Milking the Distraction To the Last Drop

For what it is worth, Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt makes a very convincing case for the proposition that Mitt Romney will wait until the last possible moment to announce his running-mate:

Mitt Romney has 18 days in which to announce his choice of his running mate, and you can bet he’s going to milk as much from the topic as is humanly possible. So what’s the advantage in stopping the fun early?

Romney is prepared to tantalize the press pool with another round of house calls on top-tier contenders starting Saturday as he takes bus tours through Virginia (Gov. Bob McDonnell), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio) and Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman).

The idea here is to ramp up the speculation to the most furious levels possible – to get reporters and Republicans totally immersed in the quadrennial parlor game of running-mate speculation.

For months, Team Romney has hinted that the running mate announcement would come early so as to create more buzz and give the duo more time to campaign ahead of the convention. But does that really make sense?

Nope. As is often the case, the value of Veep speculation exceeds the value of an actual Veep, particularly if you are Mitt Romney and you are likely to settle on someone very unexciting, and particularly if your media coverage has been a mite negative lately:

If Romney were to announce that he were picking McDonnell at a rally in Manassas, Va. on Saturday, that would leave more than two weeks before Republicans convene in Tampa. That’s plenty of time in the modern media blender for the excitement to be all gone and the discussion be back on Romney’s 1040 forms or a media dissection of Romney’s handling of the media.

Plus, it would give the press corps and the Obama campaign more than two weeks to splurp out all of the juicy tidbits for any running mate’s past. By the time he took the stage on Aug. 29, the story could be about McDonnell’s graduate dissertation on gender roles in the family, rather than the speech itself.

Translating Stirewalt’s analysis from the original Foxspeak, Mitt’s on the defensive, has nothing much positive to offer, and is unlikely to choose a running-mate who creates a buzz or defies criticism and scrutiny. So why not milk the distractions involved in the Veep guessing-game as long as possible, and then bury the inevitable letdown and any negative press about The Choice in the deep sands of Convention Coverage?

Makes sense to me.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.