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One Cannot Choose but Wonder

Having run as a Reform Party candidate, Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in November 1998.
Having run as a Reform Party candidate, Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in November 1998. (By Tom Olmscheid -- Associated Press)

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By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, July 13, 2008

With the national party conventions less than two months away, the speculation over who John McCain and Barack Obama will pick as their seconds in command is heating up. The Fix's top five picks (5 being least likely to be chosen, 1 the most) for each party are below.

REPUBLICANS

5 John Thune: The South Dakota senator is playing the tortoise, content to hang in the back of the pack. We still think Thune will be a veepstakes finalist, however, because of his age (he's 47), his strong support for McCain during the latter's roller-coaster candidacy of the past year and Thune's ability to appeal to social and fiscal conservatives.

4 Bobby Jindal: Jindal, an Indian American who was elected governor of Louisiana last year, is widely seen as a rising star in a party desperate for fresh faces. Picking Jindal, who is 37, complicates McCain's attempts to paint Obama as too young and inexperienced to be president. It's more likely that Jindal will wind up on a national ticket in four or eight years.

3 Tom Ridge: McCain, more so than almost any politician, puts a premium on personal relationships -- and he and Ridge are extremely close. (Both men served in Vietnam and were first elected to Congress in 1982.) Ridge strengthens McCain's already strong hand on national security matters, having been the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

2 Tim Pawlenty: The buzz factor around the Minnesota governor has quieted significantly over the last month as the chattering class has moved on. Still, Pawlenty's compelling personal story (he is the son of a truck driver), appeal in a potential swing state and close relationship with McCain are all powerful factors in his favor.

1 Mitt Romney: The economy is shaping up to be the whole ball of wax in the fall, and McCain badly needs to build his bona fides on the issue. The best way to do that is to choose this uber-successful former businessman. Will McCain and Romney ever be best friends or even personally close? No way. Does it matter if McCain is making a cold calculation that Romney gives him the best chance to win? No.

DEMOCRATS

5 Hillary Rodham Clinton: The healing between the Clinton and Obama camps isn't going as smoothly as some had expected. Still, picking the New York senator could go a long way toward solving Obama's potential problems among women and in the Rust Belt. But naming Clinton means putting her and the former president on the ballot -- a risk Obama may not be willing to take.

4 Joe Biden: Say what you will about Joe Biden (and believe us, we've heard it all), it's hard to argue that the Delaware senator doesn't know his stuff -- particularly when it comes to foreign policy. The Senate Foreign Relations chairman is also, in his own way, a charismatic figure on the campaign trail who won lots of admirers -- if not many votes -- during his short-lived presidential bid.

3 Kathleen Sebelius: Eyebrows were raised (in a good way) when Obama heaped praise on Sebelius during an interview with a Kansas City television station late last month. "I love Kathleen Sebelius," Obama said of the Kansas governor. "I think she is as talented a public official as there is right now." High praise, indeed. But does she have the right experience?

2 Evan Bayh: A sk a political operative what word first comes to mind when he or she thinks of Evan Bayh, and the usual response is "boring." While that characterization isn't entirely fair to Bayh -- The Fix has interviewed him a number of times and found him engaging, if a bit cautious -- it could also be seen as the highest praise possible in terms of picking a vice president. It's hard to see Bayh making a major mistake on the trail or drawing much negative attention to the ticket.

1 Tim Kaine: The Kaine case is straightforward and strong: He was among the first elected officials in the country to endorse Obama (in February 2007), the two men share similar backgrounds (both have roots in Kansas, both attended Harvard Law School) and Kaine is a popular governor in Virginia, which is emerging as a central battleground in the fall election.


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