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Speaking of veep choices ...

By David

Speaking of vice presidents, there can be honest debate about how much the choice of a veep actually makes in the mind of voters.

The truism that no one votes for the vice presidential candidate is, well, true; but on the other hand the selection does reveal something about a future president’s ability to evaluate people.

In Obama’s case, this moment will take on even greater importance as there has been some question about his wisdom in choosing associates (see Wright, Rev. and Johnson, Jim).

Choosing a good vice president can do two things for a top of the ticket holder: It can reinforce your message, and it can provide new energy around a campaign, if only for a few days. The choice then should be somebody who is enough like the nominee in ideology and temperament that the dominant message of the campaign is made manifest (think Clinton’s selection of Gore); and someone enough off the radar screen that the candidate gets a few days of “Why didn’t we think of that — what a brilliant idea!!” coverage from the media.

And one last thing: probably best not to choose somebody you just vanquished in the primary. One need only look at the Kerry/Edwards debacle to realize that defeated running mates — their protestations to the contrary — still really believe it should be them.

For Obama, this means none of the usual names can be considered. So, no Sam Nunn, no Kathleen Sebelius, no Bill Richardson, Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton.

All vanquished, or the excitement around them drained out a long time ago.

Obama’s background is still exotic to Main Street, and questions about his experience will linger. The best thing he can do is choose an old, boring Washington hand, but one still vaguely post-partisan and “change”-oriented.

My list of the top contenders, then, in no particular order:

(continued) Jeff Bingaman:

New Mexico senator is a moderate from a swing state and considered good on energy and immigration. His endorsement last spring gave Obama more Senate endorsements than Hillary.

Tom Harkin:

A force in swing state Iowa, Harkin is lion of the Senate, unafraid to go after Republicans. His background is about as apple pie as they come.

Jack Reed:

The Rhode Island senator if a former Army captain who serves on the Senate armed relations committee and is known as workhorse. Also a Catholic, which could be a plus.

There are a few governors out there that fit the bill as well:

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Mike Easley of North Carolina, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, who are staid and unknown enough to be the guy, but Obama’s got the whole "Washington outsider" thing down, so that an inside operator could go a long way in reassuring folks.

Tags: vice presidential candidates , david freedlander

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