John McCain isn’t the first presumptive presidential nominee to announce ahead of time when he will announce his running-mate.
Just as speculation over Barack Obama’s imminent V.P. selection reached fever pitch yesterday, McCain’s campaign not coincidentally leaked to the Politico news that the G.O.P. candidate will make his own choice public on August 29 – the day after Obama’s acceptance speech (and McCain’s 72nd birthday). The goal is to shift the focus away from Obama as soon as his speech ends, denying him (in theory, anyway) a post-convention bounce.
Actually, the announcement-of-an-announcement strategy has been used before – by Al Gore in 2000. Lagging behind George W. Bush in the polls, Gore announced on July 29 of that year that he’d unveil his own V.P. choice on August 8 in Nashville. Gore’s announcement of his announcement came on the eve of the Republican convention in Philadelphia and represented an effort to distract from the G.O.P.’s proceedings. (The Democrats convened in Los Angeles on August 14.) Because Bush was already ahead in the polls and figured to get some kind of a bounce out of Philadelphia, there was an added imperative for the Gore campaign to try to limit the damage.
Of course, Republicans didn’t much care for Gore’s little trick. Bush’s spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, declared that: “Once again, everything is a political calculation. They are more concerned about the political timing of the announcement instead of who the person will be.”
Something tells me Hughes sees it differently this time around.