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Veepstakes: How Long Will The Secret Hold?

No scoop in political journalism is more sought after than the identity of the vice presidential nominees.

In a world of 24/7 news coverage, scoops -- and those who score them -- are almost immediately forgotten as events quickly overrun the original news nugget.

Not so with the identity of the vice presidential nominees. Ask any political reporter about who broke the news in each election and you are almost certain to get a laundry list beginning with NBC's Andrea Mitchell in 2004 (and 1988 with Sen. Dan Quayle!) and including the Post's own Dan Balz (Dick Cheney in 2000) and Associated Press' Ron Fournier (Joe Lieberman in 2000).

Given the prestige that comes with breaking the vice presidential nominee's identity, it's not difficult to understand just how hard it has become for the campaigns to keep it a secret.

As the days between now and the start of the two parties' conventions dwindle down, tidbits of information are starting to leak out. Last night came two stories on the timing of the two picks. The first, from the New York Times, suggested that Barack Obama had made up his mind on a veep pick and could announce it as soon as tomorrow; the second, from Mike Allen at Politico, tagged Aug. 29 as the day John McCain would make his choice known to the world.

So, is there any reason to believe that either campaign can hold on to this most coveted piece of information until the moment they want to unleash it on the world?

For Obama, at least, keeping the secret may well serve as the ultimate test of their leak-proof campaign -- a point of pride for those who have been with the Illinois senator since the beginning.

Obama insiders insist that they plan to break the news via email and text message to their supporters -- a sign of the the importance of their grassroots backers to his winning calculus (and of their disdain for running things through the national media lens).

Can they make good on this pledge? And do they want to? A planned leak to the likes of the AP (or, heck, The Fix) moments before the announcement is made to its supporters could be a way to make all sides in this equation happy.

The worst-case scenario for either Obama or McCain is for an unplanned leak to throw them off the tightly scheduled roll out of their pick. No event -- aside, perhaps, from the two party conventions -- is as stage-managed as the vice presidential announcement and subsequent tour of swing states. An early leak could threaten the delicate messaging in the lead up to both conventions.

Keeping the veep secret is a major test of the mettle of both campaigns. Will either one pass the test?

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 19, 2008; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Veepstakes  
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Next: Veep Tea Leaves: Saturday, Saturday!


I may die of shock if Obama picks Hillary. Why? She's already been given Tuesday as a giant love fest. Unless they completely shift the schedule, I don't see her being given three huge moments - Tuesday, Wednesday (after Bill) as announced VP, Thursday (appearing with Obama). The convention would then officially be the Clinton Convention, not the Obama Convention, even though he's the presidential nominee.

Posted by: Judy | August 20, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Many months ago on this blog, I indicated that the best Veep for Obama was Joe Biden. Deep foreign policy experience, good campaigner and just the right amount of gravitas...


That ticket beats McCain/Romney. It even beats Cheney/Satan.

Posted by: AdrickHenry | August 20, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

It's HILLARY!! Great surprise move by Obama. We were all duped, even you CC.

Posted by: Mordecai | August 20, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

dl--so, if I understand you rightly, if Obama DOESN'T pick Biden, he's dumb? Simply because people have been talking about Biden so much? Of course people are going to trash Obama's pick--let's just hope that the majority of THOSE people are Republicans. But if Obama chooses Brian Schweitzer or Jack Reed or Jim Webb, there will be a whole new round of media stories and I would be willing to bet, some hand-wringing from the RNC because those names were not on their radar screen. Romney won't look nearly so interesting then!

Posted by: dch | August 20, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

I am curious why McCain's decisions to not pay home taxes for 5 years on one of this vacation homes. Is not talked about as an example of his ability to lead.

Posted by: tman | August 19, 2008 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I am too afraid to go on Fox. they might ask me non-scripted questions with a follow up. then what would I do????

I will meet with any tyrant though and offer to surrender at any time, anywhere.

Posted by: snObama | August 19, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I am guessing that Drudge will be the first to announce it. It will come as a flash or from a loose-lipped reporter at the Times, Post, NBC, etc.

If the National Enquirer worked as hard on this as it did with Edwards' love-child, we would have known three weeks ago.

Posted by: bondjedi | August 19, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, suggesting "that Barack Obama had made up his mind on a veep pick and could announce it as soon as tomorrow" is like predicting that the Sun will rise tomorrow. Surely the must be something of greater significance for the political camp followers like Adam Nagourney to write about. Talk about a dog bites man story!

Posted by: Bill | August 19, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"a sign of .....their disdain for running things through the national media lens".

Well justified. The National Press is demonstrably a tool of the Republican/Corporate controlled media. A modicum of decent reporting, rather than cheer leading, would have saved thousands of American lives in Iraq.

The Press is not your friend, beware!

Posted by: thebob.bob | August 19, 2008 5:41 PM | Report abuse

We will seize the oil companies under Comrade Premiere Barack and seize their Capitalist profits. Who do those Capitalist Mongrels think they are trying to make a profit?

Comrade Barack will then lead us into the Hospitals telling those capitalist Pig Doctors they can no longer charge us for our healthcare.

Comrade Barack will then lead us in many ways to seize those monies from all Capitalists.

Then, the capitalists will stop working.

What will we do then.....?

Posted by: dano | August 19, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

it's bob graham

Posted by: itk | August 19, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

too many people over the past week talking about how good of a pick Biden would be...

if Obama picked anyone else at this point and let it go this long for the past week...

that would be frighteningly dumb.Because no matter who he picks a majority of people would trash him for any other decision.

and I just don't see the campaign being that dumb.

Posted by: dl | August 19, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Comrade Barack will lead us to great victory!

Posted by: dano | August 19, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The biggest buzz - to say the least - would be Al Gore.

Posted by: Judy | August 19, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

If it's Biden, it is a non-secret secret. As such, the buzz will fade quickly. If he wants buzz, no one could give him that more than Hillary. Gosh, the pundits wouldn't stop talking about that for weeks. This isn't a suggestion though.

Posted by: Optimyst | August 19, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm a lifelong liberal-democrat who use to give McCain a pass due to his POW status - No more!
He has turned into a Bush clone and is turning more and more to the Karl Rove playbook.
Frankly, I expected a lot better from him.
I hope Obama turns Biden loose on him and whoever McCain picks for VP and exposes McBush and the Republican Party for the frauds that they are.

Posted by: Phoenix Teacher | August 19, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

It will not be Biden or Kaine or Bayh.

It may be Hillary (if she's foolish enough to accept) or Sam Nunn, or Wes Clark, possibly Chris Dodd, which would bring out Paul Simon to sing, "Bridge Over Troubled Water." When everybody's saying "It's going to be so-and-so," you can be sure that it's not going to be so-and-so.

The capital's been spent on those names. No excitement. A letdown. Not exactly what a flagging candidate who hasn't made the sale needs.

Here's a theory: News reports said Obama decided over his vacation. Then his campaign said the announcement wouldn't come until the end of the week. Then they backtracked and said, maybe Wednesday.

Maybe, Obama decided on Hillary. And she audaciously shocked him by saying, "No thanks." And now he's faced with the full force of her convention revolution, which already is in stage two, and he's got to do a quick shuffle of the cards left in the deck. Just a theory, mind you...

P.S. - when getting handed a leak is the greatest prize in political journalism, you know now much journalism has devalued itself. Really, now. Let's be enterprising. You're too much of a hard worker to believe that.

Posted by: A.J. Liebling | August 19, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Oh come on Gurly Boy WAPO OBAMA Shill Silly
Chrissie The Dizzy no matter who that empty
suit loser Barack Hussein Obama names as his Vice President frankly,it will not do
Obama and the Dimwits Democrats one bit of
good. Since Obama Self Destructed His Own
Campaign a long time ago and it is still
imploding,on His Arrogance Obama! NOBAMA!

Independent Voter Against Obama!

Posted by: Sandy5274 | August 19, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm rooting for Obama to pick the "Donger" from Sixteen Candles, and perhaps McCain will choose Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls so that he'll look younger by comparison...

Posted by: chop1 | August 19, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Will FOX refer to Biden's wife as his "Baby Momma" too?

Posted by: Aleks | August 19, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I think for Obama it's down to Biden or Kaine. Biden for foreign policy experience or Kaine to extend the change messege. My guess is that Obama picks Tim Kaine.

McCain's best choices are Pawlenty or Lieberman.

Posted by: reason | August 19, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

ummm, Bob, they're both challengers...and McCain can make Obama go first because the D convention is first. Need anything else?

Posted by: purplemartin | August 19, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

August 29th? Seriously? McCain will announce on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, when he was having cake with Bush while New Orleans flooded? He makes this too easy...

Posted by: corinthian | August 19, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

The best candidate, head and shoulders above all other is Ted Kennedy, but he will not be picked for political reasons.
by angriestdogintheworld
yes, its political suicide to pick a running mate who just had a brain embolism

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse


• Pledge of volunteer work for a "community credential"

• A violation of campaign finance regulations?

A scan of the political blogs reveals the lengths to which the mainstream media will go to protect Obama from himself.

Turns out that to get "preferred seating" to the final night's Invesco Field "Uber-rally," attendees must make an Obamanist pledge of volunteer service to the Obama campaign.

Several things are very wrong here. First, this demand for what amounts to "payment in kind" to attend a supposedly public campaign event assumes that Obama is the nominee. May I remind the his campaign that until the actual roll-call vote, he remains the presumptive nominee.

Where do the Obamanists get the right to set admission requirements to a Democratic Party function? This is the height of arrogance, and it may even be of questionable legality.

Second: If payment in kind is required to attend a political party function that allegedly is a "free" event, is that not a demand for something akin to a campaign contribution? And wouldn't such a demand be illegal?

I haven't seen one word about this in the mainstream media, although it's all over the blogs -- and not just the right-wing screeds. I found the item at "Rootswire," a liberal/progressive web site.

I was unabashedly rooting for Hillary supporters to inject some democracy back into the Democratic Party by preventing Obama's nomination on the first ballot -- perhaps forcing a brokered convention deal that would install Al Gore as the nominee, with Obama as the number two on the ticket.

Now, after reading these accounts from multiple sources, I'm wondering whether Obama deserves to get even that far. Of course, at this stage of the game, he's guaranteed a place on the ticket. But this "forced labor" policy to attend a political rally smacks of fascism, not traditional Democratic Party democracy.

With his issue vacillations, his inability to fully engage, his questionable associations, and now, his demands for declarations of loyalty and forced labor, Obama should consider himself fortunate to have gotten this close to the nomination.

And he probably has earned the nomination -- for vice-president.

Hillary, do your duty.

Posted by: scrivener | August 19, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Is there any rule (or gentlemen's agreement) that says that the challenger has to go first?

[I personally think that Biden would be better as Sec State, but wouldn't complain if he was picked as VP. But he would change the dynamic of the GOP race -- even if McCain was leaning towards Ridge, I think the choice of Biden forces McCain to counter with a fellow native Pennsylvanian...]

Posted by: Bob | August 19, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The best candidate, head and shoulders above all other is Ted Kennedy, but he will not be picked for political reasons. Actually, Ted Kennedy is the only person I would vote for other than Obama.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | August 19, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I am happy to hear John McBush is announcing his VP on his birthday, he will need help blowing out those 72 candles. Obama may still pick Jim Webb!!!!Connie from Indiana

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

You know what I would love...

for Biden to go on Hannity.

That would be awesome!

Posted by: dl | August 19, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse


If it's not Biden then yeah ...the secret is held...

but every other reporter is saying finally that all arrows point to Biden...

other candidates are sayin it's going to probably be Biden.

If it wasn't Biden like I said...Obama would have needed to quash this more. Every other commenter on the internet is rooting for Biden now...

if it wasn't going to be Biden the obama campaign would be overwhelmingly foolish to let it go like this.

It's Biden as I have said ad nauseum for four months (besides my little breakdown when they were insinuating kaine...because that would have been a disaster)

and I think most are going to be excited because a Biden pick means Obama came to win...and "chopper...sick ...ba11s!"

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

But what is the exact date and time when Fox News asks, "Is Obama's VP constitutionally eligible?"

Posted by: muD | August 19, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I believe Tim Pawlenty was spotted yesterday having his mullet trimmed.

Posted by: sipkins | August 19, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

The Obama pick will leak. It has to. Even if it's just a few minutes before their little text msg. and email announcement (how cute). Face it, Obama supporters will not be the first to know. Obama's inner, inner circle will know first, and might already know. Then, the VP pick. Then, his family. His aides. The secret service. Etc.

Beyond the inevitability of a leak coming from one of these true first-knowers, there are other certain, unavoidable indicators. The VP pick is traveling all of a sudden. Secret Service presence at his house. Switching your voter registration to Wyoming. There's always something.

Posted by: Mitch22 | August 19, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Can they make good on this pledge? And do they want to? A planned leak to the likes of the AP (or, heck, The Fix) moments before the announcement is made to its supporters could be a way to make all sides in this equation happy."

I don't quite see the logic in're basically saying that rather than making the millions of Obama supporters happy by getting their e-mails first, it'd behoove the campaign to leak the info to the media the media can be happy? Since when does the media's happiness rank even close to the general public? Methinks y'all are figuring yourselves to be a bigger cog in the works than you are...

Posted by: Rob | August 19, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for allowing me to put in my two cents worth...adjusted for inflation.
Hey,it's anyone's guess.

Posted by: HoosierDaddy | August 19, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Chris Clizza is now the biggest dope in journalism. At least tied with Dana Milbank. Does the Washington Post hire morons, or do they not even check them out.

Chris Clizza said, Obama is too thoughtful to be in politics.

We now see how America gets led into wars based on lies.

We have by far the stupidest journalists in the Country.

The Washington Post is a sewer.

Now get busy censoring me, Chris.

Posted by: Ken | August 19, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

"No scoop in political journalism is more sought after than the identity of the vice presidential nominees."

Perhaps for the journalists. For news consumers, I doubt anyone gives 2 schitz about who does the scooping. Same for timing. Don't really care, though I admit to being impatient to learn who the candidates will be.

Posted by: bsimon | August 19, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

So it's down to Biden or Kaine. Not much excitement either way for a campaign in desperate need of some. Obama's becoming a very boring celebrity...

Posted by: mat | August 19, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

US politics, because of the failure by both Republicans and Democrats to deal with the problems of campaign finance, is rotten from head to toe. But under Bush, the corruption has acquired Nigerian qualities. Federal government is a vast corporate welfare programme, rewarding the industries that give millions of dollars in political donations with contracts worth billions. Missile defence is the biggest pork barrel of all, the magic pudding that won't run out, however much you eat. The funds channelled to defence, aerospace and other manufacturing and service companies will never run dry because the system will never work.

To keep the pudding flowing, the administration must exaggerate the threats from nations that have no means of nuking it - and ignore the likely responses of those that do. Russia is not without its own corrupting influences. You could see the grim delight of the Russian generals and defence officials last week, who have found in this new deployment an excuse to enhance their power and demand bigger budgets. Poor old Poland, like the Czech Republic and the UK, gets strongarmed into becoming America's groundbait.

If we seek to understand American foreign policy in terms of a rational engagement with international problems, or even as an effective means of projecting power, we are looking in the wrong place. The government's interests have always been provincial. It seeks to appease lobbyists, shift public opinion at crucial stages of the political cycle, accommodate crazy Christian fantasies and pander to television companies run by eccentric billionaires. The US does not really have a foreign policy. It has a series of domestic policies which it projects beyond its borders. That they threaten the world with 57 varieties of destruction is of no concern to the current administration. The only question of interest is who gets paid and what the political kickbacks will be."

Posted by: Stop Mccain and the war lobbyists | August 19, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Didn't an aviation blog actually scoop journos in 2004 by catching the Kerry-Edwards decal being printed on the jet?

Posted by: sam | August 19, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

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