back of interest groups (call it the Mike Huckabee plan), while others hope that the old Reagan coalition will hold together out of nostalgia, but very few people are trying to build a winning majority for the future. That's where Pawlenty comes in, and he'll bring a bit of vision with him to the ticket.
It's possible that McCain may bite the bullet and pick Mitt Romney, who brings with him some impressive strengths. But I think Romney has something different in his future. I think that after Mike Duncan steps down, Romeny will take over as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and I can't think of a better man to do that job. But when it comes to the vice presidency, I think that it's Pawlenty's time, and I think McCain thinks so too.