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McCain to meet possible running mates

The two governors, Charlie Crist and Bobby Jindal, are viewed as contenders to run with Senator John McCain.
McCain 2008
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., waves after arriving in Burbank, Calif., Wednesday, May 21, 2008.Jeff Chiu / AP
/ Source: The New York Times

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, on Friday is scheduled to meet with two Republican governors who have been prominently mentioned as potential running mates, according to Republicans familiar with Mr. McCain’s plan.

Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, have both accepted invitations to meet with Mr. McCain at his home in Arizona, according to Republican familiars with the decision. One Republican said that Mitt Romney, a former rival of Mr. McCain for the presidential nomination — is also expected to visit him this weekend. Mr. Romney’s advisers declined to comment.

Mr. McCain, after a week of campaigning, is heading home on Friday for three days without a public schedule. His campaign declined to comment on the meetings.

“We don’t talk about the V.P. selection process,” said Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser.

Still, the names of Mr. McCain’s visitors and the timing — coming three weeks after the Arizona senator told reporters that he has a list of 20 potential running-mates — strongly suggests that he is moving into an intensified phase in his search for a vice presidential candidate.

Mr. McCain previously said that no decision on the timing of announcing his running mate had been made, and his aides have made clear they intended to keep the process as closely held as possible.

Another governor who has been prominently mentioned as a strong contender to run with Mr. McCain, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, is not going to Arizona; his associates said he had a wedding on Saturday.

Mr. Crist, a popular first-term governor, has been included on various lists of potential running mates for Mr. McCain, whom he endorsed shortly before Florida’s January primary that effectively helped Mr. McCain claim the nomination. He said Wednesday that he and Mr. McCain had not discussed the prospect, including at a fundraiser in Miami that the two attended Tuesday night.

The McCain campaign, he said, has not solicited the kind of personal information typically requested to vet possible running mates.

As governor of Florida, Mr. Crist, 51, would bring a number of obvious assets to the Republican ticket, beginning with his popularity in a state that is almost always an electoral battleground and where Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic nominee appears to be struggling. His relative youth could also be an asset for Mr. McCain who, at 71, has made clear that age will be a consideration in his search for a running mate.

In Florida, Mr. Crist has long been known for his affability and a campaign skills. Instantly recognizable because of his perpetual tan and striking white hair, Mr. Crist, who served as Florida’s Attorney General before being elected governor in 2006, has also acquired a reputation as something of a hardliner on law and order issues.

He supports the death penalty, and largely opposes restrictions on the rights of gun owners. Early on, he earned the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” because he favored allowing convicts to be used in road work, and has described himself as a “pro-life and pro-family” candidate.

Of all the names being mentioned as Mr. McCain’s potential running mate, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the 36-year-old first-term governor of Louisiana, is not only the youngest and least experienced, but also the only one who is not white. Yet in a year in which Democratic voters have raised few objections to such traditional “obstacles,” Mr. Jindal may be especially attractive as Republicans seek a way to offset the “post-racial” and youthful appeal of Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. Jindal, who was born in Baton Rouge to a family that had just arrived there from the Punjab area of India, took office in January after serving three years in the House of Representatives. In a race with four candidates, Mr. Jindal, who was born a Hindu but converted to Roman Catholicism as a teenager, won 54 percent of the vote after campaigning as a social conservative, opposing human embryonic stem cell research and abortion in any form and favoring teaching “intelligent design” in schools as an alternative to evolution.

But Mr. Jindal also has a reputation as a policy wonk, like the Clintons, with a specialty in health care issues. After graduating in 1991 from Brown University, where he majored in biology and public policy, and attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, he worked for the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company and was executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. He later served as Secretary of the Louisiana state Department of Health and Hospitals and in the Bush Administration as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for planning and evaluation.