Another prospective candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met with donors throughout California on Thursday and was in Los Angeles and Orange County by evening. "I don't have anything for you right now," Romney said earlier in the day when asked about the vice presidential search.
McCain will appear with his No. 2 at an Ohio rally on Friday, aides said, though they provided no details on whom he had chosen to join the Republican ticket. At least two more rallies are planned for Pennsylvania and Missouri in the run up to next week's convention.
Others believed to be in contention include Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who was vacationing on New York's Long Island, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
However, fueling speculation that McCain had chosen either Pawlenty or Romney or another conservative Republican, two GOP officials said they believed McCain had picked a traditional candidate. They based their conclusion on the fact that the campaign, which once had put the party on notice to prepare for the possibility of an unconventional candidate, does not have preparations in place to curb the fallout from a right flank that certainly would revolt if Ridge, an abortion-rights backer, or Lieberman, a former Democrat, was on the ticket.
It also was possible that McCain would choose a dark horse from any number of names that have circulated.
If he knew McCain's decision, Pawlenty gave nothing away when he arrived back at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and, later, as he attended a volleyball game at the high school where one of his daughters is a 10th-grader. Media and onlookers had gathered in front of Pawlenty's private home in Eagan, a southern St. Paul suburb, as well as at the governor's mansion in St. Paul.
Pawlenty said he still plans to be at the Minnesota State Fair on Friday, where he's to do his weekly radio show, and that he had no plans to fly to Ohio.
Romney, who had played the GOP attack-dog role earlier in the week at the Democratic convention, left his beachfront San Diego home Thursday morning with an overnight bag. His son, Matt, said Romney was headed to an unspecified location in the state. Romney was meeting with his financial backers in hopes of helping the GOP raise money.
McCain, for his part, was uncharacteristically silent. As he and his wife, Cindy, boarded a plane in Phoenix bound for Dayton, Ohio, reporters shouted a barrage of questions at the senator about whether he'd made up his mind. McCain wasn't biting. He flashed a double thumbs-up and boarded the plane. He went through the same motions in Dayton, Ohio, when he landed.
Earlier, he played coy.
In an interview aired Thursday morning, McCain said he still hadn't made up his mind. Far from quieting speculation, this only fueled it as he sought to siphon attention from Democrat Barack Obama's acceptance of the presidential nomination in Denver.
He told KDKA NewsRadio in Pittsburgh in an interview taped Wednesday: "I haven't decided yet so I can't tell you."
McCain, who spoke with the radio station from his home in Arizona, told people late Wednesday that he wasn't going to make a final decision until after he talked with his wife. She has been in the country of Georgia this week and returned around nightfall.
With both the pick and the effort to keep buzz alive beforehand, McCain's campaign hoped to curb any uptick in polling that Obama might get from his convention and to create momentum heading into the gathering of GOP delegates for McCain next week in St. Paul, Minn.
Among the other potential running mates, Ridge was at his suburban Washington, D.C., home. Asked by an AP photographer as he took out the trash if he had any travel plans for the day, Ridge smiled and said he didn't.
Also, one Lieberman aide said there has been no indication he is the choice. For instance, no staff have been called to join him at his vacation site.
For months, McCain's vice presidential search process has been kept closely held by a small group of his advisers. But details have been trickling out this week.
This includes word from two Republicans that McCain met with his senior advisers in Arizona on Wednesday to discuss the pick, conflicting information about whether or not he had settled on a choice, and the campaign's announcement it would air a one-evening-only TV ad in battleground states around the time Obama gives his prime-time acceptance speech.
Turns out the ad has nothing to do with the vice presidential choice, bearing only a simple message for Barack Obama: "Job well done."
Associated Press reporters Glen Johnson in Boston, Mike Glover in Phoenix, Patrick Condon and Haven Daley in Minneapolis and Andrew Miga and photographer Scott Applewhite in Washington contributed to this story.