McCain VP rollout on Friday

Expect the news of John McCain’s running mate selection on Friday morning, and not by text message, e-mail, or semaphore.  Politico reports that McCain will introduce his VP nominee in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri starting at noon ET on the day after Barack Obama speaks from the Temple of O at Invesco Field.  The rallies will demonstrate Republican unity as a refreshing change from the Democratic drama in Denver:

John McCain is planning to rollout his vice-presidential nominee in three battleground states this weekend, with large-scale rallies planned for Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri, according to aides and advisers.

The GOP nominee-in-waiting will move to immediately change the campaign conversation from Barack Obama’s football stadium acceptance speech Thursday to the new Republican ticket, to be revealed at a noontime Friday rally in a Dayton, Ohio, basketball arena. McCain and his running mate will then travel by bus to Pennsylvania, where they’ll hold an outdoor event at a minor league baseball stadium in Washington County, just southwest of Pittsburgh. On Sunday, the duo will head to suburban St. Louis for another event to be held at a minor league baseball stadium, this one in O’Fallon, Mo.

The Missouri rally is being billed to local Republicans as something of a unity rally, since it will feature McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee — the GOP presidential finalists who effectively divided the vote three ways in the Show Me State’s Super Tuesday primary. A McCain aide warned not to read too much into McCain’s planned guests, however.

Having Huckabee and Romney on the same stage would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows.  Huckabee has continued his criticism of Romney all the way to this week, after suggesting that Romney should have defied the Massachusetts Supreme Court on gay marriage.  McCain has apparently demanded that the swords be sheathed, but Huckabee’s slap will give these rallies a little more curiosity than they might otherwise have had.

According to Jonathan Martin, we can expect a “safe” pick.  The football analogy from his sources is that a handoff up the middle is better when you’re ahead, and that more bad things than good can happen when you put the ball in the air.  That seems to eliminate the Joe Lieberman pick, which should cheer the base, but may also mean that Sarah Palin is off the table, too.  Having scheduled both Huckabee and Romney for these rallies would hint that McCain didn’t choose either of them — which strongly hints at Pawlenty, although Martin’s sources also said not to read too much into the guest list for the events.

McCain has made the right choice on tactical timing.  Some wondered whether McCain would try to steal Obama’s thunder in Denver by announcing his running-mate pick today or tomorrow.  That would have been a mistake, for two reasons.  First, it seems more likely that the festivities in Denver would have stepped on McCain’s announcement rather than the other way around.  Second, with Obama constructing a Greek temple from which to orate at Invesco Field, McCain probably wants as many people focused on this demonstration of Obama’s ego as possible.

A Friday morning pick will step on media coverage of Obama’s speech and give McCain good weekend momentum rolling into the Republican convention.  It will also demonstrate a great deal more competency when compared to the botched Biden announcement of last week by Team Obama.