We may be at the flavor-of-the week point in the vice presidential sweepstakes, but that flavor right now for Team McCain is the environment-loving, hockey-playing governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. That tidbit is courtesy of a high-ranking McCain campaign official and reflects what I've been hearing of late among GOP activists. (John McCain is in the Twin Cities today for a town hall meeting and a fundraiser.)
Internal McCain polls show that adding Pawlenty, 47, to the ticket would help McCain win not only Minnesota but also the neighboring state of Wisconsin. Both are close swing states. In 2004, John Kerry beat President Bush by 3.48 percentage points in Minnesota and 0.38 percentage point in Wisconsin. In 2000, Al Gore beat Bush by 2.4 points in Minnesota and 0.22 in Wisconsin.
This all validates my theory that Team McCain is pursuing a "Big 10" victory strategy, trying to win the states from the college football conference, especially Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This path could result in McCain losing the popular vote but winning the electoral vote.
Pawlenty was an early McCain backer and will host tonight's fundraiser for the candidate. The governor told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune yesterday that he's had no talks with the campaign about the veep slot. The paper also quotes a close Pawlenty confidant as saying he believed the governor has a fifty-fifty chance at getting the nod.