'08 Notes: Vice Squad

He doesn't have the money to compete with the first-tier candidates. He doesn't have the national stature that others do. Still, he's got experience as a governor, from an area of the country important to his party's hopes in 2008, and speaks well on the stump. Therefore, he's the perfect choice for Vice President.

These qualities all apply to Mike Huckabee, Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, Mark Sanford, Tom Vilsack and any number of other potential number twos. But every one of them will tell you they're not interested in the job (Richardson the latest to do so, in an interview with the New York Daily News). And while it's too early to begin speculating about short lists, it's never too early to guess at just who might make the cut.

Republican Huckabee, should his second-place showing in the straw poll not be enough to carry him to the top, seems to be the most likely current member of the GOP field to wind up in the veep slot. If the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton, who better to serve the role of attack dog than a former governor of a state closely affiliated with her? Huckabee's debate performances have been uniformly strong, and his stump speech -- delivered without notes in Ames as others used a teleprompter -- makes even some liberals nod along in agreement. He's a conservative from the South, but one who defies stereotypes and whose easy going manner and message of compassionate conservatism will resonate well beyond Dixie.

If Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney end up winning the GOP nomination, they may want a more strongly identifiable conservative like Huckabee to communicate with the base even while they use their time to appeal to moderates and independents. But Huckabee's chances erode if Fred Thompson, a Southerner himself with good relations with the base, becomes the nominee.

Another Southerner who might fit the bill for Giuliani or Romney is Mark Sanford, the Governor of South Carolina. Sanford has yet to endorse a candidate this year, but in 2000, as a Congressman, he chose John McCain. Sanford may, at most, become the GOP's top surrogate in the South.

Other GOP Governors in the South face similar issues that might seem to disqualify them. Florida's Charlie Crist, who has batted down rumors that he's on someone's short list, has been on the job less than a year. Mississippi's Haley Barbour would have the pleasure of answering questions about his past as the founder of one of Washington's biggest lobbying shops. Meanwhile, a rising star in the party, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, could have eliminated himself from contention by siding with McCain early and vocally.

On the Democratic side, Bill Richardson has always been considered good Vice Presidential stock. With experience in Congress, at the United Nations, as Energy Secretary (a big issue going into 2008) and as governor, he would seem to be the complete package. And if asked to serve, it's hard to imagine he would say no. But the oath taken by those picking a vice president is much like the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. And Richardson's past raises some question marks. Whether it's the constant rumors (which he claims John Kerry's people tracked down, finding nothing of substance) or inconsistencies in some stories he tells (being drafted by a Major League Baseball team; a quiet conversation with the mother of a slain soldier she denies ever took place), or even his record (security problems at Los Alamos under his watch; a dramatically altered position on Iraq), choosing Richardson would seem to invite danger.

A Richardson pick might cause problems for Hillary Clinton, who may not want to pick a former member of her husband's administration, and one with rumors that remind voters of her husband's less than stellar moments. Richardson would add foreign policy heft to Barack Obama's or John Edwards' campaigns. Obama, however, running as the ultimate outsider, may want an outside-the-box contender with national security credentials, like retired General Anthony Zinni or former Presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

Also on the Democratic side, Evan Bayh - who Bill Clinton said would be president one day - ended his White House bid because of the pressures of raising money, though he remains a strong speaker and hugely popular in a red state. But what does Bayh bring to the table, aside from looks and presence? Geographically, not much. John Kerry won just four counties in Indiana and lost the state by 20 points. Gore lost by 15 in 2000. Bayh is hugely popular in his home state and routinely wins with more than 60% of the vote, but would that popularity translate into electoral votes for his party? With Clinton at the top of the ballot, that would seem unlikely.

Still, strong on the stump, relatively young, and in possession of looks that rival those of John Edwards, Bayh might be a good choice for someone like Clinton or Edwards. Indiana borders Illinois, which would seem to take him out of contention for Barack Obama's second-place spot, but Bill Clinton (Arkansas) and Al Gore (Tennessee) might have a different view.

Mark Warner brings what Bayh might not: The chance to win a state Democrats don't normally win. Virginia has voted for just one Republican for one of the state's top three jobs since 2001, and that was Senator John Warner. Mark remains hugely popular in his state, and if Virginia is, in fact, a purple state up for grabs in 2008 (a fact subject to much debate), his name on the ballot could help Democrats pick up new electoral votes. But it could be John Warner, the man Mark lost to in the 1996 Senate race, who makes it impossible to choose the former governor. The subject of numerous retirement rumors, if John Warner decides against another term, the pressure on Mark Warner to step in and run for his seat would be tremendous. Democrats hold a tenuous 51-49 lead in the Senate, and Mark Warner would be an instant front-runner against any potential Republican nominee. If the Democratic presidential nominee starts considering Mark Warner, they may get a very nasty phone call from DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer.

Warner's experience, both as governor and in the private sector, would bolster any of the top Democrats, none of whom have executive experience. But Virginia borders Edwards' home state of North Carolina, and Warner's lack of foreign policy experience might be seen as a liability by Obama's veep search team. Warner, if John Warner decides to run again, could be a vice presidential contender for Clinton.

Given the Democrats' enthusiasm about the Mountain West, other names could show up on short lists as well. Montana's Brian Schweitzer, the gregarious gun-loving fiscal conservative and social libertarian, or Wyoming's Dave Freudenthal, the quiet, competent executive, are names that will be mentioned for some position or other before the cycle is over.

Democrats look almost certain to nominate a Senator, while just one of the top three Republican candidates (Mr. Thompson of Tennessee) has any Congressional experience. For Democrats, finding an outside-the-beltway candidate for the number two slot may be essential, while for the GOP it may not be such a concern. But with Washington viewed as poorly as it is by the rest of America, the GOP nominee will almost certainly want to choose someone untarnished with the "Congressional Republican" tag, and governors from around the nation are perfect choices to round out the ticket.

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