The list looks generally credible to me, but conspicuously excludes a couple top candidates, and curiously includes several dubious picks.
Obama's fab-14 list of potential running mates, per MSNBC, are:
- The Governors
- Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas - She's on everyone's list, except that of a handful of Hillary aficionados who weirdly insist that "it would be an insult to women" if Obama chose any woman but Clinton.
Popular, interesting, superbly competent, moderate yet strongly pro-choice, a Democratic-blue governor elected twice in Republican-red Kansas. What's not to like? Ever-astute Camille Paglia smartly observed this week:
"Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is Obama's best bet. She is a polished public presence who epitomizes that cordial, smoothly reassuring, and blandly generic WASPiness that has persistently defined the American power structure in business and government and that has weirdly resisted wave after wave of immigration since the mid-19th century. An Obama-Sebelius pairing would be visually vibrant and radiant, like a new day dawning."
- Former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia - A successful, popular one-term governor from a crucial state, Warner was briefly an '08 presidential candidate, but is now running for the Senate in 2008. This gifted politico and business wunderkind who shares Bill Clinton's love of campaigning led an extraordinary economic turnaround for Virginia. Warner's only drawback may be his long hesitancy to oppose the Iraq War.
- Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia - The current governor of red-turning-purple Virginia, Kaine is more moderate and lesser known nationally than Warner, but is equally popular in the Old Dominion state. A pro-life Catholic who took a year off from law school to work as a missionary in Honduras, Kaine could help Obama draw the Catholic vote that proved so elusive to Obama in the primary race.
- U.S. Senators
- Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York - The pluses are obvious and persuasive: 17 million primary race votes; irresistible appeal to older, white women; staunch support in the Latino community. And she wants the job. But Clinton's negatives are formidable: Bill's tangled, intransparent finances since he left office; her strong negatives with independents and conservatives; and the elephant-in-the-room question: Can Hillary share the stage while peacably filling a second-banana position?
- Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia - Former Navy Secretary under President Reagan, a much-decorated Vietnam War veteran, a pro-gun, virulently anti-Iraq War, populist-leaning leader with a maverick disposition not unlike the younger John McCain. Webb could be just the complement to Obama to draw the white-working class vote to the ticket. Webb could be the right person at exactly the right time.
Early in his career, though, he uttered a few unfortunate sexist comments and was involved in the 1991 Tailhook scandal messiness. And a crucial question is: Is Webb's independent personality suited for the vice presidency?
- Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware - This colorful six-term senator who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee would bring substantial experience and knowledge to the Democratic ticket. But with his longtime lobbyist ties, it's difficult to understand how he exemplifies Obama's message of "change" and moving away from the same old politics. And the question must be asked: Would Biden's ebullient personality and bluntly outspoken ways overshadow the more methodical Obama?
- Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut - Dodd is an outstanding senator and former Democratic party chair who speaks fluent Spanish, learned in his youthful years as a Peace Corps volunteer. As Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Dodd brings economic policy experience to an Obama ticket. If VP Selection Committee Caroline Kennedy holds sway, Dodd, who is ailing Uncle Teddy's BFF, may have an inside track. One drawback: In recent presidential elections, Americans voters don't vote for liberal New Englanders. And I'm not sure Dodd would serve as an effective foil to Obama's elitist label.
- Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida - Really? Well, I suppose the two-term senator might deliver Florida to Democrats... but that's a big "maybe." As a devoted Hillary supporter, he might soothe the waters with Clintonites. But he's an incredibly moderate Democrat, not known nationally, and his eight-year Senate record is unremarkable. He's an affable guy, but his appeal outside of Florida is questionable.
- Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts - I liked and voted for John Kerry in 2004, and greatly admire his consistently outspoken stance against the Iraq War and his courageous, principled opposition to the Vietnam War. Kerry was slimed shamelessly in the 2004 presidential election. But his time has passed. He adds nothing to improve Obama's electability to the White House.
- Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana - This former two-term governor of Indiana was dubbed approvingly by the Wall Street Journal as "a genuinely fiscally conservative Democrat." Bayh also headed the pro-free trade, pro-business Democratic Leadership Council, whch is currently out of favor with Democratic rank-and-file. Sen. Bayh was briefly an '08 presidential candidate, but dropped out early for failure to attract attention. Bayh is closely associated with Hillary Clinton, and was one of her most loyal endorsers. While he could possibly deliver red-state Indiana to Obama, his marked lack of charisma is a real minus.
- Sen Jack Reed of Rhode Island - Who??? Army veteran. West Point graduate. House member for six years where he focused on health and education issues. Two-term senator active on the Senate Armed Services, Appropriations, and Banking Committees. Seems nice enough on C-SPAN, albeit as charisma-challenged as Bayh, which is a handicap for national elections. But seriously... who?
- Former U.S. Senators
- Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina - Says he doesn't want it, so why is he on the alleged list? Edwards is all "been there, done that" about the VP slot. Besides, wouldn't he make the perfect Labor Secretary, or possibly Attorney General, for President Obama?
- Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota - This former Senate Majority Leader was defeated for reelection in 2004 after being targeted by the Bush administration, and tagged as "too liberal" for South Dakotans. Since leaving office, he's worked for a K Street Law/lobbyist firm and at Clinton-friendly think tank, Center for American Progress. Too old-style politics for the Obama ticket, and too much of a stylized helmet-hair appeal for the Obama youth movement.
- Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia - Several moderate Republicans have told me that they might vote for an Obama ticket if it includes Sam Nunn. Problem is... until then, I barely knew who he was. Therein lies Nunn's problem. Nunn, a senator for 14 years, left office 12 years ago. Only two years younger than John McCain, Nunn's voting record was one of a southern conservative Democrat who voted with Republicans on innumerable social and economic issues.
On the plus side, Nunn has a distinguished and admirable record of working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and on national security and foreign policy issues. He would bring substantial credibility to an Obama ticket, and strongly draw votes from Republicans opposed to the Iraq war. The question is: Do Democrats want to go this conservative in their VP candidate?
Conspicuously (and wrongly, in my view) missing from Obama's alleged VP short-list:
- Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico... but with his long record of diplomatic coups, he would make a sensational Secretary of State!
- Retired four-star Army General Wesley Clark, an Arkansas native and decorated war veteran with vast southern and midwestern appeal
- Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, a wildly effective two-term pro-economic growth governor who has masterfully handled contentious immigration challenges. If she doesn't capture the VP slot, Obama must find a cabinet post for this smart, talented manager.
(Photo taken of Obama and Webb on June 5, 2008, two days after Obama captured enough votes to win the Democratic '08 nomination: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)