Source AP ©

John McCain keeps name of his vice presidential choice secret

Republican presidential candidate John McCain is keeping the name of his vice presidential choice a closely held secret, though Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty appeared to take himself out of the running.

With McCain set to announce his selection Friday in Dayton, Ohio, Pawlenty said he was not making the trip to Ohio.

"I'm not going to be there. I plan to be at the state fair. You can draw your conclusion from that," Pawlenty said on his weekly call-in radio show on WCCO-AM in Minneapolis. He also called it "a fair assumption" that he will not be McCain's running mate.

There was no indication that another Republican considered a leading contender, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was heading to Ohio. He spent Thursday courting donors in California.

All that raised the possibility that others, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, could be named, or that McCain could choose a wild card candidate from any number of prospects that have been mentioned since he clinched the Republican nomination in March.

Among those names: first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The Arizona senator has decided on his choice for vice president early Thursday but the campaign has given no hint on his selection that will be announced on Friday, his 72nd birthday.

Republicans kick off their national nominating convention next week in St. Paul, Minnesota, and McCain's campaign hopes the announcement of his running mate will stunt any momentum that Democratic rival Barack Obama might get from the just concluded Democratic National Convention.

McCain was mum on the subject Thursday as he and his wife, Cindy, boarded a plane in Phoenix bound for Dayton.