DAYTON, Ohio, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain prepared to announce his vice presidential running mate on Friday and the McCain campaign was closely guarding the big secret.
Amid intense speculation about who he might have decided on, one top contender, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, told a Minneapolis radio station he would not be in Dayton, Ohio, with McCain for the announcement. The Fox News Channel reported that another frequently mentioned possibility, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also was not McCain’s choice.
There was speculation about other possible candidates on morning U.S. television, including Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She surfaced as a result of a Fox report that said a private jet from Alaska landed at an airport about 25 miles from Dayton.
The McCain campaign refused to say who the Arizona senator had selected to join him in his campaign leading to the Nov. 4 election against Democrat Barack Obama and Obama’s running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.
Palin, 44, would be a surprise choice, one aimed at appealing to women voters who might have been disillusioned by Obama’s decision to pick Biden as his No. 2 instead of Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
By announcing his pick on Friday, McCain was hoping to divert attention from the just-concluded Democratic convention in Denver, where Obama on Thursday night opened a broad assault on McCain, accusing him of following the policies of unpopular President George W. Bush.
McCain is preparing to accept his party’s nomination for president at the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, next week.
He and his campaign have worked hard to remain in the public eye during the Democratic convention.
As Obama prepared to deliver a speech at a Denver football stadium accepting his party’s nomination, McCain issued a television ad congratulating him.
“Sen. Obama, this is truly a good day for America,” McCain said in the ad. “Too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So I wanted to stop and say, congratulations.”
He added: “Tomorrow, we’ll be back at it. But tonight, senator, job well done.” (Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott)