McCain on owning eight houses: I didn't have a house for five years as a POW; Update: Romney fades as houses meme takes off?

The left’s been hammering him for awhile for using his Vietnam experience as an all-purpose excuse but it was Maureen Dowd — bestower of the original Absolute Moral Authority laurel wreath upon Cindy Sheehan three years ago — who broke the idea big on Sunday. I take his basic point, that we shouldn’t begrudge a man who had his limbs broken for his country a nice house or eight, but Team Maverick has been, shall we say, inartful in fully articulating that argument, using it to shut down scrutiny the way Silky uses family misfortune. His POW heroism is his most valuable political asset; as with any asset, the greater the supply, the less valuable it is. Why he’d feel obliged to supply it here instead of borrowing Obama’s “distraction” rhetoric or mentioning Kerry’s houses to deflate the charge of plutocracy, I simply don’t know. But the worst thing the campaign could do, much worse than even overusing the POW meme, is to use it in circumstances that make it seem ridiculous. Especially since ridicule is what McCain himself has used so effectively to knock Obama’s own, very different sort of halo clean off.

Update: Lowry noted this morning in his Huckabee post that McCain’s going to have problems now adding another guy with several mansions to his name to the ticket. Advantage: Pawlenty.

Sources close to Romney tell us that his camp has not had vice presidential talks and dealings for a while, leading them to believe that the other running mate topping McCain’s list has edged him out. Of concern is the likelihood that the Democrats would dub a McCain-Romney ticket the richest ever. In fact, at a breakfast today, when I asked Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow if the Romney name would help in the industrial state once governed by his dad, she turned the question to Romney’s wealth. She even added up the number of houses Romney and McCain have, coming to a total of 12.