IRVINE, California (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain will spend time this weekend with three politicians who have been mentioned prominently by Republicans as possible vice presidential running mates.
A McCain campaign official said on Wednesday McCain would host former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. A total of 10 couples were invited.
"It's a purely social weekend with friends, something he obviously likes to do from time to time," said the official.
McCain has clinched the Republican presidential nomination and is anticipating a general election campaign against Democratic front-runner Barack Obama.
Romney, 61, who lost the Republican nomination battle to McCain, has made clear he would seriously consider a vice presidential offer.
Crist, 51, who took office last year, has been more coy. Picking him could help McCain in the battleground state of Florida. Jindal, 36, who was elected last October as the first Indian-American U.S. governor, has said he likes his current job.
McCain's vice presidential search has been a closely guarded secret. He has said he has a list of about 20 names and would like to pick someone before the Republican nominating convention in early September.
"I don't think it's a VP tryout," Republican strategist Scott Reed said of the weekend at McCain's ranch. "I think it's a bit early for a group hug."
A close McCain ally, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, is also expected to attend along with independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a McCain supporter who was the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee.
McCain's campaign on Friday is to release details of his medical history in an effort to assure Americans that at age 71 he is healthy for the rigors of being commander in chief.
The Arizona senator is a survivor of melanoma and spent 5 1/2 years in a Vietnam prisoner-of-war camp.
McCain has spent the week attacking Obama for his pledge to meet leaders of hostile nations like Iran without preconditions, but he has also been forced to deal with questions about lobbyists who have been close to his campaign.
"This weekend's barbecue is a great way to change the subject and allow him to get his campaign back on the offense on the issues," Reed said.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)