VP Pawlenty Meter: Is Charles in Charge?

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.

When last we left T-Paw, he had suffered a series of setbacks: He'd been dissed in the Wall Street Journal as "too liberal," his transportation commissioner had become a very husky albatross around his neck, and conservative columnist Bob Novak had stuck a fork in him.

Well, what a difference several weeks make (sorry about that)! According to the Washington Post, T-Paw weathered to storm and is still clinging to frontrunner status:

Pawlenty still remains the most likely choice for McCain. The two have known each other since the 1980s, Pawlenty is significantly younger than McCain (he's 47), and he makes Minnesota instantly competitive. Pawlenty is also playing the politics of the veepstakes perfectly -- denying any interest in the job while not making any Sherman-esque pronouncements.

But T-Paw shouldn't get too comfortable, because there's a gay Republican governor creeping up on his rear. According to the Post:

Charlie Crist: The Florida governor has a strong case to make that his endorsement of McCain in the waning days of the Sunshine State primary cinched the nomination for the Arizona Senator. Crist's popularity among Florida voters could well strengthen McCain's hand in a swing state in the fall. (It also doesn't hurt that McCain praised Crist as a "great governor" during a campaign swing through the state earlier this month.) The biggest problem for Crist? He's not beloved among conservatives many of whom feel McCain has to pick one of them to get their votes.

There's even been rumors that McCain promised Crist the VP slot in exchange for his endorsement. Via our old friend Robert Novak:

"Close supporters of Mitt Romney have been injecting into the political rumor stream an unsubstantiated report that Sen. John McCain obtained the vital endorsement of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist by promising him the vice presidential nomination," Robert Novak reports. "Spreading that rumor reflects the anger in the Romney camp over the late endorsements of McCain by Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida. Until then, the Romney insiders claim, their private polls showed a lead in the Jan. 29 Florida primary that in fact delivered a crushing victory for McCain."

Personally, I don't think T-Paw is enough to help McCain swing Minnesota, but Florida is very much in play and Crist could make the difference there.