VP Pawlenty Meter: insiders picking Romney as Gov. criticizes McCain's bridge blame

Will Governor Tim Pawlenty become our nation's next vice president? It's hard to keep track of all the many factors at play. Each week, the VP Pawlenty Meter (TM) provides an odds sheet to ensure you make your best bet.

Last week, we took the unprecedented step of raising the VP Pawlenty Meter to Orange Alert. T-Paw was listed by several pundits among the top tier, with 5-to-1 odds, and had none of the baggage of the other frontrunners.

But like a confident young hare, Pawlenty may have fallen asleep on the side of the road and allowed a turtle to sneak up on his rear. In this case, that turtle is Mitt Romney.

Yesterday brought word that insiders are now picking Mittens as the frontrunner in the veepstakes:


The latest Evans-Novak Political Report says that "a rumor running through the political community" now puts former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in the lead to be Sen. John McCain's vice presidential candidate. "But Romney has many critics in the McCain inner circle, and we don't think the decision has been made."

There is also speculation McCain could name his veep early "to step up fund-raising before the national convention."

Meanwhile, today T-Paw is biting the hand that feeds, gently sidestepping John McCain's recent claim that the 35W bridge collapse could be blamed on pork barrel spending:

In Pennsylvania on Wednesday, McCain told reporters: "The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money. The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."

Asked if McCain's comments were appropriate or should be corrected, Pawlenty said, "I don't know what he's basing that on other than the general premise that projects got misprioritized throughout time."

He said he called the McCain campaign to remind them of the upcoming NTSB report.

But Pawlenty struck a much different tone than he took when reacting to political foes who previously questioned the role of deferred maintenance in the collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145. After the NTSB issued its preliminary findings in January, Pawlenty admonished critics to "quit using the bridge, quit exploiting the bridge tragedy to advance their political agenda."

After a brief and unprecedented raise to Orange Alert, we're dialing down the VP Pawlenty Meter to Yellow this week: