With strong backing from hard-line conservatives, Eric Cantor [right] would shore up many of John McCain's weaknesses Photo: AP
Eric Cantor, 45, would be a dramatic choice for Mr McCain, who is running almost level with Barack Obama in national polls but whose aides believe he needs to shake-up the White House race if he is to prevail in November's general election.
Aides to Mr McCain revealed that Mr Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, had been asked to submit documents as part of a rigorous vetting process to hunt out any closet skeletons.
He joins a shortlist believed to include Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Mr McCain's bitter rival during the Republican primaries, Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota governor, and Rob Portman, a former Ohio congressman and budget director in the Bush administration.
Of the four, Mr Cantor would be by far the most exiting - though potentially risky - choice. A prodigious fundraiser with a young, photogenic family, support from evangelical Christians and strong backing from hard-line conservatives, he would shore up many of Mr McCain's weaknesses.
Mr Cantor would be the first Jewish vice-president, an historic milestone that Senator Joe Lieberman just missed in 2000 when Al Gore lost to George W Bush by 567 votes.
It was probably Mr Lieberman's presence on the ticket that enabled Mr Gore to get so close in Florida, where Jewish voters are an important factor. Mr Lieberman has since left the Democratic party and joined forces with Mr McCain. Campaigning by both Mr Lieberman for a McCain-Cantor ticket in Florida could give the Republican a powerful advantage in the swing state.
Virginia has been a traditionally Republican state but is very much in play in 2008 after a steady trend towards Democrats. Mr Obama is strongly considering choosing Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia, as his running mate.
It might be a good move: it would throw a monkey wrench into Obama's efforts to reassure the Jewish community that he's good for Israel. It also makes it tough to paint McCain as in the pocket of the Christian Right.