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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Conjecture that McCain is close to naming a running mate builds

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sen. John McCain greets war veterans during a town hall meeting at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, N.H. McCain aides were quick to shoot down questions about a running mate. Sen. John McCain greets war veterans during a town hall meeting at the Rochester Opera House in Rochester, N.H. McCain aides were quick to shoot down questions about a running mate.
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ROCHESTER, N.H. - Speculation swirled yesterday that Republican presidential candidate John McCain might name his vice presidential partner within the next few days - right in the middle of Barack Obama's overseas tour.

McCain aides were not helping tamp down the speculation with their comments, often made late in the afternoon, of "no announcement today."

But what about tomorrow?

Mr. McCain campaigned yesterday in New Hampshire, not all that far from a lakeside summer home of vanquished GOP rival Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

Mr. Romney was nowhere to be seen. Well, it wasn't really that close to his lakeside home.

One member of the audience told Mr. McCain he seemed like a very "forgiving" man.

"Have you forgiven Mitt Romney?" he asked the senator.

Amid laughter, Mr. McCain said, "Mitt has been of tremendous help to my campaign. He does a better job for me than he did for himself."

Later, when reporters asked if this was a good week to announce his own running mate with Mr. Obama overseas, Mr. McCain chuckled. "We have the same answer we always have," he said. "We'll let you know when we have an announcement."

All questions about the process of selecting a running mate are quickly shot down.

"It's the one subject we've been forbidden to talk about," senior adviser Mark Salter said.

Mr. McCain returned to New Hampshire yesterday, a state where he has fared well in two presidential primaries (2000 and 2008).

Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are neck-and-neck in this swing state, and only half of likely voters said they have definitely decided on their choice.

A University of New Hampshire poll showed Mr. Obama with 46 percent and Mr. McCain with 43 percent, a statistical tie given the poll's margin of error of 3 percentage points.

"This will be one of those states who decides who the next president of the United States will be," Mr. McCain said.

Mr. McCain participated in a town-hall meeting in a theater and "opera house" in this central New Hampshire village.

"I know you know there's been a lot of back and forth" on the issue of Iraq, he told the audience. He said when he was campaigning in New Hampshire a year ago, "when everybody declared my candidacy dead I said we've got to do the 'surge' and we will win the war in Iraq. And we are winning that war."



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