Here's an excerpt from my cover feature for this week's National Journal.

Internally, fewer than 10 senior staffers are permitted to advise McCain on the selection. Conversations about the process are limited to a circle of five key staff advisers and a few others, including former Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Campaign staffers who interact with the press are kept in the dark so that they have
plausible deniability.

Some friends of McCain believe that he made up his mind about a vice presidential short list a long time ago and is simply going through the motions to satisfy the news media's need to see the slow arc of a purposeful search. Indeed, before the campaign tamped down such talk,
advisers and aides freely speculated that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an evangelical Christian, was the odds-on favorite. McCain likes and trusts Pawlenty and is said to think that the governor makes an effective surrogate for the campaign. At least one ex-governor is in the GOP mix. Aides say that McCain has developed a much better relationship with Mitt Romney since the primaries.

Politics may force McCain to broaden his horizons. One of his most senior advisers is pushing McCain to consider picking a woman, perhaps former eBay CEO Meg Whitman or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Others have advised him to consider a running mate with top-notch national security credentials to strengthen the contention that Obama and his team are dangerously inexperienced. Several in McCain's inner circle want him to seriously consider former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security. Other McCain advisers worry about a massive convention protest if Ridge, who supports abortion rights, were on the ticket. On the other hand, some prominent Democrats, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, think that Ridge could help McCain put Pennsylvania, which went for Kerry, beyond Obama's reach.

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