Election 2012

A Big Decision, With Its Timing Carefully Planned

Michael D. Shear |The New York Times

Barring a total surprise, the next big thing in the 2012 presidential race will beMitt Romney’s choice of a running mate.

Mitt Romney
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But will it be announced this week?

Political strategists put almost as much effort into the timing of a vice-presidential announcement as they do into the decision itself. Every potential moment has advantages and liabilities.

Here is a rundown of how the possible announcement dates stack up:

Early This Week

If Mr. Romney announces his selection in the next couple of days, it will come as a surprise. It would mean that the campaign was able to control just about any leaks until the last minute, catching journalists and political observers off guard.

Such an early choice would instantly double the amount of physical terrain that Mr. Romney’s camp could cover for the rest of the month. Thevice-presidential choice could spend weeks traveling through swing states, leaving Mr. Romney more time to raise money.

And depending on the pick, the campaign would have a new and possibly aggressive attack dog, ready to hit back against President Obama’s political machine.

A downside? There is still a week of Olympic competition left, so the announcement would be competing for the attention of the voting public.

Late This Week

An announcement on Thursday or Friday would have some of the same benefits. And it would overlap with only the last few days of the Olympic Games, most likely giving it heavier news media attention.

By coming at the end of the week, it would also serve as a setup for the Sunday news talk shows and the next week ahead. First impressions are critical, as Dan Quayle proved. A late Friday announcement would give journalists little time to investigate before the shows.

Of course, that process of examination would begin in earnest the following week. Reporters would have plenty of time to dig through the background of the vice-presidential selection in the weeks before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., which starts Aug. 27.

That is one of the downsides to an earlier announcement. By the time the convention rolls around, the vice-presidential pick has already been picked over. That lessens the excitement going into the convention.