Potential Vice Presidential Candidates
Veepstakes Line: It's Now or Never?
July 25, 2008
The excitement over the veepstakes reached critical mass this week -- sparked by conservative columnist Bob Novak's report that John McCain could make his pick as early as this week.
(A side note: The Fix is currently reading Novak's memoir entitled "Prince of Darkness". If you care about the nexus of politics and journalism over the last four decades or so, it is a must-read).
With Friday already upon us, it doesn't look like Novak's reporting is going to bear out but the chatter does seem to suggest McCain's pick will come sooner rather than later.
As the Post's Mike Shear and Robert Barnes write in today's paper:
"Two top aides to the presumptive Republican nominee said the decision is likely to be announced after Obama returns from Europe on Sunday and before the Beijing Olympics begin Aug. 8. They said the campaign fears that unanticipated events coming out of China -- whether in the form of athletic accomplishments or human rights protests -- could deflect attention from the announcement if it were made during the Games."
From The Fix's own reporting, it's clear that McCain is deeply involved in the selection process and has narrowed his choices to a handful of candidates -- several of which have been doing their best to try out (without appearing as though they are trying out) for the job over the last few weeks.
The key for McCain in terms of timing is to avoid looking reactive to Obama and thus reinforcing the idea that Obama is the prime mover in the contest. A pick in early August -- aside from complicating the Fix's much-anticipated trip to Argentina -- would make sense in that it would allow McCain a few days of wall to wall coverage heading into the Olympics, which start on Aug. 8.
With speculation on the timing and identity of the vice presidential picks, we offer our latest and greatest rankings of the five most likely choices for McCain and Barack Obama below.
As always the Line is meant as a conversation starter so feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section.
To the Line (part deux)!
5. Bobby Jindal: The news that McCain was set to travel to New Orleans earlier this week to meet with Jindal (a trip that was later canceled), set off a new round of speculation about whether the youthful Louisiana governor was the pick. Our sense is that Jindal is more likely headed to the keynote address at the Republican National Convention than to a spot on the ticket. Picking the 37 year old Jindal would force McCain to walk away from attacks on Obama's experience; he's in no position in the race to do that. (Previous ranking: N/A)
4. John Thune: The South Dakota Senator remains very much in the mix although he gets far less attention from the national media than either Romney or Pawlenty. That may actually accrue to Thune's benefit as often the candidate who campaign the least for the job winds up being the pick (see Cheney, Dick). One other interesting note on Thune: He predicted less than a week ago that McCain wouldn't make his veep pick until after Obama makes his selection. Does he know something we don't? (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Rob Portman: If the inside the Beltway crowd picked McCain's vice president, Portman would be the guy. Beloved by the Republican chattering class, Portman has much to recommend him: he hails from the swing state of Ohio, can speak intelligently about economics as the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, and is seen as eminently capable of stepping in to the presidency at a moment's notice. But, does McCain want to pick someone with deep ties to Washington in a year where voters are clearly dissatisfied with the nation's capitol and his opponent is running as an outsider? (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Tim Pawlenty: Tpaw is the hot candidate this week with reports coming out of both Minnesota and Washington that things are looking good for the governor. And yet, when The Fix probed a bit deeper to find out what was behind the optimism, the best we came up with is that Pawlenty's body language has been very positive over the past few days. That's pretty thin gruel. Pawlenty, more so than any other politician on the Line, keeps his own political counsel so be wary of reports of what he knows or thinks he knows about his standing in the veepstakes. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Mitt Romney: Our guess is that McCain is in the process of figuring out whether he can live with sharing the ticket with Romney. On paper, Romney makes the most sense for McCain's second-in-command. He helps McCain geographically (Michigan and New Hampshire), on issues (the economy is Romney's strong suit) and financially (Romney may well be the most able fundraiser in the Republican party at the moment). But, McCain is a politician who often goes on instinct and his personal feelings (or lack thereof) for Romney might well make the difference. (Previous ranking: 1)
5. Kathleen Sebelius: Buzz around the Kansas governor has dissipated over the last few weeks. Our sense is the deflation of the Sebelius balloon has more to do with the fact that picking her would be seen as a poke in the eye to backers of Hillary Rodham Clinton than with anything the Kansas governor has done. (You can imagine the outraged comments; "So he wanted to pick a woman but Hillary wasn't good enough?") Obama clearly has warm feelings for Sebelius but at the moment she seems more likely to wind up in his Cabinet if he wins than on the ticket as the Illinois Senator's vice president. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Jack Reed: The Rhode Island Senator was much in the news this week as he stood side by side with Obama during an official trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. And, Reed has unassailable military credentials -- West Point graduate, active member of the Army for nearly a decade, a seat on the Senate Armed Service committee -- and a personal rapport with Obama. But, is the Rhode Island Senator "big" enough to complement Obama on the national stage? (Previous ranking: 3)
3. Joe Biden: Biden moves up the Line as reports continue to trickle out of Obama's world that the Delaware Senator is under serious consideration. Biden has been a leading voice for Democrats on foreign policy matters for decades and proved that he still has considerable charisma on the stump during his own bid for the presidency earlier this year. Another Biden benefit? He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and for years has been running television ads in the Philadelphia media market -- making him a major presence in a state that could decide the presidency in the fall. (Previous ranking: 4)
2. Tim Kaine: The governor of Virginia got support from an unlikely source earlier this week: Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, the campaign chairman -- and head cheerleader -- for Clinton's bid advocated for Kaine as the pick during a speech in Falls Church, Virginia earlier this week, according to a report from a local newspaper. There's little question that among the top five candidates, Kaine has the closest personal relationship to Obama. What is up for debate is how much influence that relationship will have on the Illinois Senator's choice. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Evan Bayh: The Indiana Senator is the safest choice available to Obama. Bayh has been elected statewide five times (once as secretary of state, twice each as governor and Senator) in a Midwestern State dominated by Republicans in recent presidential elections. He is a steady (though uncharismatic) campaigner almost certain not to make any major mistakes on the trail. And, at 52, he furthers Obama's generational change argument against McCain. But, does Obama want to make a "safe" choice? (Previous ranking: 1)
The Washington Post