The Art of the Vice-Presidential Rollout

'08 presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain poised for VP rollout.

ByABC News
August 19, 2008, 8:31 AM

Aug. 19, 2008 — -- Speculation is running at a fevered pitch that 2008 presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain are poised to roll out their respective choices for a running mate any day now.

Pollsters are quick to point out that the choice of a vice presidential candidate ultimately weighs little on the minds of voters when they step into the voting booth on election day.

But done well, a vice-presidential announcement can bring a welcome boost to any campaign and days of positive media attention. It is a critical moment that can be a boost, or a stumble.

"This is the first presidential decision that a nominee for president makes," Democratic strategist Tad Devine told ABC News' Claire Shipman recently. "They use that as a proxy for judging whether or not the candidate is capable of making presidential-level decisions."

It's a high-stakes decision that will be endlessly evaluated by political reporters, pundits and the public.

"It's a huge opportunity for these candidates," said Sara Taylor, a Republican strategist and former White House political director for the Bush administration. "Each of these guys gets a chance to sort of add to the narrative with their choice of these individuals, so it's huge."

McCain will reportedly announce his running mate on Aug. 29 in the battleground state of Ohio, one day after Obama accepts the Democratic nomination in Denver and just days before the Republicans' own convention.

Obama is expected to announce his running-mate before the end of this week, just days before the Democrats gather for their convention in Denver next Monday.

"Both McCain and Obama want to maximize the media coverage of their VP pick," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a Washington DC-based nonpartisan political newsletter.

Obama's campaign has promised supporters that they'll be the first to know his pick via text message and e-mail blast.

In a similar move, 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., e-mailed millions of supporters letting them know he was picking Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. The email came in advance of his formal public announcement five days before the party's convention.

Kerry and Edwards then embarked on a four-day rollout that was covered widely by television news media, boosting their profile going into the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston and giving Kerry a 4 percent bump in public opinion polls.

The right choice could help a presidential wannabe win over voters in key battleground states or fill in experiences the candidates themselves may lack.

Also, a successful VP pick could give the candidates their first opportunity to reset what is shaping up to be a close race, with Obama at 47 percent support from likely voters and McCain at 42 percent support, according to the latest poll released today by Quinnipiac University.

A well-received veep pick could generate a positive bounce in the polls that lasts several days, if not longer.