ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: The Obama campaign signaled a willingness on Thursday to go after Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., for the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse, while saying that the populist argument it is building against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will continue, even if the presumptive Republican presidential nominee taps the son of a truck driver as his running mate.
"I don’t think it’s particularly relevant who the running mate is if the running mate is willing to embrace, in total, the Bush-McCain economic doctrine," Obama strategist David Axelrod told ABC News.
"Every day, Americans understand that those policies aren’t working for them," he continued. "And if you have one more person out there saying we’ve made ‘great progress’ on our economy and that we ought to continue doing what we’re doing, I’d be eager to have him travel far and wide. I think it’s a losing message."
"Whoever he picks, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s John McCain’s agenda on the ballot," added David Plouffe. The Obama campaign manager joined Axelrod at a breakfast with reporters in Denver, which was held on the same day that Obama is set to deliver a speech accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Some GOP strategists have speculated in private about whether Pawlenty’s odds of becoming McCain’s running mate improved vis-a-vis Mitt Romney, in the wake of the Arizona senator’s seeming inability to tell Politico how many houses he owns.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who ran against McCain for the Republican presidential nod, is a multimillionaire with four houses to his name.
Trying to undermine Romney in advance of a possible vice presidential announcement, the Obama campaign has been steadily painting him as an "expert" on "Cayman Island tax shelters."
"You couldn’t have a more out of touch ticket," Plouffe recently told The Atlantic magazine.
Pawlenty, by contrast, owns only one house.
He recently told ABC’s Jan Crawford Greenburg that he owns a $335,000 suburban home outside Minneapolis, and was quick to note that he still pays the mortgage and cuts his own grass.
Obama adviser Robert Gibbs acknowledged that a Pawlenty pick would leave the Democrats with less populist ammunition than a Romney selection. Gibbs was quick to add, however, that there is a "treasure trove" of other issues that can be used against Pawlenty, including the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse which killed 13.
"Each of these guys have their own thing," Gibbs told ABC News. "It would be nice to talk about Romney’s stuff. But just because McCain picks a guy with only one house doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop talking about McCain’s seven houses."