THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL PICK A McCain campaign official told me that the final two candidates for VP were Palin and Pawlenty. One of the first people to suggest Pawlenty was Mark McKinnon, Bush’s media consultant, around two months ago. Although Kay Bailey Hutchison’s name was floated late in the game, it doesn’t appear that she was under serious consideration. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Karl Rove had a hand in the selection. While Republicans hope that Palin will appeal to Hillary Clinton voters and independents, the main thing that she brings to the race is that the GOP base is ga-ga over her. Rove won two presidential races with a strategy that was designed to maximize the Republican base vote. He is very dismissive of independent voters. “There are no independent voters,” he once told me. “There are only uncommitted voters.” Implicit in that view is that it is the campaign’s job to get them to commit. How late in the day was the decision on Sarah Palin? Here’s what the Washington Post story is saying. WHERE WAS FRED THOMPSON WHEN THEY NEEDED HIM? Thompson was supposed to be the conservatives’ candidate for president. Rudy had a liberal record, Mitt had a Mormon problem, McCain wouldn’t kowtow to the evangelicals (that was then, this is now). But he dilly-dallied about entering the race, and when he finally got in, he was a complete dud. He brought nothing to the campaign, no energy, no fundraising ability, no new ideas. Tuesday night Thompson was the politician the conservatives hoped he would be. His speech was an old fashioned political stemwinder, a mixture of exhortation and pathos. This was the first time that the convention had been fired up. The place just exploded when he said that McCain didn’t think that the question of when life begins is above his pay grade. The trouble was, he was just reading his lines. He read them very well. That’s what he does for a living. But a year ago, when he had to speak for himself, from the heart, he had nothing to say. A LITTLE CONVENTION COLOR The button of choice seems to be a large white button with “No-Bama” in blue and red. Alaskan delegates were wearing white hard hats with a map of the state in red over the forehead and “Drill Now” on the side. Yesterday there was an altercation at the Phyllis Schlafly luncheon. Sarah Palin was supposed to attend, but she couldn’t make it. An uninvited guest showed up — a peace activist who ran up to the front of the room carrying a banner that said “PEACE!” Two intrepid Texans — state reps. Leo Berman and Jodie Laubenberg — wrestled her away. FOLLOWING THE NEWS I thought Obama made a mistake yesterday when he said that he had more executive experience than Sarah Palin because he had run his campaign for 18 months. That’s silly. But Palin’s claim that she was qualified to be commander in chief because she was in charge of the Alaska National Guard and Russian planes flew missions along the coast was even sillier. INTERVIEW: NELSON BALIDO Political junkies may recall that Balido, a Republican delegate, ran unsuccessfully against Joaquin Castro in 2005. Balido is optimistic about McCain’s ability to win Hispanic voters. “I didn’t know one Hispanic who was for Obama [in the Democratic primary],” he said. “I talked to a lot of people, and everybody was for Hillary Clinton. I think McCain’s outside-the-box, maverick attitude appeals to Hispanics. We’re independent thinkers. And McCain was for immigration reform. Obama voted against it.” Balido’s biggest concern: “The [Republican] party needs to do more in the State of Texas to appeal to Hispanics. They do it once every for years. That’s not enough. They have to do it all the time.”