As I've said before, the strategist in me says that all the names trotted out there, and all the ones that appeared on Barack's "short list," are feints to divert attention from the actual running mate. Kaine looks pretty good, and looked damn good this week on MTP, and Clinton has her obvious advantages (and almost as obvious disadvantages), but I have an extraordinarily hard time believing that Obama would see Sebelius, Bayh, Biden, Dodd, Hagel, Reed, Nunn, or Chet Edwards as compelling choices. They all ring of "safe" picks that won't bring a lot of negatives, but also aren't exciting enough to bring a lot of "bounce," either (Hagel, in fact, would be an embarrassment down the road: he's very nearly the most conservative Senator in the whole damn Congress, Iraq War aside, and would you want that guy to be your tie-breaker in the Senate?).
So I'm going to construct an alternate list that I think is a little more risky, but has a little more potential payoff for a campaign that knows what it's doing. My general criteria are these: they should jive well with the message of "change," they should be respected voices but not perceived as "Washington establishment," they need to be seen as bold personalities that stand for their convictions but are also pragmatic and willing to compromise, and they need to have clean hands on Iraq (either opposed it or at least were not vocally pro-war). Few of the candidates are perfect. Hillary Clinton fails on a number of these criteria, but she brings so many other positives that I cannot see leaving her off of any short list (not to mention, she's been strangely quiet for some time now, and any speculation in her direction has been awfully scrupulously tamped down). Colin Powell also fails spectacularly on a number of counts, but for some reason people really want to see him redeemed and, more importantly, still trust him now that he's left the Administration, and the massive bounce generated from his name plus the national security cred plus the bipartisan thing earns him a spot on the list. They proceed from smaller names who could build support over time to the bigger household that would generate a lot of buzz but often carry bigger risks:
Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana
Russ Feingold, Senator from Wisconsin
Eric Shinseki, former 4-star general
Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia
Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia
Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York
...and what the hell, let's throw one in from way out of left field...
And what's the fun of these events if you don't try to predict them? I'm going with Schweitzer. Or Kaine. What do you think?