RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

We've called NPR's political experts Mara Liasson and Ken Rudin for a closer look at the prospects on both sides. Good morning to you both.

MARA LIASSON: Good morning, Renee.

KEN RUDIN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Ken, let's begin with you. How significant will the choice of running mates be this year?

RUDIN: Well, I usually say that the significance is overblown. Geraldine Ferraro was considered a great, exciting choice from Walter Mondale in 1984, and they lost 49 states. Dan Quayle was ridiculed as a joke in 1988, but the Bush-Quayle ticket won easily, 40 out of 50 states.

This year, I think it really matters. John McCain will be 72 years old next month, the oldest of any first-term president. He's had health issues in the past. He's had problems wooing conservatives to his side. So the question is does he pick someone to help him with the right, does he go after independents and disaffected Democrats with perhaps a Joe Lieberman-type choice?

So everybody's going to be waiting to see what he does, and I think Obama has his own problems. He's been in the Senate less than four years, comparatively weak foreign-policy resume, and it goes without saying that he has problems with Hillary Clinton and her supporters and many women. So does he pick a woman? Does he go after Hillary? Does he go conventional? So his choice will be very significant, as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, speaking about a woman, possibly, on a ticket, Carly Fiorina, is she on your short list for the Republicans?

RUDIN: She's not. She clearly wants it. I think the things she said about Viagra and birth control, I think it shows a lack of political experience. It's something that John McCain, I suspect, will want to go after somebody more conventional.

MONTAGNE: Mara, there's been new speculation about Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket. What are the arguments for and against that?

LIASSON: Well, Mitt Romney has some kind of obvious pluses. He's been a CEO, he has all those economic and business credentials that John McCain lacks - that's the area of his greatest weakness. He's from Michigan. He won the Michigan primary. Michigan is one of the most important states that...

RUDIN: That was Mitt Romney calling right now.

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LIASSON: Yeah, right, that's Mitt Romney calling right now. That's one of the most important states that John McCain would like to deny to the Democrats, and he has experience running.

Now the down sides, of course, as he still has problems with conservatives. He has all the problems that he had in the primary, with changing his positions on a whole bunch of issues. Then there's the question of the personal chemistry between the two men, not good, although in the past, we've seen with vice-presidential picks, that can be overcome.

MONTAGNE: Take us back to the Democratic side. Who do you like there?

LIASSON: Well, my favorite pick, and I should say the wonderful thing about playing this game is anybody can play because you don't need to know anything. Because these decisions are so closely held, nobody knows who's going to be picked, but my favorite at the moment is Al Gore.

I think it would be an electorate pick. It solves Barack Obama's problems, much in the same way that Dick Cheney solved George W. Bush's problems. You want someone with a lot of experience, gravitas. Clearly, Al Gore is ready to be president. Not only was he the vice president, but some people think he was already elected president once. He could be given the global-warming portfolio.

The big question is would he want it? We don't know that. But the question is what does Al Gore have to look forward to? I mean, he's already won a Nobel Prize and an Oscar, and I think if he wants to be the president of the United States, and those dreams do die hard, why not?

MONTAGNE: Thank you both. Mara Liasson is NPR's national political correspondent, and Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. Neither, we understand, is being considered for vice president.

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MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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