Pin the VP on the Elephant: McCain's Short List

Figuring out who John McCain is going to select as a vice president this early in the game is very difficult -- not just because Johnny Mac really is a maverick who could make an unpredictable choice, but because there are so many different directions he can go. Will he choose a vice president who can help him patch things up with conservatives or will he go the other way and choose someone who would broaden his appeal to independents? Will McCain pick a veep who will add strength to the ticket as a whole or will he narrow his focus and take someone who can help in a particular state or demographic group?

It's hard to say, which is why McCain's "short list" may still almost be in double digits and would likely include:

Charlie Crist: Crist is a popular Florida governor who would likely assure that the vitally important Sunshine State stayed red. However, his appeal beyond Florida would be minimal and he would need to be heavily vetted. Additionally, given that this looks to be shaping up as another close election at the presidential level and that the field will be heavily tilted towards the Democrats, selecting a veep who would merely make sure that Florida stays in the Republican column doesn't seem to be an ambitious enough goal.

Lindsey Graham: Graham is a frightening character because he is widely disliked by conservatives (with good reason), yet he has played Robin to McCain's Batman so many times that it would be very easy to imagine McCain selecting him as VP.

On the upside, Graham has served in the military and if he were to run for the vice presidency, conservatives would be happy because it means that they will get him out of the Senate where he has generally been a hindrance. On the downside, he would add absolutely nothing else to the ticket.

Mike Huckabee: Recent reports put Mike Huckabee at the top of John McCain's VP short list.

This is a bit puzzling because McCain and Huckabee would seem to be a very poor match. McCain doesn't need Huck's strength in the South and, unfortunately, most of the same conservatives who don't like McCain, also don't like Huckabee. Additionally, Huckabee has proven to be distressingly gaffe-prone.

That being said, Huckabee is extremely charismatic, understands how to connect with middle-class and poor voters in a way many Republicans don't, and has done well with social conservatives. Still, those pluses don't seem to make up for the weaknesses he would bring to the #2 slot.

Joe Lieberman: Every election there's always some sort of "fusion" ticket suggested by pundits. In fact, back in 2000, John McCain was suggested as part of a fusion ticket himself, when he discussed the veep slot with his friend John Kerry.

However, this year it's conceivable that it could actually happen. Lieberman has a rock solid reputation on national security issues, he strongly appeals to independents, and he would probably pull in a large slice of the Jewish vote, which is small but vitally important in a few key states.

On the other hand, outside of his national security views, Lieberman is a fairly conventional liberal and adding him onto the ticket would further aggravate conservatives who are already terribly demoralized.

Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty, the conservative, 47 year-old Minnesota governor, would be an intriguing choice for the veep slot because he would likely put Minnesota in play and could possibly help turn Wisconsin red as well. Whether McCain will select Pawlenty or not is of cours unknown, but you can be sure that he will get serious consideration for the position.

Rob Portman: Portman is a former Ohio congressman and director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush. His appeal would be his credibility on economics and the boost he could conceivably give McCain in Ohio. However, his ties to the Bush Administration wouldn't be helpful. Moreover, does Portman really have enough sway to guarantee that Ohio stays red? That seems like a dubious proposition at best, so you can be sure the McCain campaign would do enough polling to be sure before they asked Portman to join the ticket.

Condi Rice: Condi would be intriguing choice because she has foreign policy experience, is well known, and could conceivably appeal to women and black Americans.

However, Condi has never run for office before, hasn't distinguished herself as secretary of state, is closely associated with the wildly unpopular Bush administration, and would be portrayed either as weird or a lesbian by the media because she's in her fifties and is unmarried.

Tom Ridge: Ridge is a longtime friend of McCain who spent a decade in the House, was governor of Pennsylvania, and the first homeland security secretary. On the other hand, he doesn't have a reputation as a staunch conservative, he's closely connected with the Bush administration, and whether he could carry Pennsylvania is unknown. If Ridge could turn Pennsylvania red, despite his other flaws, McCain would almost have to seriously consider him.

Mitt Romney: The former governor of Massachusetts didn't look as if he brought much to the table a few months ago, but changing circumstances have made him a more attractive option.

Romney seemed to be skilled fund raiser, while McCain has struggled in that area. Michigan, where Romney's father was a popular Governor, seems to be turning into a swing state that will be in play for the election. Moreover, as the economy has soured, Romney's business success has begun to look like more of an asset.

On the other hand, although conservatives seemed to warm up to Romney late in the game, he is still intensely disliked in some quarters and how much of a minus his religion would be if he held the veep slot isn't known, although you can be certain the McCain campaign would do plenty of polling to find out before they gave Mitt the nod.

Mark Sanford: South Carolina probably isn't going to be in play in 2008, but its governor, Mark Sanford, is a strong McCain supporter with a ferociously conservative reputation. Sanford is in his forties, would help secure McCain's right flank, and would help him in the South. Is that enough to merit a selection as McCain's VP? That remains to be seen.

Bobby Jindal: Jindal is an intriguing, yet unlikely choice. He's intriguing because he's eloquent, conservative, well liked on the Right, and the son of Indian immigrants. However, he would seem to be an unlikely choice because he was just elected as governor of Louisiana in 2007 and is only 36-years-old.

In a campaign where Barack Obama's inexperience is going to be a much discussed campaign issue, it is hard to imagine McCain selecting a running mate as green as Jindal. However, he has been invited to spend Memorial Day weekend with John McCain at his home, so apparently he is being seriously considered for the VP slot.