John McCaslin

Can't wait for Nov. 4 to find out who will be the next occupant of the White House?

You might not have to, according to Thomas M. DeFrank, Washington bureau chief for the New York Daily News and prior to that senior White House correspondent for Newsweek for a quarter-century. Indeed, this is his eleventh presidential campaign.

"I suspect in another five weeks we are going to have a really good sense of who is going to be the next president," Mr. DeFrank told Inside the Beltway, discussing the contest between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

"It's good news for McCain that he's basically neck and neck with Obama at this point," he said. "But I think Obama and McCain each have four huge opportunities coming up to pull away or mess things up, and the first one of course is their respective vice presidential nominees.

"Then comes the whole hoopla of their conventions; then comes their acceptance speeches at the conventions; and then comes … the first debate in Oxford, Miss., on the 26th of September. And I think those are really four huge benchmarks, and how Obama and McCain handle and negotiate those benchmarks is going to go a long way toward telling us who the next president is going to be."

As for the first hurdle, Mr. DeFrank suspects Mr. Obama will be the first to announce his vice presidential pick, probably next Monday or Tuesday, following his summer vacation. Mr. McCain, he pointed out, said from the start that he would await his opponent's No. 2 selection when "the whole chessboard is in front of us."

"My gut tells me McCain still will wait," said Mr. DeFrank, whose entire interview can be heard on Inside the Beltway radio at www.washingtontimes.com.

OBAMA THEMES

When he accepts the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday night, Aug. 28, Barack Obama "will communicate the urgency of the moment, highlight the struggles Americans are facing and call on Americans to come together to change the course of our nation."

So reveal organizers of the Democratic National Convention, referring to the candidate's acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High.

The so-called urgency of the moment is said to encompass everything from the economy, especially the housing crisis and high energy costs, to the war in Iraq.

MYSTERY ART

Missing a Pablo Picasso from your wall?

If so, contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation — FBI Special Agent Jim Wynne, to be exact.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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