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Vice Presidential Contest Heats Up -- at Least Here

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is emerging as consensus pick for vice president among both Republicans and Democrats.

Well, not exactly, but, based on a perusal of the nearly 600 entries in our contest to pick a running mate for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the 2,600 entries to select one for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a fair number of Loop Fans speculated that either candidate might pick Bloomberg as his No. 2.

Overall, the McCain entrants looked at factors such as shoring up the conservative base, securing a key state such as Florida, adding some diversity or balancing McCain's age.

Conservatives such as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got frequent mentions, as did both top Republicans from crucial Florida -- Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez. Many entrants guessed McCain would tap Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who did well in Florida for Al Gore in 2000. Entrants also thought McCain would pick his close pal Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

To balance McCain's age, race, sex and lack of economic policy credentials, there were consistent mentions of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), as well as 47-year-old Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and 52-year-old Rob Portman, the former Office of Management and Budget director, U.S. trade representative and congressman from Ohio. One entrant, from Cairo, picked 44-year-old Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

Some Obamanians, living up to their reputation as a little too giddy these days, guessed he would pick Hillary as his vice president, or perhaps go all-minority with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

But most entrants figure he needs to do something to shore up the military and foreign policy front. They bet that Obama would look for a random old white guy, maybe a Clinton backer, former presidential candidate and former NATO commander, Gen. Wesley Clark. Or maybe retired four-star Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni-- creating the OZ ticket. (There was even a mention of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) -- only to get an "OK" ticket.) The name of Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) crops up often -- wow! That would be a great race to cover. Make Spiro Agnew look like a pussycat.

Others speculated he might pick former rivals John Edwards-- did we miss that endorsement? -- or Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), or, looking for a battleground state, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, though he's now flat out for Clinton.

No mention so far of a fairly obvious elder statesman, George Mitchell. Mitchell, 74, might be too elder, but he's a former federal judge, Senate majority leader and peace negotiator for Ireland and no friend of Roger Clemens.

The McCain contest is closed. Obama's ends tonight at midnight. Submit entries, one per person, to obamaveep@washpost.com. You must include a cell, work or home phone number. First 10 entrants to guess the right pick win an official T-shirt.

Renaissance Richardson

Speaking of the much-wooed Richardson, he may have dropped out of the race, but old habits die hard. So when he was spotted yesterday having coffee at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, he quickly accepted an invitation from our colleague Glenn Kessler to wander over to a table of foreign affairs reporters who were interviewing a top European diplomat.

An impromptu mini-press conference began after he shook all the reporters' hands. Richardson, U.N. ambassador and then energy secretary in the Clinton administration, said he had not decided between Obama and Clinton, but "I might soon."

Richardson, sporting a beard, declined to say whether his endorsement would come before March 4, or later, when it would be meaningless. "I'm a Renaissance man now. I don't have to answer this anymore."

Asked if he saw that Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) had endorsed Obama, Richardson smiled and said, "Oh, yeah. Yes I did."

But Seriously . . .

This just in from the Senate:

CRAIG ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS

FOR SUMMER INTERNS

Deadline Quickly Approaching

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Idaho Senator Larry Craig is currently seeking intern applications for the summer term, which runs from May to August. The application deadline is March 15, however if more time is needed for the application process, please contact Senator Craig's office for an extension. Craig offers paid internships within the Washington, D.C., office. Preference is given to Idaho applicants attending Idaho schools who are in their junior or senior years of college (including graduating seniors).

"Interns have the chance to be an essential part of a working congressional office," said Craig.

Please. No toilet humor. Not even a reference to his stance on the issues.

Those Wacky Hippies

Blackwater Worldwide is going green.

The controversial security company, under investigation in the deaths of at least 11 civilians in a Sept. 16, 2007, incident in Iraq, has, according to its Tactical Weekly newsletter, put up its own "wind turbine to reduce the company's reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity, joining a growing number of green companies. Not news you'll find in the mainstream media."

That's for sure.

North Carolina, where the company is located, "has long been known for farming and Blackwater Worldwide is introducing a new crop, wind," the newsletter says. "Well, Blackwater isn't exactly farming wind, but the ten-year-old firm known for its training and contracting will be generating electricity by means of harnessing wind energy through a wind turbine."

There's a ribbon-cutting ceremony at company headquarters in Moyock, N.C., on Saturday. Unclear if Gore can make it.

Plenty of Freebies Still

Good news for all those who fretted that recent congressional ethics mania would wipe out free booze and pigs in a blanket at trade organization meetings and other cocktail receptions. Rest easy. There will be munchies.

This week's schedule circulating on the Hill shows great possibilities for convivial after-work elbow-rubbing and grazing.

For example, on Monday, the Satellite Industry Association was to meet at Union Station. If you missed lunch, you could have stopped first at the Cannon Caucus Room to nosh with the Association of KFC Franchisees.

A National Low Income Housing Coalition gathering was scheduled yesterday at the Washington Court Hotel, but the Society of American Florists might make the Caucus Room more fragrant.

An aerospace association gathering after work at the Rayburn House Office Building should be worth attending. Then there's something called "Teaming with Wildlife" in the Senate's Dirksen Office Building. Joining the spotted owls? Maybe "teeming"?

Back problems? Check out the American Chiropractic Association on Thursday at the Rayburn Cafe. (That's the building's cafeteria.) No one on the Hill pays for dinner. Why should you?

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