Breaking: Romney to announce VP pick tomorrow at 9 8:45 am; Update: NBC says it's Ryan

Fresh in the e-mail inbox from Team Romney:

Boston, MA – On Saturday, Mitt Romney will begin his “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class” bus tour by announcing his choice for Vice Presidential candidate in Norfolk, Virginia. The following events are open to the press. Please note that the tour of the USS Wisconsin and Homemades by Suzanne drop by are pool coverage.

Lest one thinks that Romney’s presence on the USS Wisconsin is just an odd coincidence, here’s what Bill Kristol is hearing:

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that the Romney campaign has begun to prepare a vigorous effort in support of Paul Ryan if he is selected as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick—something now likely to happen soon. For example, GOP officials tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is among a group of Republicans who has been asked to be ready, in terms of his schedule and other practical preparations, to make the case publicly for a Romney-Ryan ticket as early as Saturday.

This of course does not mean the Wisconsin congressman will necessarily end up as Romney’s running mate. The Romney campaign may be working to lay the groundwork for one or two other possible picks, though THE WEEKLY STANDARD has been unable to find evidence of any comparable preparation for other candidates. Or the Romney team could be engaging in some last minute misdirection, as other campaigns have done. In 2000, much of the attention in the days before the announcement of Dick Cheney as Bush’s running mate focused on John Danforth, thanks to nudging from inside the campaign. And in 2004, the New York Post splashed on its front page a story indicating that Richard Gephardt would be John Kerry’s running mate. It’s entirely possible that the Romney campaign is engaging in the same kind of shenanigans.

But if the signs pointing toward Ryan, increasing in number, are meant as a feint, it’s an odd one. Ryan is popular among conservatives and Republicans, and the talk about him is generating lots of excitement in conservative and GOP circles. The campaign would presumably be acting to tamp down Ryan speculation if Ryan weren’t going to be the pick, in order to avoid a sense of letdown if he’s passed over. But the campaign is doing no such thing. Rather, it seems to be preparing observers for Ryan.

Yeah, I don’t see this as a feint, although it might have been a multiple-candidate effort.  Romney has enough problems with conservatives that using Ryan as a red herring to pick Tim Pawlenty or Bob McDonnell would leave a very sour taste with the Tea Party grassroots.  If they’re working with Scott Walker to prepare for the announcement, one has to assume that the running mate will be Ryan — or, long shot, Scott Walker himself.

If it is Paul Ryan, it’s a good choice.  Ryan has solid policy credentials, but also has enough media presence and charm to make people listen.  Team Obama will hang Ryan’s budget on Romney, but they were going to do that anyway.  Why not have the man himself as the VP to explain it?  Ryan also gives the ticket solid Washington experience, while giving conservatives more hope that a Romney presidency will aim for serious change.

That would be the biggest plus for the campaign, which has had to fight Obama’s strategy of distraction.  Ryan’s efforts play the long game on budgets and entitlement reform; he’s one of the few people in Washington talking about not just the fiscal cliff but the long-term fiscal gap I wrote about this week in the Fiscal Times.  Progressives dislike the plan, conservatives fault it for taking too long to balance the budget, but Ryan’s plan is literally the only serious plan on the table to fix that $222 trillion long-term gap.  Ryan adds instant gravitas to the campaign, something that Obama and his team have failed to do despite being the incumbent President of the United States.

If indeed it’s Ryan, even the media may have to start focusing on the most serious issues — and that’s bad news for Obama.

Update: A subsequent e-mail from Team Romney puts the announcement time at 8:45 am, so I changed the headline.

Update II: According to Peter Hamby at CNN, Romney spent the evening calling the VP shortlist candidates, thanking them for their efforts, and telling them they didn’t get the pick.

Update III: Allahpundit just flagged this tweet to me:

Serious question: would NBC get a leak like this?