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Friday Veepstakes Line: Stark Choices

As Barack Obama and John McCain enter the final stretch in selecting their respective running mates, each man is faced with a stark choice.

For Obama, that choice is between change and experience. Does Obama opt for a vice president who reinforces his fresh-faced appeal (Govs. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas) or does he go for a more known commodity within the party who has the experience he lacks (Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Jack Reed of Rhode Island)? (Make sure to check out the Post story by Shailagh Murray and The Fix in which we delve into Obama's decision-making process.)

Friday Line

McCain's choice is whether to throw a "short pass" or a "Hail Mary."

The short pass candidates are people that McCain is personally close to or would fit an obvious need for him. Choosing a "short pass" candidate would be a signal that McCain believes he can win this race without fundamentally altering its current dynamic. Among the "short pass" names are: Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Charlie Crist of Florida, former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio and South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

The "Hail Mary" option would suggest that McCain believes that he has to shake up the race with an entirely unexpected and unorthodox choice that would carry great reward and great risk. It's the opposite of a safe pick. Among that group: Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

As always, the number one ranked candidate is the most likely -- as of today -- to be the pick. Kudos or critiques are welcome in the comments section below.

To the Line (part deux)!


5. Hillary Rodham Clinton: As we reported earlier this week, the New York Senator has not yet received a request from the Obama vetters for information. But, it's impossible to do a veepstakes Line without including Clinton. She could help Obama in a number of ways -- on the experience question, with Hispanics, with rural voters in the Rust Belt -- and yet there seems little momentum in Obama world to pick her. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Joe Biden: Biden is the veritable definition of "Democratic Party Elder Statesman." And, Biden seems to be the choice of a number of relatively conservative figures in the party who believe he would broaden Obama's appeal in red states. Why isn't Biden higher on the Line? His penchant for shooting from the hip is the antithesis of what you want in a vice president. (Previous ranking: 4)

Jack Reed
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

3. Jack Reed: The Rhode Island Senator is the hottest veep name in Democratic circles these days. In The Fix's informal poll of party strategists, Reed's name cropped up on nearly every list. And, for good reason: Reed spent more than two decades in the Army and Army Reserves, and is widely seen a one of Democrats' strongest voices on military matters. But, does Reed want it? (Previous ranking: N/A)

2. Tim Kaine: The governor of Virginia drops from the pole position he held last week simply because our sense of the Obama team's mindset is that they are leaning toward experience over change in their veep calculus. That could, of course, change. And, if it does, Kaine is in the strongest position to be the pick -- from his deep roots in the faith community to his popularity in an emerging battleground state to his close personal relationship with Obama. (Previous ranking: 1)

1. Evan Bayh: The Indiana Senator sits atop of the Line this week because he represents the best combination of traits that Obama is looking for in a vice president. Bayh has rich experience both domestically and internationally, having served as two term governor in Indiana and now as a senator from the Hoosier State. But, picking Bayh also allows Obama to re-affirm the generational change argument; Bayh, at 52, would make the ticket look a lot like Clinton-Gore back in 1992. (Previous ranking: 2)


VIDEO | PostTalk: Sarah Palin

5. Sarah Palin: Palin's name doesn't appear on many vice presidential lists but if you believe that McCain needs to make a totally out of the box choice, she fits the bill. Palin, elected in 2006 on a reform platform, may well be the most popular politician in the country, and her story -- former high school basketball star and beauty queen, mother of five including a newborn with Down's Syndrome -- is the sort of narrative American voters could fall in love with. Plus, picking Palin would send a message to disaffected Democratic-leaning women that McCain is paying more than lip service to the notion of changing the face of the Republican party. (Previous ranking: N/A)

4. John Thune: Not only does Thune have an electoral appeal similar to Romney (telegenic fiscal conservative) but he also has a personal relationship with McCain that Romney does not enjoy. Thune, at 47, would allow McCain to counter -- somewhat -- the generational change argument that Obama is almost certain to make in the fall and would also please the conservative wing of the party who regard the South Dakota Senator as one of their own. Thune's problem? His work as a lobbyist earlier this decade. (Previous ranking: 5)

3. Rob Portman: The Fix has been slow to acknowledge Portman's chances in the veepstakes but conversations with well-informed Republican operatives suggest the former Ohio congressman is definitely in the mix. In addition to helping McCain in Ohio -- he represented the Cincinnati area from 1993 until 2005 -- Portman is also VERY highly regarded within the Republican establishment and is seen as someone who is eminently capable and qualified to be president. A former White House budget director who served on the House Ways and Means Committee, Portman has the economic bona fides that would help McCain shore up what is seen by some as a significant policy weakness. Picking a former House member in a year where the American public's distaste for the nation's capital is at record levels is a risk for McCain, however. (Previous ranking: N/A)

2. Tim Pawlenty: Ranking the final two Republicans on the Line is something of a guessing game. If you believe McCain's most important priority in making the pick is selecting someone he likes and enjoys a close relationship with, then Pawlenty is your guy. But, as Pawlenty has spent more and more time in the public eye -- as a result of the vice presidential rumor mill -- some Republicans have soured on him a bit, wondering if he has the fundraising reach to really help McCain and whether he is ready for primetime. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Mitt Romney: A slew of national polls released in the last week all show Americans are deeply worried about the economy and that it will be their number one priority when they step into the ballot box in the fall. With the economy ascendant as an issue, Romney, a successful businessman who not only talks the talk but can walk the walk, just makes sense as the pick. Add to that his appeal in the swing states of Michigan and New Hampshire and his demonstrated fundraising ability and it seems like a no-brainer. Except that McCain -- more so than almost any other politician at this level -- prizes personal relationships. And, although the two men are not at daggers-drawn anymore, they will never be close friends. (Previous ranking: 1)

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 18, 2008; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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