MINNEAPOLIS (CAP) - As the speculation over whom Arizona Sen. John McCain will pick as his vice presidential running mate winds down, a surprising dark horse is emerging as a real contender for the prize.
"A national hero on the ticket would help McCain out immensely," said one RNC staffer. "Who's the latest American hero, the man whose hard work and perseverance have most recently shown the American can-do spirit? The golden boy himself, Michael Phelps."
McCain campaign officials acknowledge that they have cast their vetting nets ever wider over the past couple of weeks, asking for documentation from the likes of Ed McMahon, Chuck Norris, Tony Stewart, and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. Of this group, Phelps is seen as having the best shot, based both on leaks from the campaign as well as glowing praise heaped on the young swimmer from the candidate himself.
"It's just amazing what this young man can do, my friends," McCain told a crowd at a Tallahassee fundraiser last week. "I used to swim in a slurry of urine and feces when I was a POW, and while I never won any medals, I considered myself pretty fast. But not as fast as Matthew, uh Michael, Phelps! And he didn't even have the motivation of bamboo under his fingernails to drive him on, no siree."
The two men have reportedly become fast friends, talking for hours on the phone about topics as diverse as swimming, attracting strong middle-aged chicks, immigration, and seventies disco music, something for which both have professed a quirky love. Much of their conversations have been conducted in Chinese, a language that McCain picked up in the Hanoi Hilton and Phelps acquired through his work as a pitchman for the language system Rosetta Stone.
A potential Phelps Vice Presidency does face one very big obstacle, however.
"Michael is only 23, and the constitution requires that the Vice President be at least 35 years old, just in case his running mate dies of old age or something," said Dr. Bernard St. John, a political theorist with the Washington-based K Street Institute. "Now, you can talk the Democrats in Congress into just about anything these days, so lowering the age requirement or maybe even using a President/VP age-averaging system are both very possible.
"In the latter case, the McCain/Phelps age would be, I dunno, sixty-something, well over the requirement," added St. John.
Those reading political tea leaves note one other point that may indicate McCain is leaning towards giving the young Olympian the VP nod. At a news conference yesterday, McCain admitted that he had asked to borrow Phelps gold medals to hang in his homes for inspiration during the remainder of the campaign.
"He asked me how many homes I had, and I of course said I didn't know," McCain said with a chuckle. "I asked him how many medals he had, and he said he wasn't sure. My friends, God fucking bless America."
- Rich Gray