DENVER — Two of the leading candidates to be John McCain's vice presidential pick — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — appear to be out of the running, NBC News reported Friday.
Pawlenty has been told he won't be chosen by McCain, according to NBC's David Gregory. And Romney won't be at today's Dayton, Ohio, rally with McCain, NBC's Chuck Todd reported. Romney spent Thursday courting donors in California.
Earlier in the day, Pawlenty downplayed his chances.
"I'm not going to be there. I plan to be at the state fair. You can draw your conclusion from that," Pawlenty said on his weekly call-in radio show on WCCO-AM in Minneapolis.
Friday's developments raised the possibility that others, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, could be named, or that McCain could choose a wild card candidate from any number of prospects.
As the political community turned desperate for clues, speculation moved toward Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the so-called "hockey mom" credited with reforms of her out-of-the-way state.
A Gulfstream IV from Anchorage, Alaska, flew into Middletown Regional Airport in Butler County near Cincinnati about 10:15 p.m. Thursday, said Rich Bevis, the airport's manager. He said several people came off the plane, including a woman and two teens, but there was no confirmation of who was aboard.
"They were pretty much hustled off. They came right down the ramp, jumped in some vans here and off they went," Bevis said.
"It was all hush, hush."
However, Palin's spokeswoman told a local TV affiliate the governor will be at the Alaska State Fair on Friday to unveil the state's new quarter.
Republicans kick off their national nominating convention next week in St. Paul, Minn., and McCain's campaign hopes the announcement of his running mate will stunt any momentum that Democratic rival Barack Obama might get from the just concluded Democratic National Convention.
McCain was mum on the subject Thursday as he and his wife, Cindy, boarded a plane in Phoenix bound for Dayton.
NBC's David Gregory and Chuck Todd as well as the Associated Press contributed to this report.