AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In a sign that a decision is near, George W. Bush's top adviser has contacted potential vice-presidential candidates and requested to know their whereabouts this weekend.
Republican officials, insisting on anonymity, said Thursday that Dick Cheney called several prominent Republicans — Arizona Sen. John McCain, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel among them — to find out how they can be contacted in the next week or so.
Cheney did not disclose whether his call meant the officials were candidates or merely GOP officials owed a courtesy call when the decision is made. Keating and Hagel are mentioned frequently by GOP officials as likely candidates, and McCain less so because of his bitter primary campaign against Bush.
The Texas governor has not revealed his short list, but aides say he could announce his running mate as early as Monday — one week before the GOP presidential convention in Philadelphia.
The names that figure most prominently in the speculation include Cheney himself; Rep. John Kasich; Sens. Fred Thompson and Bill Frist; Govs. George Pataki of New York, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Keating, the little-known Oklahoman who is getting the most attention from GOP observers.
McCain took himself out of the running in May, a move privately welcomed by Bush after their campaign struggle. But McCain's name is making the rounds again after:
He and Ridge talked by telephone Tuesday, and the governor urged McCain to accept a spot on the ticket if offered. McCain said he didn't want the job, but told Ridge that if Bush asked "I would serve," according to GOP sources.
House Republicans began circulating a letter urging Bush to nominate McCain. They say McCain's attraction to ticket-splitters and independent voters would help Republicans retain a razor-thin House majority.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., head of the House GOP campaign committee, urged the Arizona senator be given consideration in a phone call earlier this week with Cheney.
The Arizona senator declined to talk about his conversation with Ridge, but told CNN he doesn't expect to be picked. "It's a hypothetical, because I don't believe I'm in the process. But if Governor Bush called, I'd certainly like to talk to him about the weather and how things are going and how good a campaign he's running."