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Strategy Memo: Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Good Tuesday morning. Just six days left to go in the Olympics, and Team USA needs to speed up that gold medal count. So far, China's Project 119 is working like a charm. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- It's still a slow day in Washington, with the House out of session (But Republicans still on the floor talking about energy), the Senate holding a brief pro forma session and President Bush clearing brush in Crawford. The Agriculture Department releases its report on the nation's stockpile of cranberries today (Ocean Spray executives on the edge of their seats) while the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants holds a government accounting and auditing seminar. And the Tax Foundation launches CompeteUSA, a new campaign against business taxes.

-- On the presidential campaign trail, things are a little more exciting. We could be as close as 24 hours away from the announcement millions have been obsessing over for months: The identity of Barack Obama's running mate. The likely Democratic nominee will roll out his pick with an early-morning announcement to supporters, followed by a swing through key battleground states, the New York Times reports today. The decision, reached while on vacation to Hawaii and known to only a few top advisers, is unlikely to be a surprise as Obama is expected to choose someone safe and not game-changing and, therefore, risky.

-- That means the list likely boils down to Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Evan Bayh. No shock, those three have been under consideration for months. But it's worth a final check of their pros and cons. Biden's pro is foreign policy; the president of Georgia specifically asked for the Senate Foreign Relations chairman. The con: He talks too much, and he's the definition of Washington insider. Bayh's pro is that he's a Clinton backer from a state that could be in play. The con: He's boring, and when you're trying not to be elitist, do you really want to pick a St. Albans alum named Birch Evans Bayh III? Kaine's pro is his close relationship with Obama and his status as an outsider. Then again, that's his con, too: After three years as Richmond mayor and four years in the Lieutenant Governor's mansion, followed by three years as governor, the experience issue is still a question.

-- There are good historical analogies, too: Bayh is the experienced senator from the neighboring state, a la Al Gore in 1992. Kaine is the dramatic change from the past, like Joe Lieberman in 2000 (Don't assume that means the ticket would lose; Gore led Bush most of the way). And Biden gives Obama more street cred among Washington insiders who have yet to get to know him, like Jimmy Carter's pick of Walter Mondale in 1972. Do any of those pros make one the favorite over the others? Probably not, though Bayh would appear to be the safest choice and Kaine the most risky. Do any of the cons eliminate one's chances? Again, probably not, though Kaine's experience issue and Biden's loud mouth don't do them any favors.

-- Meanwhile, John McCain is set to roll out his pick the morning of August 29, the day after the feeding frenzy that is Obama's convention acceptance speech. Mere hours after Obama's address, McCain and 10,000 of his closest friends will meet in Dayton, Ohio, Politico's Mike Allen reports today. Unlike Obama, it seems less likely that McCain has made his decision, swinging between several candidates including low risks Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and higher-risk choices like Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge.

-- We'll save the pros and cons of the Republican ticket for another day, closer to McCain's announcement. Suffice it to say, though, that McCain's goal is to temper any sort of Obama bounce. Will a vice presidential pick on a Friday morning be enough to blunt the impact of a speech before 75,000 adoring fans? Put a different way, will a veep selection be enough to tear the eyes of the media away from a candidate McCain's team has derisively called "The One"? To be sure, McCain's choice could effectively extend the time during which all eyes are on Republicans through the weekend and into the following week's convention. But "could" and "will" are two different words, and McCain seems about as likely to swing for the fences as Obama -- which is to say, not very.

-- It must be a pleasant feeling, being forced to spend millions of dollars by a certain date. That's the situation in which John McCain finds himself, needing to burn through cash before he is officially nominated and the Federal Election Commission cuts him a fat check for $84.1 million. So McCain is doing his best to get rid of all his cash on hand, and in the process he's actually outspending Obama in virtually every key battleground state. McCain has spent more than half a million dollars more than Obama in Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin, while Obama is outspending McCain in North Dakota and Virginia, per TPM's Greg Sargent.

-- But McCain could be running against a new candidate, as the Obama who came back from vacation is different from the Obama who left for Hawaii a week and a half ago. This Obama is ready to hit back, the Post's Murray and Weisman write, and the script has already been penned. "Just as John McCain has embraced George Bush's policies, he's embraced his politics. And the same people who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain," Obama said yesterday in Albuquerque. Expect the mantra of Bush Republican to come out of the Obama campaign a lot more than it has in the past.

-- Big Picture Of The Day: Voters in the suburbs have gotten all the attention in recent years, from Soccer Moms to NASCAR Dads. There's a reason for that, though: Most Americans live in the suburbs, and key swing counties in a number of states are those in suburban areas, USA Today's Susan Page writes today. Want to win Oregon? Win Clackamas and Washington Counties, outside Portland. Want to take Nevada? Democrats need to run up big numbers, and Republicans need to mute their losses, in Clark County, around Las Vegas. There's a reason suburbs get all the attention, and their trends after this year will give clues to broader political trends.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is in Orlando where he will address the same Veterans of Foreign Wars convention McCain addressed yesterday. He'd better speak quickly, though, as Tropical Storm Fay moves north of the Florida Keys. Fay is not expected to cause serious damage, but it won't be fun to fly through. Later tonight, Obama holds a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. McCain is down South too, touring an oil rig in New Orleans.