GOOD SEATS ARE STILL AVAILABLE…. There are competing reports on when, exactly, the McCain campaign is going to announce its running mate, with some rumors the news could come tonight. (Obama communications chief Dan Pfeiffer sounds skeptical: “If they do it, I will pay all of McCain’s mortgages next month.”)

McCain is, however, set to roll out his selection at an event in Dayton, Ohio, tomorrow. The good news for Republicans is that the event will probably generate enormous media attention. The bad news, the interest from locals isn’t nearly as great.

Barack Obama can fill a 75,000 seat stadium. John McCain, it seems, is having trouble filling a 10,000 seat theater in Dayton. They’re giving away free tickets in several states and plan to bus in supporters. The VP announcement can’t be overshadowed by a less-than-capacity crowd.

This isn’t a McCain-bashing post. McCain’s campaign has got to be concerned about the relative level of excitement that the GOP base feels. One way to generate some heat is to turn Barack Obama into a boogeyman. That’s had a marginal effect so far. Only McCain can close the gap.

That is kind of embarrassing. It’s a major event, in a swing state, in a city in which McCain has been advertising heavily. It’s also McCain’s 72nd birthday, when one might expect Republicans to come out and express their well-wishes. You’d think the interest in who McCain would pick for his ticket would be intense enough to draw an enormous crowd, but they’re having trouble filling a theater.

It’s not reflected in most recent polling, but there’s ample reason to believe the “enthusiasm gap” is real.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.