The Note: Weight of the Wait

Three questions smart Democrats are asking:

1. Where on the scale of strategy/caution/indecisiveness do we plot the fact that Sen. Barack Obama does not at this moment have a running mate? (And where on the scale of party worry/frustration/panic do Democrats stand with a new poll showing Obama facing a 2-1 gap on handling Russia?)

2. What hole in his resume will Obama seek to fill with his choice? (And how will the rollout avoid highlighting a weakness?)

3. What was in the shave ice that brought a new candidate back to the contiguous 48? (And will it wear out?)

Three questions smart Republicans are asking:

1. What is it about Sen. John McCain's scheduled visits to offshore oil rigs that causes tropical disturbances? (And how many more topical disturbances dogging McCain fundraisers?)

2. What will a fourth Woodward book on the Bush presidency mean for the man who's carrying his party banner? (And does McCain's family have any other disinherited siblings we didn't know about?)

3. Can McCain stomach the choice that probably makes the most electoral sense for him? (And/or will he test the stomach of his party base?)

Keep your mobile devices charged: Obama's running-mate decision -- as reported by The New York Times, and announced (how else?) by The Drudge Report -- is "all but settled," with the most anticipated text message since Paris had her cell stolen to come "as soon as Wednesday morning."

(But more like Friday -- when Obama is down in Chicago, and can make an easy trip to Springfield, Ill., should he feel the urge.)

We know the names by now, and so does Obama: "By all indications, Mr. Obama is likely to choose someone relatively safe and avoid taking a chance with a game-changing selection," Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama and his running mate will begin, perhaps that day, a visit to swing states. Plans call for them to be on the trail together for much of the time between the day of the announcement and the day Mr. Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday, but their most intense campaigning together will come after the convention."

ABC's Jake Tapper reports that Obama has told "less than a half dozen" of his aides whom he has picked. The announcement is expected "at the end of this week," with a swing-state tour to follow.

Unless the timing slips: "There are signs that Obama may wait to announce his choice until this weekend or just before in hopes of providing a big boost before the convention opens Monday in Denver," Dan Balz reports in The Washington Post.

Is it all about the Clintons -- even in the timing? "In addition to giving some convention-eve energy to Obama's campaign, a late-in-the-week rollout would have another benefit in the eyes of his loyalists. It could help overshadow the other dominant story heading into Denver, which is the long-running drama over how Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and Clinton's supporters will handle themselves during the week," Balz writes.

"There's an outside chance the nod could come as soon as Wednesday, but sources indicated Monday that the planning was still fluid, and later was more likely," Ken Bazinet and Michael McAuliff report in the New York Daily News.

Mark Halperin makes a pick at The Page: "Say it is so, Joe," he writes Tuesday morning.

Balz hears there's five veepstakes finalists: You know Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, Tim Kaine, and Sebelius, and toss in either Chris Dodd, Jack Reed, or Bill Richardson -- or even, just maybe, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Why is that this rumor won't go away?: "No power brokers in the Democratic Party are openly campaigning for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as their vice-presidential nominee this year, and even Mrs. Clinton's closest aides have stopped talking her up. Yet privately, some Democrats continue to see her as exactly the partner that Senator Barack Obama needs," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.

Why couldn't it work? "Think back to high school: In interviews on Monday, Clinton aides said they thought Mr. Obama did not like Mrs. Clinton. Clinton aides also said they thought Mr. Obama thinks Mrs. Clinton does not like him," Healy writes. "And, like him or not, she is skeptical that he can win, her aides continue to say. Bottom line, chemistry might be a problem here."

As for McCain's choice, timing is everything -- and if this schedule holds, it's all about watching the Obama bounce go flat. It's a birthday pick -- McCain turns 72 next Friday, and he doesn't want to blow out candles by himself.

"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to celebrate his 72nd birthday on Aug. 29 by naming his running mate at a huge rally in the battleground state of Ohio, Republican sources said," Politico's Mike Allen reports. "Senior Republicans are in the dark about who he'll name, although they say former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are prime contenders after a trial balloon by McCain gave him very negative feedback about the idea of picking an abortion-rights running mate such as Tom Ridge."

"I was told by the McCain folks that we should start building the troops," Alex M. Triantafilou, the chairman of the Hamilton County, Ohio, Republican Party, told ABC's Teddy Davis. "It makes sense to do it here."

(This is one way to build a crowd. And how does this bode for Rob Portman's stock?)

ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg reports that a birthday announcement is likely, but "that this date is not set in stone, and that McCain himself could always decide to announce at another time. The date and place of the announcement hinge on the choice of a V.P. -- a decision, sources say, that McCain has not yet finalized."

In case there's still an opening on the roster . . . watch the last-minute tryouts.

Sen. Biden, D-Del., arrived back from Georgia Monday, a visit that "underlined what he could bring to the Democratic ticket with Barack Obama -- long and deep experience in foreign policy, an area where Obama is relatively lacking," per The Boston Globe's Foon Rhee. (And he managed to use the word "I" 13 times in the statement he released upon his return.)

"Biden's stock reached an all-time high as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman wrapped up a visit to Georgia at the invitation of President Mikheil Saakashvili," Geoff Earle and Carl Campanile report in the New York Post.

Perhaps the biggest potential downside of Sen. Bayh, D-Ind.: Bayh "may face questions about potential conflicts of interest from his wife's work on seven corporate boards that paid her more than $837,000 last year," Bloomberg's Timothy Burger writes.

And does the man have an enemy or two? From primary night in Indiana comes this description: "To the amazement of several Clinton insiders, he sat in a holding room, hunched over a laptop, hitting the 'refresh' button over and over on a newspaper website's interactive vote tracker in a state he was supposed to dominate," Glenn Thrush and Amie Parnes write for Politico. Said one witness: "He was just waiting around like everybody else. It seemed like he didn't really have the juice we thought."

Obama's choice will join an energized candidate, one who (remember the primaries, anyone?) is dialing up the attacks on his opponent.

"Back from his Hawaiian vacation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has sharpened his attacks on his opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., with a new sense of urgency and a new message," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "Basically, what John McCain's done is he's hired the same old folks who brought you George W. Bush," Obama said during a town hall meeting in Reno, Nev., Sunday afternoon. (Old?)

Obama has "tried to assure anxious Democrats that he is ready to fight back against Republican character attacks that grew sharper in his absence," Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman report in The Washington Post. "At four events Sunday and again here Monday, Obama delivered pep talks and said he is prepared for the worst that Republicans will throw at him."

"Still, some strategists close to Obama say he needs to hit harder, be more specific in his attacks, and delve into McCain's character the way McCain has hit Obama's," they continue.

Why he's acting: "We're seeing the emergence of a 'smear gap,' " Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes. "John McCain making stuff up about Barack Obama, and Obama trying to figure out how hard he should hit back."

Obama gets his chance to push back Tuesday at the VFW convention, while McCain gets his shot at making that oil-rig visit work. From the Obama campaign: "He will discuss his veterans policies and his commitment to continuing support for America's service men and women after their deployments have ended."

New numbers: Obama 47, McCain 42 in the new Quinnipiac University poll (down from an 11-point gap a month ago). Key line from the press release: "American likely voters say 55 – 27 percent that Arizona Sen. John McCain is better qualified than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to deal with Russia."

Monday was McCain's turn before the veterans: "Sen. McCain found overwhelming support for the Iraq war at his VFW appearance, a rarity on the campaign trail. The Arizona senator mixed an impassioned plea to win the war with a heavy dose of criticism of Sen. Obama's approach, hammering at the argument that the junior senator lacks experience," Amy Chozick and Elizabeth Holmes write in The Wall Street Journal.

New line: "McCain said that behind his rival's positions 'lies the ambition to be president,' " per the Los Angeles Times' Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta. Added McCain: "What's less apparent is the judgment to be commander in chief."

"Senator John McCain began a hard-hitting political attack on Senator Barack Obama's national security credentials on Monday and stepped up his rhetoric against the Russian presence in Georgia in remarks intended to showcase his ability to be commander in chief," Elisabeth Bumiller and John M. Broder write in The New York Times.

If Fay cooperates, McCain will get the photo-op he's been trying for since last month: "In July, thunderstorms kept the Republican presidential nominee from visiting an oil rig off the Louisiana coast. As he arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport on Monday for a second try, Tropical Storm Fay churned in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, threatening to force a cancellation again," Richard Rainey reports in the New Orleands Times Picayune. "But it seemed the storm would remain far to the east, allowing the visit to the rig."

(The DNC marks the occasion with "Exxon-McCain" stress toys -- and they're having fun with McCain's line about it taking $5 million in income to be considered "rich.")

No keeping Obama away from Florida now: "Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama got a crash course in hurricane politics Monday as they reached the nation's largest battleground state at the same time as Tropical Storm Fay," Beth Reinhard and Mary Ellen Klas write in the Miami Herald.

Saddleback fallout: Who heard what, when? "A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for Saddleback Church and Pastor Rick Warren, says that the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has assured the organizers of Saturday night's 'Civil Forum' that McCain did not 'see or hear any of Senator Obama's appearance,' " ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "But as for the question the McCain campaign won't answer -- did anyone with McCain, given the questions via email or cell phone, share them with the senator -- Ross says, 'I cannot speak to that.' "

McCain is still content to make this about NBC: "The McCain campaign continued to refer to the controversy throughout the day. In an e-mail Monday evening on another topic, Bounds started his statement with the phrase: 'After being upstaged at the Saddleback Compassion Forum . . .' " Perry Bacon Jr. and Michael Shear write in The Washington Post.

Another piece of fallout: "Barack Obama's pursuit of evangelical voters has pushed the abortion issue to the fore of the campaign debate and risks mobilizing pro-life voters - who so far have been apathetic about Republican John McCain - to oppose the Democrat," Jon Ward reports in the Washington Times.

McCain's Atlanta fundraiser was a big one -- a $1.75 million haul -- with or without Ralph Reed's help. "Reed -- who didn't show up to McCain's fundraiser [Monday night] -- was implicated, but not charged, in lobbying deals involving Indian casinos with disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff," per ABC's Ron Claiborne.

"When asked about Reed, the McCain campaign says Reed is not part of the Victory 2008 group and is not on the host committee of tonight's fundraiser," Claiborne reports. "A McCain campaign aide tells ABC News that Reed sent out an email solicitation on his own encouraging people to support Senator McCain, but was not invited to the fundraiser."

And yet: "Reed e-mailed supporters and friends to urge them to give to the McCain campaign. Reed also instructed potential donors to send contributions directly to him," Aaron Gould Sheinin writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Reed told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he sent the e-mail at the request of the campaign and was given boilerplate language to use."

Bob Woodward's fourth Bush tome has an intriguing title (did he crack the inner circle?): "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008," scheduled to publish Sept. 8. "Simon & Schuster is keeping the book under strict embargo -- although such embargoes are often broken -- and had even held back the title," the AP's Hillel Italie reports.

Says editor Alice Mayhew: "Based on extensive interviews with participants, contemporaneous notes and secret documents, the book traces the internal debates, tensions and critical turning points in the Iraq War during an extraordinary two-year period."

"Administration officials tell Politico that Woodward spent two mornings with President Bush and interviewed Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and a host of other senior officials," Mike Allen reports.

The Post will have excerpts, and: "Under a rollout orchestrated by his literary representative, Washington super-lawyer Robert Barnett, Woodward will also appear on CBS's '60 Minutes' the night before the book comes out."

The latest from Bill Clinton (guess which party is spreading this around): "Obviously, I favor Senator Obama's energy positions, and Democrats have been by and large the more forward-leaning actors," the former president said at a clean-energy summit in Las Vegas, per The New York Times' Steve Friess. "But John McCain has the best record of any Republican running for president on the energy issue and on climate change. . . . I'm very encouraged about where the presidential rhetoric is in this campaign."

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., keeps it interesting. "Many of the Pennsylvania delegates worked their heart out for Sen. Clinton, and they're excited to cast a vote for her," Rendell tells PolitickerPA.com. "I'm going to cast my ballot for her, and then the moment I cast my vote, I'm going to continue to enthusiastically support Sen. Obama. It's going to be a good release for all of us."

At least it makes the convention worth watching: "One of the key dramas -- the multiday Clinton-Obama reconciliation play -- will require genuine acts of sincerity. Or, at least, as close to genuine acts of sincerity as we're likely to get at a political convention," Slate's John Dickerson writes. "Without that, Obama will have to spend precious post-convention time -- time he should spend engaging with John McCain -- addressing this weakness in his coalition and distracting press stories examining it."

National Journal's Ron Brownstein urges against any "unity" tickets, citing history, for starters: "The two previous presidents who choose running mates not clearly identified with their party both died within weeks of taking the oath of office. The aged William Henry Harrison, a Whig elected in 1840, died of pneumonia one month into his term; Abraham Lincoln was assassinated six weeks after his second inauguration in 1865. Each man's death elevated to the presidency a vice president not solidly committed to the program of the deceased president's party."

The Sked:

McCain gives it another go on an oil rig platform, outside New Orleans (weather permitting).

Obama speaks at 9 am ET at the VFW convention in Orlando, and ends his day at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It's the start of a 2 1/2-day bus tour -- one that might just end with a new campaign logo.

President Bush remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

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

Also in the news:

Mark Penn has a convention message that just might borrow from something you would hear from a Clinton: "After eight years of detour, Americans are once again looking for that bridge," he writes in a Politico op-ed. "They are looking to restart the 21st century and get the country back on course. The winner of the conventions — and the election — will likely be the candidate who does not just tell his life story but who wins the fight to map our path across it."

New language on a convention invite near you: This event cleared with the ethics committee.

"Members of Congress attending the Democratic convention in Denver next week and the Republican gathering in St. Paul in September are facing a more down-market prospect: bare-bones receptions where food eaten with forks has given way to finger food, where chairs have been removed and where meatballs may be served but not something heartier, like a hamburger," Leslie Wayne reports in The New York Times.

Not everyone in Denver will go hungry: "Barack Obama's big-money donors are being offered premier seats to his acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High," per The Denver Post's Chuck Plunkett and Elizabeth Aguilera. "Top fundraisers for the 'Obama Victory Fund' were offered club-level seats through the end of Monday for $1,000 apiece. Also, the biggest donors to the Democratic National Convention's host committee and select VIPs are getting ultra-plush suites at Invesco. The Obama campaign and its partners at the Democratic National Convention Committee have 8,300 club-level seats. If all were purchased, it could mean a cash infusion of $8.3 million."

The show will be worth it -- particularly for first adopters: "The convention will also feature high-definition streaming video, touch-screen kiosks and HD television monitors throughout the host venue, the Pepsi Center, and three giant Plasma HDTVs prominently placed on the stage," ABC's Jennifer Parker reports. "Google and YouTube will also have a heavy physical presence at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, giving away -- in classic Google style -- free smoothies, massages, and "fireside" policy chats."

The RNC is staffing up for Denver: "Just a few blocks from the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, the main site for the Democratic National Convention, national GOP and McCain campaign strategists will occupy a 'war room' to get their message out," Myung Oak Kim reports in the Rocky Mountain News.

Your new battlegrounds: Probably near a Home Depot and an Applebee's: "The presidential contest between John McCain and Barack Obama this fall is likely to be settled in places such as Clackamas, Arapahoe and Geauga," writes USA Today's Susan Page. "Suburban counties including these -- outside Portland, Denver and Cleveland, respectively -- have become the hardest fought and most closely won battlegrounds of national elections."

Cindy McCain's half-sister speaks up: Kathleen Portalski was largely written out of her father's will -- and she doesn't like being ignored. "I'm upset," she tells NPR's Ted Robbins. "I'm angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, with the rallying cry: "My message to my Republican colleagues and every American fed up with high gas prices is to step on the accelerator, so to speak," he writes in a Washington Times op-ed. "House Republicans are standing with stressed out families, small business owners, and seniors, and we will continue to hold the Democrat-controlled Congress accountable for its failure to address this crisis -- one in which fuel costs have soared by 60 percent since Mrs. Pelosi took the gavel on Jan. 4, 2007."

New from the Tax Foundation: Compete USA. From the press release launching the new Website: "Upcoming activities will include a national cable television ad buy, web advertising, new Tax Foundation studies on economic competitiveness, op-eds from national economic leaders, and a YouTube video contest highlighting the impact of high business taxes on the American worker."

Time was, Obama was firm: "We're not going to pay for votes or pay for turnout," Obama said before the Pennsylvania primary, shunning the local tradition of "street money."

That was then: "Rest assured, Philadelphia. Come Election Day, there will be street money," Catherine Lucey reports in the Philadelphia Daily News. "According to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the local Democratic Party chairman, Sen. Barack Obama's general-election presidential campaign in Philadelphia will be run different from his primary operation, which relied more on volunteers than on Democratic ward leaders and did not provide street money on Election Day."

Said Brady: "They told me there are going to be resources here," Brady said. "That's what we do in Philadelphia; we pay people to work. They understand that."

Is there Keystone State worry: "Barack Obama is failing to capture an important swing state, Pennsylvania, despite its residents feeling increasingly uneasy about the economy," Seth Gitell writes in the New York Sun.

The Kicker:

"Terrible." -- Ed Prouty of Atkinson, N.H. -- Barack Obama's two millionth donor -- asked by Obama how business is going as an air-conditioning contractor.

"The only person who's asking about my assets, my liabilities, the way I'm spending my money, where that money is coming from, primarily, is my wife. And there's nothing I can do about that." -- Former senator Sam Nunn, D-Ga., telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he's not being vetted by the Obama campaign.

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