The Running-Mate Roundup

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, February 9, 2008

We still have a ways to go before the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations are officially decided. But it's not too soon to start thinking about the selection of running mates.

'Tis fair to say the vice presidency hasn't gained many fans in its more than 200 years of existence. Dan Coen, in his delightful and informative book "Second String: Trivia, Facts and Lists about the Vice Presidency and Its Vice Presidents" spelled out the reasons succinctly: "It has been held by men whose greatness was diminished by the restrictions of office, by those who were able to rise to greatness despite the office, and by men who the office has turned into curiosities of history."

Yet this could be a breakthrough -- or bust -- year for the vice presidency, now that the contests have boiled down to Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. One of them will enter the White House next January.

Each president must have, as the Constitution requires, a second in command to ensure a continuation of leadership and to serve as Senate president.

McCain, Clinton and Obama each have shortcomings that the proper running mate might help overcome.

Take John McCain.

Nothing that he said on Thursday to the Conservative Political Action Conference will convince true believers that he's really one of them. At this point, McCain is headed for the general election with a shaky Republican base. What's more, a lot of voters are going to question the wisdom of casting a ballot for a candidate who would become the oldest president in history to take the oath of office. McCain has to make up for those deficiencies if he expects to win in the fall.

Enter a running mate.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, age 51, could fit the bill. He's in tight with the GOP's social conservatives and evangelicals. That might take care of McCain's right flank.

South Carolina's Lindsey Graham could also help McCain where he's hurting with Republicans.

But this year, the Democratic Party will field a ticket that will be integrated by race or sex, or maybe both. There may be something a little off with a McCain-Huckabee or McCain-Graham picture, if you know what I mean.

A ticket of John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison, however, would be quite another matter.

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