Kathleen Parker

Drum roll. Suspense. Who will it be?

In this corner, we have Stormin' Mormon Mitt Romney. In the other, we have Brain-Buster Bobby Jindal.

Amid speculation that John McCain will announce his vice presidential pick soon, political nail-biters have begun placing bets. Favorites include Louisiana Gov. Jindal, with whom McCain is meeting Wednesday, and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, whose resume is familiar.

Can McCain's former foe become his new best friend?

Romney would bring more than squeaky clean qualifications and youthful good looks to the ticket. New polling in Michigan by Ayres, McHenry & Associates shows that Romney gives McCain a significant jump -- "off the charts," as someone familiar with the still-unreleased poll described it -- and makes him competitive in a state that hasn't voted Republican since 1988. Mike Huckabee had little effect on the survey results and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's name was of negligible value.

Given the importance of even that single state, where 17 electoral votes are at stake, Romney would seem a logical choice. Then again, as conservatives frequently note, logic doesn't always work with McCain, who seems to enjoy doing the opposite of what he senses people want him to do.

Although Jindal is less well-known, and though he insists he's not interested in the VP slot, he's got rising star power. Importantly, he's young -- and looks even younger. If he had cheeks, you'd want to pinch them.

Reed-thin, Jindal has the metabolism of a hummingbird and the kind of intellect that makes Vulcans uneasy. Often referred to as the smartest man in the room, Jindal's mind can wrap around anything but the idea of repose.

More to an important point, he's not another white guy. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal is both the Republican Barack Obama and the anti-Obama. To a vote, he's a fiscal and social, pro-life conservative who came to the governorship on a promise of reform in the wake of Katrina.

While then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco told President Bush she'd get back to him about what she needed after the hurricane, Jindal orchestrated a national emergency system of volunteers, faith-based agencies, retail providers and truckers to donate and deliver supplies to the drenched and homeless. Affectionately told stories of his gritty performance are the stuff of future legend.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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