The Note: Base Instincts

Tea-leaf alert: Obama on what his running mate selection will say about him: "That I think through big decisions. I get a lot of input from a lot of people, and that ultimately, I try to surround myself with people who are about getting the job done, and who are not about ego, self-aggrandizement, getting their names in the press, but our focus on what's best for the American people. I think people will see that I'm not afraid to have folks around me who complement my strengths and who are independent."

(Sounds more like Bayh than Biden or Kaine . . . Tumulty guesses Bayh "or a surprise whose name has not been circulating on the pundits' short lists.")

As for McCain, his flirtations with a running mate who supports abortion rights may be a clever ploy -- a play to the middle, a bridge to former Clinton supporters, an elixir for the pick he's really planning.

But he's already dangerously close to losing control of the message. Talk radio is dialed in, and McCain got two questions on the subject at a town-hall meeting Wednesday in New Mexico -- and he's still leaving the running-mate door (publicly) open to a candidate who supports abortion rights.

It's just as well McCain isn't bothering with the platform, when so many top speakers disagree with its core tenets.

"The speaker lineup was aimed at attracting moderates and independents into McCain's camp, but it seemed destined to add fuel to the fight already smoldering over abortion rights," Maeve Reston and Bob Drogin write in the Los Angeles Times. "McCain has since been trying to shore up his conservative credentials -- insisting at a Saturday forum at Saddleback Church in Orange County that he would be a 'pro-life president' and that a McCain presidency 'will have pro-life policies.' "

There are few politicians with the star power of former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., and having him as keynoter reinforces key themes for McCain. But it may also speak too loudly to other themes.

McCain's first criterion would be selecting a person "who could immediately be president of the United States," Giuliani told reporters Wednesday, per The Washington Post's Robert Barnes. He added: "If that person happens to be, among other things, pro-choice, the party will support that."

Maybe not so much. Said Laura Ingraham: "From the conservative perspective we are literally imploring you to not turn your back on your great pro-life record over decades."

Then there's Lieberman, I-Conn. -- still the likeliest (if it's even the least bit likely) pro-choicer to join McCain on the ticket. (And kudos on the stagecraft that has him speaking the same night as President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.)

"The speaking role is the result of the four-term Connecticut senator's loyalty to Republican presidential candidate John McCain," McClatchy's David Lightman writes. "The senators bonded in the 1990s as they tried to build bipartisan coalitions on foreign policy, campaign finance changes and environmental issues. Their alliance has strengthened in recent years over their support of the Iraq war."

"News of Lieberman's turn in the GOP spotlight was only the latest step on a path that has taken him from his debut 38 years ago as a liberal Democrat in New Haven to the biggest stage in Republican politics," Mark Pazniokas writes for the Hartford Courant.

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