As John McCain campaigns around the country, there's a topic that the self-described straight talker tries to dodge: choosing a running mate. Yet the issue is coming up almost everywhere he goes.
On Wednesday, McCain headed a discussion on energy at Missouri State University in Springfield.
At his side sat tall, square-jawed Gen. James L. Jones. He was commandant of the Marines and supreme allied commander in Europe before he retired to serve as a Middle East envoy for President Bush, a corporate board member and president of the nonpartisan Institute for 21st Century Energy.
One woman in the audience couldn't resist asking The Question, saying she would "love to see someone like Gen. Jones" on McCain's ticket.
"Gen. Jones has served this country with honor and courage for many years, and I am confident he will continue to do so," McCain responded, without missing a beat. He added, "He certainly would if I were president of the United States."
It would be tough for McCain to go beyond that: Jones is also considered a long-shot running mate for Sen. Barack Obama.
The next night The Question was about Tim Pawlenty, the energetic second-term Republican governor of Minnesota, at an event in his home state. A man stood up before about 200 people in a town hall meeting in St. Paul and quizzed McCain point-blank.
"I think Tim Pawlenty would make an excellent vice president," he said. "What do you think?"
Pawlenty, who sat in the first row, laughed and visibly blushed. McCain grinned.
"This meeting is adjourned," the Arizona senator joked.
But then he praised Pawlenty as a member of "the next, new generation of leaders" of the Republican Party.
"I wouldn't like to speculate on who the vice presidential candidates are," McCain added. "But I know he has a place in the future of our party."
For now, that's as good as anyone is likely to get.
-- Bob Drogin