Barack Obama is on tour in the Middle East and in Europe with a horde of journalists following his every move. This explains why he is currently dominating the news back home and inviting charges of media bias from the McCain camp. Meanwhile, Senator McCain is embroiled in a controversy with the New York Times regarding an op-ed piece. The emphasis has been on national security issues and economy in recent weeks and candidates have carefully laid out their different positions. Through it all, the choice for vice president in both campaigns has been relegated to the back burner. Until now.
Perhaps in a bid to get more media coverage, the McCain campaign allowed a rumour to circulate that the Republican nominee might be selecting his running mate as early as this week. This blog agrees with most pundits that this is unlikely. Should McCain act this early, it would not set a precedent; in 1976, Ronald Reagan chose his running mate weeks before the convention, as did John Kerry in 2004. Still, the usual approach is to keep it close to the convention or during the convention for tactical reasons. It would be a mistake for McCain to act while Obama is dominating the headlines. After all, whomever is chosen is bound to stir up controversy.
This being said, it is useful to once again look at the leading candidates for the veep position as we are nearing the last four weeks prior to the first convention of the season to be held by the Democrats in Denver starting August 25. For the Republicans, the most prominent names include Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Charles Crist of Florida, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carla Fiorillo, and former governor Mitt Romney. Each brings advantages to the ticket to offset some of the disadvantages of the McCain candidacy. The age factor, his lack of economic expertise, and the need to capture some key states seem to be factors supporting these candidacies. My bet at this stage would be on Tim Pawlenty because he appeals to the evangelical base, is young, and reinforces Minnesota’s potential as a swing state. Finally, Pawlenty is a close confidant of Senator McCain’s, which reinforces the notion of a new, cohesive team to replace the Bush-Cheney tandem.
The Democrats still have Hillary Clinton as the first choice in most polls. No surprise here, but it is still highly unlikely she will be chosen. The leading choices emerging in recent days are Senator Evan Bayh, a Clinton supporter and Indiana senator; Joe Biden, a senator from Maryland Delaware and a foreign relations expert; and Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, a close confidant of Obama’s and the governor of a swing state. Other names include outgoing Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican currently travelling with Obama; and Sam Nunn, the former Georgia Senator. At this stage, the selection of Bayh would appear to have many advantages. It would reinforce the generational change theme, would appeal to Clinton supporters, and would add a foreign relations expert to Obama’s team—not to mention Bayh’s status as a beloved representative of a swing state.
It is highly likely that, by mid-August, the two presidential candidates will have made their most important decision. The vice-president is next in line should tragedy occur and, while few running mates have made a difference in election outcomes, it is obvious that the choice will be indicative of the judgment of the future president. This is why in the hot days of summer it is important to remember the veepstakes.