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Strategy Memo: Rumor And Innuendo

Good Wednesday morning. Politics Nation is headed to the other side of the country to scope out some hot races in the other Washington, so check back for updates from the West Coast later this week. Here's what Beltway insiders are watching today:

-- A sign of the August doldrums or a sign of a truly momentous impending decision? All anyone is talking about, and most of what Strategy Memo has been about these days, is the vice presidential picks both Barack Obama and John McCain are set to make this week. Final bets have been placed, unfounded rumors run rampant and, for Obama at least, the tension is palpable. One thing is sure: Unlike in 2000 and 2004, both candidates have succeeded admirably in keeping the decision to a tiny circle of aides and advisers, so that the picks will still be something of a surprise.

-- Yesterday, all the buzz was around Joe Biden, the Delaware Senator who finished his own presidential campaign after finishing fifth in Iowa. The foreign policy ace with a background on the Judiciary Committee as well could not have been a hotter property in the morning, and no one generated more buzz when he told reporters camped outside his house that he's "not the guy," as NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli writes. Biden tried to walk back the statement last night, but something about the way he said it made it seem more final than a standard denial (Watch the video for yourself, courtesy ABC News).

-- The hot seller today just may be Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a long-time Obama supporter whose name sort of fell off the radar near the beginning of the selection process. Sebelius would go far toward emphasizing Obama's Kansas roots, where his mother and grandmother grew up, the New York Times said today. Too, Marc Ambinder notes that Obama's domain name and ObamaSebelius.com are hosted by the same company. Or is that reading too much into things?

-- Then again, would picking Sebelius bring up a serious women issue for Obama? Backers of Hillary Clinton could find the choice of a woman with less political experience as insulting as not picking the runner-up to begin with. And speaking of reading too much into things, news agencies perked up last night in Raleigh, North Carolina when Obama compared his choice to Dick Cheney: "My vice president will be a member of the executive branch, he won't be one of these fourth branches of government where he thinks he's above the law." No one expected Obama to give his veep the powers Cheney enjoys, but the two uses of the pronoun "he" suggest things might not be going Sebelius' way.

-- On the Republican side, so many rumors are swirling around John McCain's choice that we can't help but wonder if the Arizona Senator is sending so many mixed signals because he just likes watching the tidal wave of reporters run back and forth checking out every last one. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, for example, will be headed to Denver to serve as a war-room surrogate opposite the Democratic convention, the Boston Globe reported last night. Would McCain really send a veep choice to the other guy's convention? Somehow that strikes us as off. Then again, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty could also head to Denver.

-- What of reports from the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes last week that McCain might pick a pro-choice running mate? Is that preparation for picking former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge? One GOP strategist tells The Page that the one-time head of the Department of Homeland Security is out of consideration. A stalking horse for Joe Lieberman, perhaps? Conservatives are actively working to head that off, the Washington Times reports today, even though fellow McCain confidante Lindsey Graham is pushing his fellow senator.

-- Question Of The Day: But no matter who the pick is, the presidential nominees will do their best to roll them out with carefully-planned precision. After Obama announces, his ticket will head to Springfield, Illinois by Saturday for the major introduction (How far after the announcement this comes remains an open question), while McCain is set to make his pick public at a mega-rally the day after Obama's big speech in Denver. Timing is everything, writes the LA Times' Mark Barabak, but the schedules are now condensed. Does either campaign wish it had made public its choice earlier, before the conventions?

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is in Virginia today (Hint! Hint! Rumor! Innuendo!) where he will talk about the economy at a community college in Martinsville before heading to a town hall meeting in Lynchburg. He's introduced by Mark Warner at the first event, and by Jim Webb at the second event. Notice a top Virginia surrogate who's missing? We can't help but wonder why Tim Kaine isn't on the list. McCain, meanwhile, has a town hall meeting in Las Cruses, New Mexico to attend.