Who's Up, Who's Down In The Veepstakes by Ken Rudin
UPDATED Aug. 19, 2008 -- As the two presumptive presidential nominees look toward the general election, their campaigns are vetting potential running mates. Democrat Barack Obama, with just four years in the Senate, needs someone with national, political and foreign policy experience. Republican Sen. John McCain, whose conservative credentials have come under question, needs someone who will help ensure a conservative turnout in November. Here’s a look at the buzz surrounding possible VP choices.
Who's New: Democrat Jack Reed
Who's Out: Democrat John Edwards (!), Republican Lindsey Graham
for Barack Obama?
for John McCain?
|Sen. Evan Bayh,
Bayh, who has been elected statewide in Indiana six times, was an early Clinton supporter from a state where one must appeal to Republicans to win. He is photogenic, with a young family. But Indiana has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and Bayh is not the most charismatic of campaigners. Plus, not only did he vote for the war in Iraq, he was a cheerleader for it -- a viewpoint that Obama has criticized during the campaign.
|Gov. Charlie Crist,
Crist helped McCain win Florida's GOP primary in January, which put the Arizona senator on the road to winning the nomination. But Crist has never had the full support of the state’s evangelical community. And if McCain needs Crist to win Florida in the fall, then he may be in worse trouble than anyone realized.
|Sen. Joe Biden,
A respected lawmaker with wide foreign policy experience, Biden would bring an extensive political resume to the ticket. And while Biden's failed presidential bid suffered a near-fatal blow from the outset -- based on a comment Biden made about Obama ("articulate and clean") -- he has responded to GOP attacks on Obama with vigor. Biden is allegedly on Obama's short list of potential VPs. But if Obama stands for change, would picking a person who's been in the Senate since 1973 be a step backward? Plus, Biden has a tendency to go off-script, which might not endear him to Obama's handlers.
|Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard
One of McCain’s key economic advisers, she has plenty of managerial experience but no political background. Fiorina's recent comment about having health-insurance coverage choices regarding Viagra and birth control pills -- two topics unpopular with conservatives -- elicited an awkward reaction from McCain himself.
|Sen. Hillary Clinton,
As a presidential candidate, Clinton did well in the primaries with women, Hispanics, older and white working-class voters, many of whom say putting her on the ticket would unite the party. She received more votes and more delegates than any defeated candidate for a party nomination in history. But the Obama and Clinton people clearly do not like each other. And there is resentment among Obama staffers who believe Clinton stayed in the race long after it was clear that it was mathematically unfeasible for her to defeat Obama. Still, her name will be placed in nomination in Denver.
|Ex- Gov. Mike Huckabee, Arkansas
Huckabee lasted in the presidential race longer than many of his GOP rivals and showed that he’s popular with evangelicals. But his jocularity has gotten him in trouble, requiring him to apologize for some comments. And some economic conservatives question Huckabee's record on taxes while he was governor.
|Ex-Sen. Tom Daschle,
The former Senate majority leader was instrumental in getting key superdelegates to sign onto Obama’s camp. But he couldn't help Obama win the South Dakota primary. And Daschle lost his last race. No one is talking up Daschle anymore.
|Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut
The longtime senator -- a Democrat turned independent -- has been a confidante of McCain on the campaign trail, and he could appeal to moderate Democrats and independents. Lieberman has become far more aggressive as of late in criticizing Obama. But if McCain's task is to unite conservatives behind his candidacy, Lieberman, who supports abortion rights and labor issues, would send the wrong signal.
|Sen. Chris Dodd,
In Congress since 1975, Dodd could bring experience and gravitas to the ticket. But as a presidential candidate, Dodd never showed much voter appeal.
|Gov. Sarah Palin,
The recently elected governor of Alaska is 44, the mother of five (her youngest child is several months old) and a former state champ in high school basketball, but she doesn’t have a ton of political experience. And with Sen. Ted Stevens' recent indictment, "Alaska" may be the six-letter word that Republicans don't want to talk about.
|Ex-Vice President Al Gore
Democrats would love the chance for a do-over with Gore, who won more votes than George W. Bush in 2000 but still lost the presidency. Like Obama, Gore opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. But many voters may want to look to the future -- not to a candidate who recalls a bitterly contested past. And there's no indication that Gore, who served eight years as vice president under Bill Clinton, is looking for another shot at the No. 2 spot.
|Gov. Tim Pawlenty,
As governor of the state hosting the GOP convention, Pawlenty will have plenty of opportunities for big media exposure during the party gathering in St. Paul. He is close to McCain, has a good personal story to tell, and appeals to all wings of the party. But there is no guarantee that Pawlenty would help McCain carry Minnesota, the state that has stayed the longest in the Democratic column.
|Gov. Tim Kaine,
The popular Virginia governor, who is Catholic and speaks fluent Spanish, could help Obama win what’s expected to be a swing state. The decision by Sen. Jim Webb, his fellow Virginian, to remove his name from VP consideration has put new attention on Kaine, who endorsed Obama for the presidency earlier than any other governor except for Illinois' Rod Blagojevich. But does Obama, who has been in the Senate just four years, satisfy concerns about his experience by naming someone who's been a governor for just three years? And what does Kaine bring to the table when it comes to foreign policy? Some see the decision to name former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, currently a candidate for the Senate, as the convention keynote speaker as a sign that Kaine won't be VP.
|Ex-Rep. Rob Portman,
An expert on budgetary issues -- McCain's weak spot -- Portman would bring economic heft to the ticket. He's young, attractive and smart. And he's from a key swing state. But he is closely associated with the Bush administration and its economic policies, a clear albatross.
|Sen. Jack Reed,
Reed is a former Army paratrooper with vast military know-how who has taken frequent trips to Iraq. Like Obama, Reed opposed the war from the beginning -- unlike others on the so-called VP shortlist. He is also an expert on housing issues, and played an active role in the Senate bill to ease the foreclosure crisis. But Reed is from a region that is comfortably in the Obama camp, and he's not a particularly a powerful speaker, either.
|Ex-Gov. Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania
Ridge retains a reservoir of support in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in the fall, and he also served as secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. And, like McCain (with whom he is very close), he is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. But unlike McCain, Ridge supports abortion rights -- a stance likely to alienate party conservatives.
|Gov. Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania
A former Clinton supporter from a swing state, Rendell could help Obama win over Pennsylvanians. But Rendell's tendency to speak his mind, regardless of the consequences, might frighten the Obama camp. Rendell himself has intimated that if the Obama camp were smart, they wouldn't consider him.
|Ex- Gov. Mitt Romney, Massachusetts
Romney ran as a conservative in his bid for the GOP nomination, and he might be helpful in states like Michigan, where the Romney name is legendary (his late father was governor there in the 1960s). But he and McCain haven’t always gotten along, and McCain has a long memory when it comes to slights. And Romney's reputation as a flip-flopper on issues including abortion and gay rights might prove to be a distraction.
|Gov. Bill Richardson,
As the long-standing and popular Mexican-American governor of New Mexico, a heavily Hispanic state, Richardson could help Obama appeal to the Latino community. Plus, he has foreign policy credentials as the former ambassador to the U.N. But Bill Clinton is said to have been furious with Richardson's decision to endorse Obama, citing disloyalty (Richardson served in the Clinton Cabinet). Clintonistas may see Richardson on the ticket as a slap in the face.
|Sen. John Thune,
Thune ousted Tom Daschle from his Senate seat in 2004 after appealing to South Dakota’s social conservatives on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Beating Daschle -- who was then the Democratic leader in the Senate -- made Thune a national Republican hero. But South Dakota brings a whopping three electoral votes to the equation. Thune seems to have faded from the VP speculation.
|Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas
An early Obama backer, she might help win over female voters still peeved about what happened to Hillary Clinton. Sebelius also has ties to Ohio -- her father is John Gilligan, the state's former governor. But she doesn't give Obama any foreign policy heft, which the first-term senator could use.