ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is planning a major rally in Dayton, Ohio, for Friday, Aug. 29, stoking speculation on the part of the local Republican Party chairman that the Arizona senator might use that occasion to announce his running mate.
"I was told by the McCain folks that we should start building the troops," Alex M. Triantafilou, the chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, told ABC News.
Triantafilou was asked to build the Dayton rally by a member of McCain’s Ohio staff. The McCain staffer, whom Triantafilou described as "not a super high ranking person," did not know if the Aug. 29 event would be McCain’s vice presidential announcement.
But Triantafilou said that the timing of the event (scheduled for the day after the Democratic National Convention ends) and the location of the event (in the state that decided the 2004 election) led him and his fellow Republican Party officials to speculate whether this might be the occasion on which McCain decides to announce his running mate.
"It makes sense to do it here," said Triantafilou. "The timing seems to be the ordinary timing" for a vice presidential announcement.
The Republican National Convention is scheduled to get underway in the Twin Cities on Monday, Sept. 1, just three days after the Dayton, Ohio rally.
Some GOP strategists not working for the McCain campaign believe that announcing a running mate the day after Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., gives his acceptance speech in Denver, Colo., could help dampen any momentum that Democrats have coming out of their convention.
Asked if McCain was planning to announce his running mate in Ohio on Aug. 29, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers declined to comment.
If McCain is indeed planning to announce his running mate in Ohio, Triantafilou does not see it as a "tip off as to who it is going to be."
"Ohio is a key battleground state," said Triantafilou. "The corridor that runs from Cincinnati up to Toledo — the I-75 corridor — is very key territory for Republicans to win the state of Ohio."
Asked about prospective running mates, Triantafilou said that a "significant part of his party" would be "skeptical" if McCain were to tap former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who supports abortion rights, despite Ridge’s comment to Fox News Sunday that it is the responsibility of the vice president to "echo" the views of the president.
"It’s a difficult question when it comes to Gov. Ridge," said Triantafilou. "There is a significant part of my party that would be skeptical of a pro-choice running mate."
"The Republican Party is going to support whomever [McCain] selects," Triantafilou added. "But I certainly know that I will get significant feedback from an important part of our party if Sen. McCain selects a pro-choice running mate."
Triantafilou said that he is rooting for a local V.P. prospect: former Rep. Rob Portman. The former director of the Office of Management and Budget and former U.S. Trade Representative used to represent a Cincinnati-based district not far from Dayton when he served in Congress.
"Portman is a gentleman and a statesman and is a brilliant person who has worked very well across the aisle," said Triantafilou. "Most Democrats would agree that he has worked every effectively across the aisle."
Triantafilou also had words of praise for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty whom he called a "fantastic" governor of a "key state."
The party chair described Mitt Romney as "very popular" in the local business community.
Word about McCain’s Aug. 29 event first spread on Sunday when Triantatilou wrote on his blog that "Sen. McCain is expected to host a rally on August 29 in Dayton and is looking for a BIG venue and for a BIG crowd. He’ll get it. This is not yet public. I guess I just made it so."
On Monday, Justin Miller of PolitickerOH cited the Triantatilou blog entry and had an unnamed GOP source saying that McCain’s rally will draw 10,000 to the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.
After the PolitickerOH and ABC News stories appeared Monday morning, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported that Triantatilou’s reference to the event has disappeared from his blog entry.
ABC News has reached out to Triantatilou and will update this story when it hears back from the Hamilton County GOP chair.
UPDATE # 2:
ABC News’ Jan Crawford Greenburg reports: Sources close to McCain say it’s likely that the Arizona senator will announce his running mate on Aug. 29, his 72nd birthday.
But they caution 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.