Friday, May 09, 2008

Veepstakes Continued...

The Fix weighs in on the ongoing veepstakes discussion

Ask someone who works for either Barack Obama (Ill.) or John McCain (Ariz.) about the search for a vice presidential nominee and, to a person, the response you get goes something like this: "It's way too early to even be thinking about specific names.” Bring up potential VP's with people outside the direct orbit of the campaigns, however, and you get a panoply of names, discussions of running mate strategy, and handicapping of strengths and weaknesses. Welcome to the veepstakes -- where those who know the most are saying the least and, unfortunately, vice versa.

The Fix, as always, navigates these tricky waters for the good of our readers. Conversations with a variety of operatives who are in a position to have a general sense of the veepstakes have produced the lists you will find below. When it comes to picking a vice presidential candidate, we acknowledge it is something of a moving target -- so if your preferred guy (or gal) didn't make the list never fear, they could show up next time. Also, since McCain and Obama appear to have the nominations locked up, we are, for the first time, ranking the five most likely veep picks. The number one slot on the Line is the candidate with the best chance -- right now -- of being picked.


5. Mitt Romney: A few months ago it would have seemed crazy to include Romney on a vice presidential list for McCain because it was an open secret that the two men didn't like each another. But politics is a funny game and Romney is charting out an aggressive fundraising schedule for McCain over the coming months. Still, the two men seem like oil and water and it's hard to imagine McCain picking someone with whom he is not comfortable.

4. Charlie Crist: No single politician had more to do with McCain becoming his party's standard bearer than the governor of Florida. Crist's endorsement of the Arizona senator just before the Sunshine State primary put McCain over the top and cemented his grip on the nomination. Crist's popularity in the Sunshine State also carries potential general election benefits for McCain. But, if polling is to be believed, McCain may have an easier time there if Obama is the nominee. Crist is also regarded with some level of suspicion by conservatives in the party; a problem McCain doesn't need given his past tenuous relations with that wing of the GOP.

3. Rob Portman: Not including Portman in previous lists was a major oversight on our part. Anyone who knows anything about McCain's thinking seems to believe Portman, who spent twelve years in Congress before doing several stints in the Bush White House, will be one of the finalists for the job. Why? Portman hails from Ohio -- perhaps the swingiest of swing states this fall -- and he is a widely touted economics expert, a specialty that could protect McCain from attacks on his familiarity with the issue. Portman is not a well-known name nationally but that could wind up being a good thing, ensuring a honeymoon period as he is introduced to voters.

2. John Thune: The phrase "central casting" can easily be applied to the senator from South Dakota. Thune is handsome, articulate and comes across as a moderate despite his very clear conservative voting record. Thune is also a hero in conservative circles thanks to his defeat of then Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.) in 2004. The one knock on Thune is that he hails from a state that is already well in hand for Republicans. But, a look at recent veep picks (John Edwards, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman) shows that the traditional "geographic" consideration may be fading in importance when it comes to picking a number two.

1. Tim Pawlenty: So Tpaw and McCain had something of a disagreement over the cause of last year's bridge collapse in Minnesota. The Minnesota governor remains the candidate in the Republican vice presidential field who fits best with what McCain wants and needs in a VP. Pawlenty has been elected twice in a Democratic-leaning state that is almost certain to be a battleground in the fall. He is liked and respected by both conservatives and moderates and gets rave reviews for his political instincts. He has also known McCain for nearly three decades and has been a supporter since the early days of the contest.


5. Sam Nunn: It's hard to argue with Nunn's place as one of the pre-eminent Democratic thinkers on foreign policy and defense issues. He spent more than two decades in the Senate representing Georgia and he chaired the Armed Services Committee. That resume coupled with Nunn's status as a white southerner could well make him an appealing pick for Obama. But, is Nunn too moderate (some would say conservative) for the party's liberal base to swallow?

4. Tim Kaine: Kaine's great strengths in this process are who he is and where's he from. A former missionary and a man who openly talks about his faith, Kaine could help Obama bridge the "God gap" that has emerged in recent presidential elections. He is also the highest ranking elected official in an emerging battleground state and his popularity coupled with Obama's appeal to African American voters statewide and white voters in northern Virginia could make the contest for the Commonwealth a barnburner. Kaine's problem is that he has spent just three years as governor (and four years as lieutenant governor before that) and has almost no foreign policy experience.

3. Hillary Clinton: In the wake of Clinton's speech in Indianapolis on Tuesday night, many within the party thought she was opening the door to the idea of sharing the ticket with Obama. Her rhetoric over the past 48 hours, however, particularly her comments about "white voters," may well quash the "Dream Ticket" talk before it begins in earnest. While Clinton has broad and deep support within the Democratic Party, picking her as vice president would seem to run counter to Obama's change message. That said, stranger things have most definitely happened.

2. Ted Strickland: While Obama may not feel compelled to name Clinton to the ticket, he is well aware of the need to offer an olive branch of sorts to the backers of the New York Senator. Strickland, the first term governor of Ohio, may well fit the bill. Not only is he an active and high profile Clinton supporter, he is also the popular chief executive of a state that Obama must find a way to win if he hopes to be president. Strickland, who represented a conservative southern Ohio congressional district before winning the governorship in 2006, could also help Obama deal with lingering doubts about his candidacy among white working class voters.

1. Kathleen Sebelius: The second-term Kansas governor earns the top spot on the Line because of her ability to further bolster Obama's strengths while not exacerbating his weaknesses. Picking Sebelius would affirm Obama's core message of change and would give Obama's run even more historic weight. Sebelius' electoral success in ruby red Kansas would also echo Obama's pledge to broaden the playing field in the fall and ensure that the party is competitive in every state. The one knock on Sebelius is the dearth of foreign policy credentials on her resume. But she has six years of strong executive experience and could be the kind of political partner Obama needs in the fall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Portman is a horrible choice. According to Rasmussen, he actually hurts McCain in OH more than he helps him...