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Pawlenty is a no-go. Jindal, no-go. A lot of other names, like Portman or especially Romney, are driven by staff and consultants – not by Senator McCain. Lest we forget: it’s his opinion that matters.

Mitt Romney’s qualifications place him in the hopper for Treasury Secretary, far more so than as potential Veep. Does anyone honestly believe that John McCain is going to willingly anoint Mitt Romney as his successor? As his potential #2? As leader of the GOP? As the party’s presumptive nominee in 2012 or 2016? Team Romney is persistent, if nothing else.

Sure, McCain may pick Romney – but that would be seen as a panic-driven, pandering choice to the donor class and staffers looking to pull $10,000 a month. If you think that sounds crazy, look at the Romney expenditure reports.

McCain’s ‘maverick’ streak may lead him to pull in someone scandal-free but with access to their own national network to augment his own. The elephant missing in the GOP primary was George Allen, who famously macaca-d himself out of re-election & a presidential bid. However, dark horse Virginian Eric Cantor could easily tap into the Allen was building from 1993-2006. Allen had strong ties into Orange County, CA money that fell to Romney by default. Not just conservative cash – but Bush Pioneers that have yet to pony up. Think “movement” + Pioneers + New Majority + Lincoln Club.

In previous cycles, the GOP nominee raised one in four dollars in California. McCain has Schwarzenegger and his fundraising machine, but in a donor state like CA – there is more than one set of Top Tier folks in the ‘underwriter’ class. By underwriter, I mean Billionaires that routinely Co-Chair inaugural committees and Host Committees. These are folks who don’t talk to staff, because they don’t have to. Billionaires do not need the permission of even the most ‘Senior Adviser’ to chat with a potential president. And the Senator may not report back every detail to staff. Having watched some of those folks in action, my own instinct tells me that until Senator McCain makes it official -nothing can be counted on.

If McCain chooses someone like Cantor – it please multiple classes of politicos. Top flight donors, potential Cabinet members, and national-grade consultants who have earned the spot as presidential campaign advisers. Cantor has a stable of folks around him, both current and former consultants he remains close to, that could make a McCain-Cantor ticket very formidable.

And that’s just the metrics. Cantor is in his 40s, attractive, great wife, wonderful kids. He’s a prolific fundraiser for his colleagues in the House. He has earned a spot on the national stage – and the chances of being Speaker aren’t so hot right now.

It would be a bold move – and McCain needs to make one. McCain-Cantor, gosh – it even sounds good.

—Media Lizzy

Cross posted at HeadingRight – and at the AOL Hot Seat.