The Fayetteville Observer reads a few tea leaves in the veepstakes and suggests that Eric Cantor may become the dark-horse finalist for John McCain’s running-mate.  Cantor has not yet appeared on the convention schedule, which would seem strange for such a dynamic member of the House GOP’s leadership.  He also represents a Virginia district, which could prove crucial to holding the state for the Republicans in November:

Rep. Robin Hayes is predicting that Sen. John McCain will pick Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia as his running mate.

“It sure looks like a great possibility to me,” Hayes said Wednesday. “Eric is a tremendous friend, incredibly bright young man. He has wonderful credentials, and I think would be a very good, complementary candidate to John McCain.”

Hayes made his comments during and after a meeting with educators at Jack Britt High School. Rumors about Cantor have been spreading in recent weeks and began to grow stronger on Tuesday, Hayes said. Several media outlets are reporting that Cantor has come under serious consideration.

Cantor is a fourth-term Virginia congressman representing parts of Richmond and several counties to the northwest. He is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Cantor also holds a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs for seniors, health care and welfare reform.

Cantor has impeccable conservative credentials, and his selection would go a long way towards energizing the Republican base for the election.  He has an engaging speaking style and has no problem with political infighting.  As a debater, he could be expected to match up well with Joe Biden, but more importantly, he could fire up crowds on the campaign trail for McCain.

However, a Cantor choice has weaknesses, too.  It would make this an all-Congress match, when executive experience could make an impact with voters.  His work in the private sector is limited to a decade of law practice and the family real-estate business.  More importantly, though, Cantor does not have any proven statewide constituency that suggests he could hold Virginia for McCain, although it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Still, it seems curious that the GOP would not have Cantor already scheduled for a slot in St. Paul.  If they’ve held him out for any other reason than a shot at the ticket, I’d be curious to know why they have one of their clean-up hitters sitting on the bench for the big game.

Update: It’s not Crist:

At a morning press conference to announce his selection to fill a vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court, Crist was asked if he planned to be in Ohio tomorrow.

“I plan to be in Florida,” Crist said.

I didn’t think it would be Crist, anyway, but this seems to confirm it.