John McCain | Video
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Sen. John McCain has begun “getting together a list of names” to choose a vice presidential running mate and said Wednesday he hopes to announce his choice before the Republican convention in early September.
“I’d like to get it done as early as possible. I’m aware of enhanced importance of this issue given my age,” said the Arizona senator, 71.
McCain wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination a month ago.
McCain told reporters his search for a running mate would take weeks if not months. At the prompting of aides, he said it was at an “embryonic stage” and added, “it’s every name imaginable,” about 20 in all.
He said his campaign had asked unnamed individuals to lead the effort, but had not heard back from them.
He said he wants to move quickly to make sure that there are no problems when he unveils his choice. He cited 1988, when George H.W. Bush named then-Sen. Dan Quayle to be his running mate.
“Quayle had not been briefed and prepared for some of the questions” that he would have to field, McCain said, without assigning any blame to Quayle himself.
Bush did not name Quayle until he reached his convention city in an effort to achieve the greatest element of surprise.
Speaking with reporters on his campaign bus, McCain did not offer any details of his search for a running mate.
“We just started this process of getting together a list of names and having them looked at,” he said.
“If I had a personal preference I’d like to do it before the convention to avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve seen made in the past as you get into a time crunch and maybe sometimes don’t make the announcement right or maybe they have not examined every single candidate.”
McCain has given no hint of his thinking on a running mate, although he frequently speaks warmly of his former rivals for the nomination, particularly former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who traveled with the nominee-in-waiting last week. Among the other possible choices are several governors: Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, Florida’s Charlie Crist, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Utah’s Jon Huntsman Jr.
It’s also possible that McCain could take a non-traditional route by looking to the business sector. For instance, he holds Frederick Smith, the head of FedEx, in high regard and frequently praises him. Another name that’s been floated is Rob Portman of Ohio, a former congressman who was one of President Bush’s budget directors.
McCain made his comments on his way to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated, to deliver the third in a string of speeches in a weeklong tour designed to reintroduce him to a wide, general election audience and remind them of his long military history.
First he stopped at Chick & Ruth’s Delly where crab omelets are on the menu and local and state politicians have gathered down the street from the Maryland Statehouse for decades of breakfasts and shop talk. An American flag hangs over the counter with its five stools, and for nearly two decades, all business has come to a halt for a few seconds as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited.
In his speech on a wind-swept outdoor pavilion overlooking the naval academy football stadium, the one-time Vietnam prisoner of war issued a challenge.
“If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them,” he said.
He said he hopes more Americans will enlist in the military or run for office.
“But there are many public causes where your service can make our country a stronger, better one than we inherited. Wherever there is a hungry child, a great cause exists. … Wherever there is suffering, a great cause exists.”