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Speculation Percolates On VP Choices

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Speculation Percolates On VP Choices


Speculation Percolates On VP Choices

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The great guessing game of the moment, of course, is who will John McCain and Barack Obama pick as their vice-presidential running mates? Pretty soon both candidates will have to lay down their hands, and to review what's in them, what may play or not, is Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. He's been busy the last few weeks laying out in his blog the pros and cons of each of the rumored potential vice-presidential nominees.

Mr. Cillizza is a political reporter for, where he authors a blog called "The Fix." He joins us from his office somewhere in the wilds of Virginia. Mr. Cillizza, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. CHRIS CILLIZZA (Political Reporter, Scott, thanks for having me.

SIMON: First, can I get this out of the way? How do you know anything? I mean, isn't this all in the minds of the two candidates?

Mr. CILLIZZA: I think that's the most important question when it comes to trying to figure this out. There is a very small group, probably about five people around John McCain and Barack Obama, and that includes the candidates themselves in that five, who are really in tune with the day-to-day operations of how they are picking a vice president. Everyone else is sort of floating along the edges, picking up tidbits of information here or there, reading tealeaves. But it is a guessing game.

I think that we have - if you follow it very closely, you have enough tidbits of information to draw some conclusions, but I always say, unless Barack Obama calls you and tells you who it's going to be, you don't know who it's going to be until they announce it.

SIMON: OK. Throwing that caution out of the way so we can have a little fun now.

Mr. CILLIZZA: Right.

SIMON: Let's look at the Democrats, go in order of their conventions. You say that Senator Biden of Delaware is the hot candidate right now, and you make some good arguments for him in a posting I read, but you also make some arguments against him in another posting

Mr. CILLIZZA: Well, Joe Biden pluses: great experience on the Foreign Relations Committee. He's a charismatic campaigner. He's a good debater, and I don't think that should be underestimated. The vice-presidential debate is a critical moment in the general election. Joe Biden had proved himself during the Democratic primary process to be a great debater, so - and the other thing is, he's been there before. He's run for president twice. He's been on the national stage. People know him. This is not someone who would likely suffer from sort of some scurrilous revelation coming out about him.

The negative: Joe Biden tends to occasionally fall in love with the sound of his own voice, as anyone who has covered Congress knows. He left the presidential race in 1987 very publicly after admitting to plagiarizing, he said accidentally, a speech by a British politician. But it seems to me, the more dangerous thing, if you're looking at Biden minuses, is the fact that he tends to shoot from the lip a little bit more than people would like a vice president to do.

SIMON: And let's talk about the Republicans and Senator McCain.

Mr. CILLIZZA: It seemed a few weeks ago as though it was down to two, those two being Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, and Mitt Romney. I think that McCain, however, really would like to pick someone that he is personally close to. John McCain, more than almost any politician who has succeeded to the extent he has, isa gut politician. He acts on instincts. He sort of does what he thinks is the right move politically. And I think his gut is telling him to pick someone that he is personally close to.

I think that's why you've seen the reemergence of former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge as a very serious candidate. McCain floated a few days ago the fact that he would be open to picking someone who is pro-choice, as Ridge is. My sense is that Romney is falling down a bit, largely because of the fact that he and McCain don't have a warm relationship.

SIMON: Both Senator Biden and Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania, are considered to run well among blue-collar voters.

Mr. CILLIZZA: Absolutely. Places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. The key swing vote in almost all of those states is blue-collar, lower middle-class workers. Barack Obama struggled against Senator Clinton to win these voters over. Places like West Virginia, which are dominated at Democratic primaries by that profile of voter, she won overwhelmingly.

The thinking then is that - for both sides - that you need someone on the vice-presidential level who will be able to appeal to those voters. I think if Senator McCain does go with Governor Ridge, it really helps him in Pennsylvania. Governor Ridge remains a popular figure there. And I think Senator Biden has that same appeal for Senator Obama. This is a guy who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is a guy who is well known to go home every single night on that Amtrak train to Delaware, and a guy who is exposed in the Philadelphia media market.

Remember, Delaware doesn't have a media market of its own, so Senator Biden, during his campaign, has spent a lot of time and money, frankly, to buy television time in the Philadelphia area. So he's not an unknown commodity there, either.

SIMON: Chris Cillizza of the, thanks so much.

Mr. CILLIZZA: Thank you.

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