Ten Best: Vice-presidential picks

by Amy Kingsley

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

The junior senator from New York ended her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination less than a week and a half ago. During her run, she built a coalition of white working-class and women voters that nearly put her over the top. The easiest way for Sen. Barack Obama to bring these folks back into the Democratic fold would be to tap Clinton for veep. The guy’s smart enough to know that such a move would bring a lot of baggage – including a doughy, womanizing Arkansan by the name of Bill.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.)

Crist earned the nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” as a freshman state senator in the early 1990s thanks to his vocal support for forced rock-busting as criminal rehabilitation. A moderate with tough-on-crime, easy-on-the-environment positions, Crist leads a critical swing state and has stumped for Sen. John McCain since 2006. Those are the pros. The cons include very little credibility with the Christian conservatives. The voters who put Bush over the top in 2004 will be put off by rumors the unmarried Crist is gay, a deadbeat dad, or both.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)

The governor of Louisiana was the youngest sitting state executive in the country when he was elected in October 2007. His age, 36, might offset worries about McCain’s health. Jindal is Indian American, a rarity in national and Louisiana politics. Jindal’s voting record reflects his Catholic values – he converted from Hinduism when he was in high school. He is pro-life, opposed to embryonic stem cell research and for teaching intelligent design in schools.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)

Webb is this week’s fashionable pick for Democratic veep. The former Republican and Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan is politically grounded in national security, which is one of Obama’s perceived weaknesses. He might also help the Illinois senator woo white, working-class voters, particularly in Appalachia where Webb has family. Women might not be so keen on the man, who once urged Congress to keep service academies closed to females.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee(R-Ark.)

Huckabee folded his underfunded presidential campaign early in the primary, after he helped McCain knock off loathsome former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The only major presidential candidate to declare his belief in Creationism is also a hit among Bible believers in the South and elsewhere. Unfortunately for McCain, the hammy Huckabee doesn’t always stay within the lines of acceptable political discourse. In the age of YouTube, it only takes one Obama assassination gaffe to sink a campaign.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)

Before Obama struggled with white, working class voters, he struggled with Hispanics. This became less obvious as the primary limped in its last weeks through Appalachia, the South and the Midwest. Richardson, a Hispanic governor with strong diplomatic credentials, might bring wary Latinos into the fold. Then again, he might not.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Putting Rice on the Republican ticket – even in the second spot – sure would take the shine off Obama’s historic ascendance to the top of a major party ticket. It’s hard to dispute Rice’s brilliance and political savvy, but she belongs to one of the least popular administrations in American history. Her presence would carry the stain of the George W. Bush presidency, something McCain doesn’t need.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-New York)

A lifelong Democrat who switched parties to run for mayor in 2001, Bloomberg declared himself an Independent in the middle of last year, fueling speculation of third-party presidential ambitions. He ended these rumors in February, but pundits from both major political parties have eyed him as a potential financial and political asset. It’s unclear whether American voters are ready for a Democratic ticket composed of an African-American and a Jewish man from New York City, which might make him more attractive to the McCain camp.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)

If McCain wants to reassert his strength with the American electorate’s wide, swishy center, he could do worse than Lieberman, a conservative Jew who shared the ticket with Al Gore in 2000. He shares McCain’s commitment to continuing the war in Iraq, and his religious conviction resonates with a lot of churchgoing voters. He’ll be speaking at the Republican National Convention, whether his words will include an acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination is still a matter of speculation.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.)

During her two terms as state Insurance Commissioner, Sebelius cleaned house – removing corporate influence from an office plagued by it. Her success catapulted her to the governor’s mansion in a solidly Republican state. A ticket that includes Sebelius might appeal to a lot of Clinton supporters stung by the senator’s recent concession. Whether she’ll have the same affect on the mountain folk is another question altogether.