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Governors Coalescing Behind McCain

Sen. John McCain will speak to a gathering of Republican governors later this month, a telling signal that even many of former governor Mike Huckabee's (Ark.) colleagues are lining up behind the Arizona senator in the fight for the GOP presidential nomination.

McCain will speak to the "Statesmen and Cabinet Dinner" on Feb. 23, according to an email sent by RGA executive director Nick Ayers and obtained by The Fix. The event will be attended by a majority of Republican governors and major donors to the committee. "We're very excited about this development and I think it's great news," wrote Ayers.

RGA spokesman Chris Schrimpf would not speculate on whether McCain's appearance in front of the RGA's major donors and governors constituted a tacit endorsement of his candidacy. "Our governors and members are excited to have one of the leading voices of our party speak to them," said Schrimpf. "We consider it a real honor that he's attending."

Whether or not a formal endorsement is on the way, McCain's presence at the RGA gathering is yet another sign of the coalescence of the party establishment behind the Arizona Senator.

Huckabee spent ten years as a governor and member of the RGA. He chaired the National Governors Association. Republican governors are, in many ways, Huckabee's base when it comes to elected officials. McCain already has won the endorsements of eight Republican governors and, given his status as the clear frontrunner for the party's nod, is sure to rack up a few more between now and when he addresses the RGA event. (For a complete list of who's supporting who among governors, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

The important thing to keep in mind when trying to understand why the RGA might weigh in on McCain's behalf is that given McCain's long legislative experience, it seems increasingly likely that he will pick from the Republican governors' lineup when selecting a vice presidential nominee.

Among the names mentioned: Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Sonny Perdue of Georgia, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah. And, of, course, Huckabee himself is seen as a potential pick.

Events like this one at the RGA -- coupled with more declarative statements from McCain that he would prefer Huckabee to drop from the race -- are sure to increase the pressure on the former Arkansas governor to fold his tent some time in the next week or two.

Remember that Huckabee has drastically raised his national profile in this race and has become the voice (or at least one of the voices) of social conservatives nationally. In addition to being mentioned as a potential running mate for McCain, Huckabee is also seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012 or 2016 -- depending on how the chips fall in November. With a bright future ahead of him, Huckabee will only run his crusade against the establishment for so long.

GOP GOVERNORS ENDORSEMENTS

McCain (8)
Jodi Rell (Conn.)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.)
Charlie Crist (Fla.)
Mitch Daniels (Ind.)
Tim Pawlenty (Minn.)
Rick Perry (Texas)
Jon Huntsman (Utah)
Jim Douglas (Vt.)

Huckabee (1)
Mike Rounds (S.D.)

Romney (3)
Matt Blunt (Mo.)
Dave Heineman (Neb.)
Don Carcieri (R.I.)

Free Agents (10)
Bob Riley (Ala.)
Sarah Palin (Alaska)
Sonny Perdue (Ga.)
Linda Lingle (Hawaii)
Butch Otter (Idaho)
Bobby JIndal (La.)
Haley Barbour (Miss.)
Jim Gibbons (Nev.)
John Hoeven (N.D.)
Mark Sanford (S.C.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 13, 2008; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: McCain's Inner Circle -- Revisited

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