Well, before I make my guess, let me start with who I don’t think will be Sen. John McCain’s choice for running mate.

For example, Paris Hilton is out of the question. She would bring the youth and the financing he needs, but she would have to stop referring to him as “that wrinkly white-haired dude” and refrain from rolling her eyes every time he asks something like “Who’s Rihanna.” Won’t happen. (One thing they do have in common, however:, neither can keep track of their real estate holdings.)

Likewise, Joe Lieberman is out. He would certainly appeal to conservative democrats, but he is almost as risky as Paris. He’s likely to lose as many centrists as he will gain. McCain the maverick would keep Joe in the running because he is a long-time friend, and the maverick likes to surprise people. But it looks like the maverick has been muzzled in favor of McCain the Overmanaged. So Joe is out.

Mitt Romney would be a great pick, but he, too, comes with risk. He has the gravitas to step as commander in chief, but there’s that Mormon issue, which, for some reason, puts off a lot of people. It’s too bad. Romney’s smart, articulate and experienced, which, given today’s absurd political climate, may make him too controversial (read: qualified) for the White House.

That brings me to my pick: Little-known Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. He’s young, eloquent, popular, young, blue-collar, loyal to the party, young and well-respected. And did I mention that he was young? He’s 47. He’s also governor of a state that just happens to be hosting the Republican National Convention next week. Putting him on the ticket might, hardened GOP optimists say, move the “Land of 10,000 lakes” into swing status.
But I wouldn’t count on it. (Remember, this was the only state in the union that did not support Ronald Reagan in either of his presidential campaigns.)

More importantly, Pawlenty’s a really nice guy with a nice-looking (young) family. Good photo op. And he’s real. The man caught a 17-inch walleye on opening day of fishing season this spring. You have to like that. He has said he wants to make the GOP the party of “Sam’s Club not just the country club,” which is exactly the tonic (make that a Budweiser) the McCain campaign needs in the aftermath of the senator’s house-count gaffe.
I’m betting when McCain announces his choice at a basketball arena in Dayton, Ohio (think blue-collar) tomorrow morning, Pawlenty will be waiting in the wings.
Oh, by the way, Friday also happens to be McCain’s 72nd birthday. Did I mention that Pawlenty was young, the same age as that guy named Obama?

– Paul Gullixson