A Democratic VP Tryout?

Barack Obama was in Chicago meeting with Democratic governors and ... wait! Were we witnessing a vice presidential tryout?

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. At long last, the lengthy presidential contest seems to be down to just two candidates. So what's a political reporter to do in the weeks leading up to the party conventions? Well, if you are NPR's David Greene, you are trying to figure out who the running mates will be. David's been covering the Obama campaign and he shares some of his insights.

DAVID GREENE: It almost seems like Obama is enjoying making us guess.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): The next time you hear from me about the vice presidential selection process will be when I have selected a vice president.

GREENE: Fine, except that we here at NPR have not been sitting around waiting. We've been keeping our own list for Obama. Yes, it's long, so we had the famous fast talker John Moschitta run through it for us.

Mr. JOHN MOSCHITTA (Speed-talker): If Obama wanted to pick a woman, there's Kathleen Sibelius from Kansas, who's very popular in the Republican state. Bill Richardson is the governor of New Mexico. He's Hispanic and he has foreign policy experience and he was in the UN and he served in the Cabinet and he comes from a swing state in the west, but Ted Strickland is the governor of Ohio, which could bring him on 20 electoral votes, but he says he won't take it. Ed Rendell is the governor of Pennsylvania which could bring along 21 electoral votes, but he says he won't get the offer.

GREENE: OK, that gives you some idea and there are a lot of governors on that list. So last Friday, I flew out to Chicago to a meeting between Obama and Democratic governors to see for myself.

Sen. OBAMA: What I'd like to do is to have each governor introduce themselves, go around the table...

GREENE: Seriously, what else could this be but a tryout?

Governor TED STRICKLAND (Democrat, Ohio): Ted Strickland from the state of Ohio.

Governor KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (Democrat, Kansas): Kathleen Sibelius from Kansas.

Governor ED RENDELL (Democrat, Pennsylvania): I'm Ed Rendell from Pennsylvania.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): Thank you. I'm Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democrat, New Mexico): I'm Bill Richardson from New Mexico.

Senator MARTIN O'MALLEY (Democrat, Maryland): Senator Martin O'Malley from the great state of Maryland.

GREENE: OK, I had them all in my sights. Now it was time to search for clues.

Sen. OBAMA: I want Kathleen, or Jennifer, I want you to talk about the manufacturing agenda that you are trying to promote.

GREENE: Kathleen or Jennifer. Well, I know it can't be Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan, because she was born in Canada, so Granholm is just a smokescreen. It is going to be Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas. I'm convinced of it, or I was until Obama singled out Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Sen. OBAMA: Ed, you've been working with some mayors and governors, looking at the possibilities of setting a national infrastructure agenda.

GREENE: Obama even asked Rendell to talk.

Gov. RENDELL: Sure, thanks, senator. We've formed this group and many of the governors have already signed on.

GREENE: It's Ed Rendell. I am sure this time, or I was until Obama went on to praise Maryland's O'Malley and Arizona's Napolitano. This all went on for an hour.

Sen. OBAMA: Thank you very much for your participation. See you in your home states.

(Soundbite of clapping)

GREENE: Afterwards, we all rushed over to Sibelius. Can I talk to you for one second?

Gov. SEBELIUS: Sure.

GREENE: I'm David Greene from NPR. I have to ask you - this almost felt like it might have been a tryout for the running mate? Is that - did it have that feeling at all here?

Gov. SEBELIUS: No, I really think this is a campaign aimed at getting good ideas.

GREENE: Good ideas? Yeah, right. Has there been some governor to governor joking as to who is going to be on the ticket these last couple of days?

Gov. SEBELIUS: No.

GREENE: OK, got nothing there. Then we headed over to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He's already given a Shermanesque statement that he wouldn't accept the VP spot, but maybe he had some insight for us.

GREENE: What do you want to see in the VP choice?

Gov. STRICKLAND: I want to see someone who is obviously capable of being president. I mean, that's pretty basic.

GREENE: Someone who's capable of being president. Sounded like gobbly gook to me, but maybe Strickland's talking some kind of code. He was throwing us off the trial with that Sherman stuff. I had to make my move. One last one - governor, are you still out of the running for vice president?

Gov. STRICKLAND: Yes, I am.

GREENE: Out of the running and out of the room. Strickland was done with all the questions and so were all the other governors. David Greene, NPR News.

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