I'll skip apologizing for not updating this pretty much at all this summer and get right to the point. By the end of this week, both Barack Obama and John McCain could officially announce their choices to be #2 on their respective tickets. With neither candidate willing to take attention away from the Olympics (which start August 8), the time appears to be now for them to make their choices known. Speculation is running rampant right now all over the Beltway and the Blogosphere about who they might be.
A front page story ran in today's Washington Post about the narrowing shortlist for Obama. The article seemed to whittle the list down to four serious contenders: Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. The latter appears to be the front-runner according to sources close to the vetting committee headed by Eric Holder. Some long shots include former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, current senators Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Jack Reed, and Republican Chuck Hagel.
This isn't really news if you've been following the Veepstakes like I have. The top four have been mentioned consistently as possibilities ever since Obama secured the nomination last month. And those four occupied the first, second, third and fifth spots on Chris Cillizza's most recent Friday Veepstakes Line (with Reed coming in fourth). What seems to be the most important piece of news is that Kaine is in "serious talks" to become the vice presidential choice of the Democratic Party. For his part, Kaine earlier today denied being seriously involved in the veep process.
For the last few weeks, I have been of the strong belief the perfect veep choice for Obama would be Bayh, the centrist Democrat from a really important battleground state. Unlike all the others being considered for the #2 slot, Bayh not only has a decade of Senate experience but spent eight years prior to that as Indiana's governor. He doesn't rock the boat, he doesn't say stupid things, and he's just boring enough to not cost Obama anything in November.
Bayh was a longtime Clinton supporter during primaries (and some comments he made during that time could come back to haunt both Bayh and Obama if he's the choice) but this pick could be seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between the two wings of the party. His appeal will play well in his native Midwest, the all-important battleground which could swing the election.
From an aesthetic level, Bayh is 52 but looks much younger, and Cillizza and others have mentioned a striking similarity between a potential Obama-Bayh ticket to the youthful 1992 Democratic combo of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
There are some drawbacks, including Bayh's very vanilla public persona, his lack of a major track record as leading on any issues in the Senate, or how the pick could alienate the more liberal wing of the party. However, I personally feel Bayh is the right choice for Obama if he wants to win in November and take the country in the right direction once he is elected.
McCain's short list appears to be down to three serious contenders: former Massachusetts Governor and current Fascist Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman. If you have no idea who Rob Portman is, check out Cillizza's breakdown of the case for Portman in today's Fix. To sum it up briefly, Portman is a real party insider and someone those inside the Beltway view as a tremendous rising political star in Washington. On the negative side, I'm sure everyone reading this probably had to click on that link because no one knows who he is and he's best described as a Bushite, which I doubt McCain really wants on his ticket.
So it's between Romney and Pawlenty. If it's between those two, I don't see how he doesn't pick Pawlenty. He's young (47), the governor of a battleground state, has a progressive track record of sound economic change in his home state. After their bitter primary battle, it seems so shocking to me that Romney is being considered. I mean, it seemed like in those debates McCain was just about ready to beat him senseless every time Mitt opened his mouth. So while I think McCain should pick Pawlenty, I'm beginning to think McCain will actually pick Romney solely based on his perceived economic prowess. Of course, we all know Romney's pitfalls, in particular that he's a total phony and a bumbling moron in the public sphere.
If McCain picks Romney, Obama might as well start preparing his inauguration speech now. Evangelicals and moderate Republicans could abandon the GOP by either voting for Obama or staying home on Election Day. And it would feed into the perception that McCain is only going to be in it for one term given Romney's clear ambition to be president as soon as 2012. So as you can see, I'm really hoping McCain picks Romney.
So those are my feelings for the time being. I'll be sure to check back in after the picks are officially announced, whether that's sooner or later.