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Laying Odds On McCain's Veep

The vice presidential buzz is mounting, and many think a pick from John McCain is imminent. His campaign floated the possibility of a pick this week, and the Arizona Senator will host a barbeque for 75 top supporters and donors this weekend at his ranch in Sedona. Comments out this week suggest he's narrowed the list way down, and may even have his mind made up, waiting only until the timing is right.

The timing is always right for laying odds on various possibilities, so here's our look, perhaps only days before the pick is announced, at the candidates widely seen as finalists. We're basing these odds on a number of factors, from media buzz to level of comfort with McCain:

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (2-1): He's one of McCain's biggest backers, and he spent hours at McCain headquarters this week giving interviews and meeting with staff. That set off serious alarm bells with Politics Nation, and while the media buzz has died down a bit, we think Pawlenty remains the favorite.

Ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (3-1): The favorite of the Bush Administration, Romney brings economic credibility to a ticket that lacks just that. McCain is under pressure to pick his one-time rival, who could raise gobs of money for Republicans, and by all accounts the two have a better rapport now than they once did.

Ex-OMB Director Rob Portman (7-1): From the swing state of Ohio, Portman has good political skills, and his buzz shot way up when he joined McCain on the Straight Talk Express yesterday. But the big knock on Portman's resume is that he served in the Bush Administration. That's like being a former Enron executive: It doesn't matter if you didn't do anything wrong, everyone still thinks you did.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist (15-1): There have been few more dedicated surrogates than Crist. He's youthful, getting married soon (Hello, good press) and can attack with a smile. But we think the offshore drilling position change could hurt more than help, given how desperate it looked at the time. Plus, his media buzz is way down.

Ex-Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge (20-1): He's always been a McCain backer, but Ridge would irritate social conservatives because of his pro-life beliefs. If McCain's map must include a win in Pennsylvania, Ridge is a good pick, but other than that, why tick off the base further?

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (20-1): Always by McCain's side, the South Carolinian seems more a best friend than a veep wanna-be. But we have it on reasonable authority that Graham would love to be the number two, and McCain does value loyalty above many other qualities. Could be a surprise pick that seemed too obvious to even guess at.

RNC Victory chair Carly Fiorina (20-1): She's a good surrogate, and her business background could help. But the DNC research shop is just waiting to point out how many job cuts she made at Hewlett-Packard, and the media buzz around her is all but gone.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (30-1): Yes, he's popular, and yes, he's a reformer in a state that's in desperate need of reformation. But what better way to make an issue of McCain's septuagenarian status than to pick someone who's nearly half his age? Jindal seems more likely to run for president in 2012 or 2016. After all, the guy's only 37!

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (75-1): She may be a reformer with fans inside the new righty generation, but no one's ever heard of her, and as far as we can tell she hasn't been in the same room with McCain for years. Plus, it's Alaska, which is probably her biggest drawback.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (1,000-1): The potential candidate with the most vocal supporters has unquestioningly eliminated herself from the field. As a part of the Bush foreign policy team, there's no one less interesting to McCain. Sorry, Rice fans. Try again in four or eight years.

The Field (10-1): We think there could still be a surprise or two left up McCain's sleeve. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in Minnesota talking him up today. Senator Joe Lieberman would be an off-the-wall pick to counter Obama picking, say, Nebraska's Chuck Hagel. When you need the news coverage, as McCain does, the Field's odds go way up.