Barbour would be one name that puts many conservatives at a bit more ease, one of the criteria McCain understands he must meet, according to another adviser: “Another would be geographic balance, and Barbour takes care of that, too.”
Other names on the initial list that may have as many as 30 names on it: Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is a national chair for McCain, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, former Rep. J.C. Watts.
Two names set aside from the others: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Sen. Fred Thompson. Bush has stated that he has no interest in elective office at this time and hasn’t endorsed a candidate (though it is likely he will soon endorse McCain). Thompson, who endorsed McCain on late Friday, has insisted in the past that he has no interest in serving on the bottom of the ticket. But his relationship with conservatives is so strong that McCain has little choice but at least to put Thompson’s name on the list and make an effort to draw him in and hold him close. Thompson campaigned with McCain in 2000, so both men know each other well.
“Thompson as a running mate is more likely than Jeb. McCain has to take a run at both of them if he’s going to have any credibility with the movement conservatives once he makes his pick,” says the McCain senior adviser helping to draw up the list.
The choice of Thompson would check the box on geography (the South), as well as McCain’s acknowledged need to energize the conservative base of the Republican Party for a run in the fall. “We understand that it’s going to take more than running against Hillary or Obama to energize our base,” says the senior aide. “We need to give our side something and someone to fight for. If it isn’t John, then it needs to be ideas and someone they can support enthusiastically.”p> BELATED BUT BOLD
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