McCain lunches Jindal, other likely running mates

May 26th, 2008 - 12:05 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 25 (IANS) Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain lunched with Bobby Jindal, the first Indian American US governor, and two other potential running mates at The Asylum, a hilltop hotel near his Arizona home. Besides Jindal, governor of Louisiana, joining McCain and wife Cindy for lunch were former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Senators Sam Brownback and Lindsey Graham, FedEx founder Fred Smith, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and senior McCain adviser Charlie Black.

With reporters setting up camp outside the presumptive nominee’s Sedona ranch to catch a glimpse of the potential running mates McCain invited over to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, he and his high-profile guests piled into vans and SUVs for a short drive to lunch at the nearby hilltop Jerome Grand Hotel Saturday.

Speculation continues to swirl over whether this outing is in fact an audition for potential vice presidential nominees, among them, Jindal, Romney, and Crist, who are believed to be on McCain’s shortlist.

Both the campaign and the candidate have repeatedly denied it is such a gathering, saying it is simply a weekend among friends and a chance for the McCains to thank the guests for their support.

The conservative Washington Times had Saturday editorially endorsed Jindal as the best man for the number two spot. According to The New York Times state Republican leaders across the US have given a tentative nod to Jindal, Crist and Romney, saying the trio shared several qualities that many Republican officials hoped for in a No. 2 on the ticket.

All are youthful and Washington outsiders, current or former state governors who would offer a balance to the age and 22-year Senate tenure of the 71-year-old McCain, it said.

During lunch, the McCains sat with Brownback and his wife, and Governor Crist and a companion, while the rest of the guests spread out at three other tables, CNN reported.

Dressed in casual weekend gear, the party dined on calamari, steak sandwiches and burgers at the hotel’s restaurant, The Asylum. The hotel, formerly a hospital, is rumoured to be haunted.

McCain picked up the tab for the group and appeared noticeably irritated by the abundance of press when leaving the restaurant. But that didn’t spoil the meal for the Florida governor, who remarked that lunch was “delicious.”

Senator Joe Lieberman is also visiting the ranch but didn’t appear at the lunch. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota were invited along for the weekend but had scheduling conflicts, CNN said. All three are also said to be on McCain’s short list.

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