The Note: Tag-Team Time?

With all the boo-boos the candidates are picking up -- what better time for some reinforcements?

To that end -- surely there's a short list, and surely someone will be chosen from it (or not).

Certainly Sen. Barack Obama will choose first (unless, of course, Sen. John McCain does).

Of course a pick comes before the Olympics (except if it doesn't).

(Similarly -- naturally there was a trip bounce, unless it bounced in the other direction. It just depends on which Gallup poll you buy.)

Obama's top three (if you believe convention wisdom): Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine.

McCain's top three (if you believe McCain believes in conventional wisdom): Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge.

With Obama in Washington with his senior advisers -- after a three-hour meeting with his vetters Monday, and more alleged "gym time" (sore hip and all) Tuesday morning -- veepstakes speculation hits its first code red (or -- remind us again -- does blue go first?) of the season.

Among Obama's meetings Tuesday, per an Obama aide: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whom he'll sit down with at the Federal Reserve in Washington.

The betting's on Obama to choose first and early -- if only to put as much space as possible between his announcement and his down-time in Hawaii (and to give as much time as possible for jilted Clinton supporters to erupt and get over it in advance of the convention.)

Gov. Kaine, D-Va. -- in Washington Tuesday as well, for his monthly radio interview program, with plenty of time for secret and not-so-secret meetings -- has the mixed blessing of holding the hot hand at the moment that's either exactly right or totally wrong.

"Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has told close associates that he has had 'very serious' conversations with Sen. Barack Obama about joining the Democratic presidential ticket and has provided documents to the campaign as it combs through his background," Michael Shear and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post, adding that a pick is still probably several weeks away.

"Several people who have spoken to Kaine said he has talked about the seriousness of the possibility," they write. "One said Kaine has stressed that there are other top candidates but described his discussions with the campaign as 'very serious.' "

(What message does it send to Obamaland that people close to the Last Virginian Standing are talking?)

"Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine has emerged as one of the campaign's potential finalists," Ben Smith and Amie Parnes write for Politico. "Kaine, an early Obama supporter whose biography nicely dovetails with the Illinois senator's, 'ranks very, very high on the short list,' said a source who has spoken recently to senior Obama aides about Kaine."

ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg puts Kaine on Obama's "very short list"; good luck, governor, moving around these next few days.

The Obama comment that set the tongues wagging: "I'm going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country; where we need to go -- that we've got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how politics works, how business is done in Washington," Obama said on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"Any of that could apply to Kaine," Pete Brodnitz, Kaine's pollster, tells Jeff E. Shapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As for who those who won't be getting a rose -- Obama's team is making clear the candidate is wide awake, if he was ever dreaming at all.

"There is mounting evidence that Mr. Obama's interest in Mrs. Clinton for the post has faded considerably, if, in fact, she ever really was a strong contender to be on the ticket with him," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama's advisers discuss Mrs. Clinton's role at the Democratic convention next month in a way that suggests they are not thinking of her arriving in Denver as Mr. Obama's running mate. . . . She has not been asked to provide written documentation to the committee vetting the background of candidates for Mr. Obama."

Leading your cheer (the emerging chorus of boos?): Terry McAuliffe, indefatigable (and also a Kaine fan, you'll recall): "How do you not ask Hillary Clinton?" McAuliffe asked Monday morning on MSNBC. "If Sen. Obama picks Hillary Clinton, we will win this White House, I believe, in a cakewalk. And I think we'd control this White House for 16 years." (Do the math, and you'll see where Terry is coming from.)

McCain's selection buzz has subsided a bit -- but the anti-Romney forces have their acts together. "Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens," Ralph Z. Hallow writes in the Washington Times.

This may be more telling: "In conversations with The Times, several Republican officials close to the McCain campaign also played down anti-Romney sentiment among conservative evangelicals," Hallow writes. "They cited an online poll of evangelicals by 2000 presidential primary candidate Gary Bauer that found Mr. Romney is the top vice-presidential choice of born-again Christians."

Regarding Obama's Tuesday: "Keep an eye on. . . whether Obama has any side meetings with Hill-types that would signal any movement on the vice presidential front," per ABC's Karen Travers and Gregory Wallace.

(He was in workout clothes when he hit the Washington Sports Club Tuesday morning with body man Reggie Love -- and didn't appear to have to flash his membership card, per the pool report.)

As the principles heal a bit -- what of the post-trip assessment?

Gallup's daily tracking has Obama up eight -- that's a bit of a bump.

But in the USA Today/Gallup Poll (yes, still Gallup) he's up only three among registered voters, and is DOWN four among likely voters (think young voters need to show up for him?). That's a bump on the head.

Could it be that nothing has excited McCain's base like Obama's trip?

"Republican John McCain gained ground in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll that found Democrat Barack Obama's highly publicized foreign trip has not broadened confidence in his ability to be commander of the U.S. military," Jill Lawrence writes for USA Today. "The poll, taken Friday through Sunday, showed a surge since last month in likely Republican voters and suggested Obama's trip may have helped energize voters who favor McCain."

Being that Obama will never -- not ever -- get a clear stretch of coverage as positive as last week's . . . smart folks are beginning to ask, is this the high point? Does the race settle in now -- excruciatingly close fore the foreseeable future?

"It is a question that has hovered over Senator Barack Obama even as he has passed milestone after milestone in his race for the White House: Why is he not doing better?" Adam Nagourney writes for The New York Times. "In this case, the question is why -- given how sour Americans feel about President Bush and the Republican party, and the perception that Mr. Obama is running a better campaign than Senator John McCain -- the senator from Illinois is not scoring even higher in national opinion polls."

This hurdle is a high one: "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is on the right path to winning the presidency, but he needs to get over the trust hurdle he has with some voters if he wants to close the deal on rival John McCain, Democratic strategists say," Sam Youngman writes for The Hill. "It's the trust, stupid," says Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein.

As for the trip's baggage . . . The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny digs to the bottom of Obama's decision (and it was his decision, ultimately) to cancel his visit with troops in Germany.

Yes, the Pentagon said the visit would have to be senatorial, not political, but: "If the story behind the story of the canceled troop visit has run its course, one question remains: Why didn't Mr. Obama leave his aides behind, even the retired general, and make the visit by himself?" Zeleny writes.

Setting the GOP tone -- Mr. Karl Rove: "I think he thought this would be too much of a headache for me. 'I'm tired. I'm at the end of a 8 or 9-[day] foreign trip. I don't want to deal with it," Rove said on Bill O'Reilly's show Monday night.

Other baggage -- delivered late. "He looked like a man in a hurry," "a source close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki" tells Amir Taheri for a New York Post op-ed. "He was not interested in what we had to say."

The race may be all about Obama so far -- but that may not be a good thing for the Democrat. "In a private conference call with outside allies Friday, McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt said they would greet Obama's return to the country with even sharper attacks this week, according to a source on the call," Politico's Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen report. "Tougher ads are in store for Obama this week," according to a McCain source.

The campaign is floating back to the No. 1 issue out there, at last. "After Obama's world tour, both candidates are shifting their focus to the housing crisis, gas prices, the deficit, jobs and the economy in general," per ABC's Jake Tapper.

And, Tapper reports, Obama trotted out some former Bushies for his event Monday: former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former SEC chairman William Donaldson, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

There's room here for both candidates: "I think what is preventing either candidate to do as well as they should, is that the dominant issue in this race is the economy (jobs, cost of health care, gas prices,) and neither candidate has found their voice to talk about it, to address voter concerns, and to present a compelling vision for the 21st century," Matthew Dowd writes in his blog.

Bad Bush news is rarely good McCain news -- but might the budget deficit be an exception? (Even Gov. Mark Sanford knows the Bush-McCain distinction on earmarks and spending.)

"The pivot to the economy on the campaign trail as the U.S. budget deficit is expected to soar to a new record of almost $490 billion in the fiscal year staring Oct. 1, up from $407 billion predicted in February, driven largely by an economic stimulus package approved this year in response to a slowing economy," Amy Chozick writes in The Wall Street Journal.

But McCain needs to calm down fiscal conservatives who feel betrayed by his "This Week" appearance Sunday. "Republican presidential candidate John McCain drew a sharp rebuke Monday from conservatives after he signaled an openness to a higher payroll tax for Social Security, contrary to previous vows not to raise taxes of any kind," the AP's Chuck Babington writes.

The Club for Growth found his position "shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances." (The quotes are out there, as ABC's Jake Tapper shows.)

So McCain couldn't get out to that Gulf Coast oil rig last week -- what was his backup? "A barren, desert oil field" in Bakersfield, Calif., per ABC's Bret Hovell. (And look what line is back!) "So Senator Obama opposes offshore drilling, he opposes reprocessing of nuclear fuel, he opposes storage of spent nuclear fuel, so he is the Dr. No of America's energy future," McCain said.

But watch for this storm: "As voters steam over gas prices, Republican congressional candidates are bracing for a gusher of ads from now until election day attacking their ties to oil companies," Richard Simon writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Amid the onslaught, the oil industry is increasingly worried about this year's election. Oil executives could face a bigger Democratic majority in Congress and a Democrat in the White House, both set on repealing industry tax breaks and imposing a windfall profits tax."

The DNC makes the McCain link, in its latest Web-video offering. "Americans can't afford four more years of a White House run by oil executives," reads the tagline.

The RNC gets its laughs with a Facebook parody page it's set up for Obama -- a nifty way to organize oppo research.

First line in the news feed: "Barack Obama is now friends with Antoin 'Tony' Rezko." Obama's status Tuesday morning: "Barack is hoping to settle on an Iraq policy before November." weighs in -- with a laugh -- for Obama. "The pro-Obama spot, titled 'It Could Happen To You,' was named the funniest video in the organization's recent 'Obama in 30 Seconds' ad contest and will air for a week starting Wednesday, July 30 on MTV and Comedy Central," per ABC's James Gerber.

Your medical dispatches: McCain had "a small spot removed from his right temple out of what appears to be an abundance of caution being exercised by his doctors," per ABC's Bret Hovell. Said McCain: "I want to urge all Americans to wear sunscreen, particularly this summer, to stay out of the sun as much as possible. . . ."

And: "Senator Barack Obama visited a Chicago doctor Sunday evening due to what the campaign says is a sore hip," per ABC's Sunlen Miller and Jake Tapper. "The injury caused occasional soreness, but Obama -- who exercises about six times a week -- assumed it would get better. But the pain acted up when he was overseas, causing him some discomfort."

The Sked:

McCain has a 10:15 am ET town-hall meeting in Sparks, Nev., and raises money later in the day in Nevada and Colorado.

Obama spends the day in Washington, with a lunchtime fundraiser at the Mayflower Hotel, meetings on Capitol Hill, and plenty of time to play hide-and-seek with reporters and vice-presidential prospects.

Obama also meets with the new prime minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Tuesday in Washington.

Early RNC pushback on that meeting, from spokesman Alex Conant: "Over the course of this campaign, Obama's inexperience has led to careless statements about Pakistani sovereignty. We need to take every step necessary to fight terrorism, but careless statements from an inexperienced would-be commander-in-chief have no place in that constructive dialogue."

President Bush travels to Ohio to talk energy policy.

Get the full political schedule in The Note's "Sneak Peek."

The Conventions:

Make St. Paul pretty: "With just 34 days to go before the big convention in St. Paul, leaders of the metro area's three largest cities are calling on folks to spruce up their homes and businesses and prepare to greet a very important guest -- the world," Allie Shah writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Is this a bargain, or blackmail? "A group of self-described anarchists threatening to disrupt the Democratic National Convention is promising to go away if the $50 million federal grant that Denver received to pay for convention security is invested in the community instead," Daniel J. Chacon reports in the Rocky Mountain News.

More on the DNC gas scandal: "At least 61 vehicles being used by planners of the Democratic National Convention have been gassed up at city government pumps in the past three months, a practice that raised questions about possible avoidance of federal and state gasoline taxes," report Kevin Vaughan and Daniel J. Chacon, in the Rocky Mountain News.

Yes, it's true: Democrats are out for blood. "Officials with the Bonfils Blood Center said Monday that the number of blood donations typically drops by as much as 20 percent during the summer months," Tim Hoover writes in the Denver Post. "The annual decline in giving will coincide with the Democrats' convention, Aug. 25-28 in Denver, when it's essential to have a ready supply of blood in the event of an emergency, officials said."

Also in the news:

How could Montana be in play? This is how: "Jim Walseth moved from Seattle to this well-heeled, high-altitude city 12 years ago to design software and live the 'Bozeman lifestyle' -- commuting to work on a bicycle or cross-country skis and backpacking in Yellowstone National Park on weekends," Doug Belkin writes in The Wall Street Journal.

"Now, Mr. Walseth and the tens of thousands of knowledge workers who arrived after him are reshaping the way this state looks, acts -- and votes," Belkin writes. "Along the way, these new Montanans have sparked a testy culture clash and, for the first time in a generation, opened the door for a Democrat presidential nominee to win the state in November."

The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos has a different take on McCain's famous 2006 speech at Liberty University: "McCain's speech at Liberty could just as easily be viewed as the start of his effort to replace the traditional GOP pieties of God and family with a new, values-oriented message aimed at promoting national service," Canellos writes. "The speech itself was anything but an endorsement of the religious right's agenda. With an almost subversive subtlety, McCain instructed the students that true character isn't something that's asserted, but rather forged over time. It doesn't spring from orthodoxy but grows out of experience."

The dogs that won't bark: "Few key battleground states will vote on propositions likely to excite conservatives," Dan Morain and Nicholas Riccardi write in the Los Angeles Times. "Republicans have been tripped up by mishaps and errors that have kept measures off the ballot. One leading ballot measure activist was sidelined for this November's contests after being arrested in Oklahoma on charges of violating petition rules."

The latest on Robert Novak, from the Chicago Sun-Times: "Longtime Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak was scheduled to undergo a biopsy Monday after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, but said he hoped to be back at work soon, 'God willing.' Novak's staffers said Monday evening they were awaiting word from his family on whether the biopsy proceeded as planned -- and on the resulting diagnosis and treatment plan."

The Kicker:

"Just don't screw it up, buddy." -- Michelle Obama, recalling her 2004 convention advice to her husband, in an Obama campaign fundraising pitch.

"I love these days of the sound-bite." -- John McCain, 71, to Larry King, 74.

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