Veep Thoughts

The person for the job: Someone who appeals to workaday voters

The election will be won or lost in the swing industrial states of
the Midwest--Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, and also Pennsylvania. If
Dems have a shot at other job-losing states, like the Carolinas, it
will also be because the ticket has credibility with workaday voters.
Good candidates: Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.
Also John Edwards -- but only if polls show that he really pulls with
working-class voters better than he did in most primaries. Totally
Wall Street and totally wrong: Bob Rubin.

-- Bob Kuttner

John Edwards: Cute kids and youthful energy

His pitch-perfect farewell speech reminded me just how far he has come in the past year. The “Two Americas” mantra would play well in key Rust Belt states hit hard by job losses in manufacturing. Empathetically addressing the hardships of working families -- inadequate health care, an unfair share of the tax burden, the high cost of college -- has always been his strong suit. And Edwards has a very traditional-looking family, complete with two young, cute children -- always a plus (especially in light of the very adult, very posh Kerry-Heinz family amalgam).

-- Ayelish McGarvey

I'd like to see a vice-presidential debate between dynamic youth and bloated age. As chiefs sheriff of the “Mayberry Machiavellis,” Dick Cheney isn't going to fall to a retired general or a grandfather figure. A fresh face like Edwards, though, could take him down. My slogan: “Do you want a vice president to take the president's orders or give them?” Besides, John Edwards' incredible energy balances John Kerry's fatigue. Putting the two of them together would sound a rebuke from George W. Bush's whole generation: “Mr. Bush, return our government! Stop handing it over to ghouls from the Ford administration!”

-- Mark Greif

Jim Jeffords: A forthright, honest politician

Kerry needs to attract lapsed Republicans, so why not run with one? Jeffords
became an independent in 2001, betrayed by modern Republicans' abandonment of
social responsibility. He left the Republican Party over, of all things, the underfunding of special education. Could there be a better poster boy for the split between the compassionates and the conservatives? It's true that he fails the regional balancing test,
but he'd boost centrist acceptance of the ticket without compromising liberal credibility.

-- Jeff Dubner

John Lewis: A civil-rights leader who put his life on the line

I suppose I'm already on record as supporting Edwards, on the theory that he could pull votes out of Republican bastions in crucial swing states (e.g., any Democrat would do well in south Florida, but Edwards can win votes in the GOP territory of central and north Florida). But just for the sake of argument, I'll throw a weird, interesting, long-shot, and diametrically opposite candidate into the mix: Representative John Lewis of Georgia. The first black vice-presidential candidate? It has to happen sometime, and probably will soon. It's not impossible that it could happen this year, in fact, but in the other party (Condoleezza Rice subbing for a benched Dick Cheney). And the TV show 24 has already performed the cultural conditioning and gotten America used to the idea that a black man can be the president. Does Lewis bring the ticket Georgia? In all likelihood, no. But imagine black turnout across America: Studies suggest that approximately eleventy gajillion African Americans would register to vote. In states with urban-rural divides and sizeable black populations -- Ohio, Florida, Missouri -- that could be decisive. Besides, what a life story: courageous civil-rights leader, put his life on the line to transform the country, showed faith in the system he once fought by going on to hold elective office. In short, a genuine hero -- which would mean two heroes on one ticket.

-- Michael Tomasky

New Mexico's Bill Richardson -- or maybe even John McCain

New Mexico's governor is a two-fer, or maybe even a
First, Richardson has one of the more impressive resumes in
public life -- congressman, Energy Secretary and United Nations
Ambassador in the Clinton Administration, and now swing-state governor --
that bespeaks a high level of experience in foreign policy and national
security. He knows from Korea and Gaza no less than from roads and
bridges. Second, as a Latino, Richardson would help Kerry lock down a
key and growing constituency that Bush is furiously trying to woo. (One
of W.'s first four ads is in Spanish.) As well, Richardson's status as a
Latino and the governor of a southwestern state could not only secure
New Mexico for the Democrats (Gore carried it by a whopping 365 votes in
2000) but the nearby and increasingly Latino states of Arizona, Colorado,
and Nevada as well. Richardson helps across the board, racially and
regionally. Who could ask for anything more?

There is, of course, one other candidate who could burnish the
Democrats' security bona fides and help in the Southwest: Kerry's buddy,
Arizona Senator John McCain. And the contrast on Vietnam service between
McCain and Dick Cheney (who won five (5), count 'em, five (5) separate
draft deferments to keep himself out of the war) dwarfs that between
Kerry and Bush. Yeah, yeah, McCain's a Republican, but a national unity
ticket is surely an appropriate response to this administration of
radical pretenders.

-- Harold Meyerson

Kathleen Sebelius: Centrist from the Midwest

OK, her name was misspelled in a front-page New York Times article about possible vice-presidential candidates (it's Sebelius, Mr. Purdum, not Sibelius). But she's known in certain circles: Marie Wilson, for example, the head of the Ms. Foundation for Women, thinks highly of her and says Sebelius could someday run for president. And as a New Democrat, she's already won the governorship of Kansas, which is no mean feat (the state has 743,000 Republicans, according to The Kansas City Star, and 441,000 Democrats). A sturdy midwesterner who can deal with tornadoes, floods, and Republicans, she's a perfect match for a Massachusetts liberal.

-- Tara McKelvey

Tom Vilsack: An attack dog from Iowa

This is in keeping with the theory that governors know how to talk to people better than senators. He gets you the swing state of Iowa and probably helps in neighboring Missouri and Wisconsin. Then there's the attack-dog factor, which is needed in a veep. Here's what Vilsack said last week about the president: "This is an administration that seems to have a tin ear to the pleas of the unemployed, by failing to extend unemployment benefits when we have chronically unemployed people; does not have an aggressive manufacturing policy or program to restart and rebuild the manufacturing economy in this country, or replace it with something better. This is an administration that does not adequately fund its own education initiative, which means that children will, in fact, be left behind. This is an administration that provides a prescription-drug bill that really provides more assistance for pharmaceutical companies than it does senior citizens."

-- Terence Samuel

No legacy candidates: The nominee should be self-made

I don't know who'd make the best vice president, but I do know who shouldn't be on the ticket: Birch Evans Bayh III or Hillary Clinton. The spirit of democracy is tainted by the continuing dominance of political legacies in office. Bayh may have a fresh face, but he is not new blood. And Clinton, who's said she has no interest in the vice-presidential spot anyway, owes her political success to her husband's career. After four years of Bush, it's time for the reign of the legacies to end. The veep should be someone who is self-made. Heck, if you want a one-term senator, John Edwards is your (self-made) man. And if you want a female one-term senator, there's the capable Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. She's just as well-spoken as Edwards and has a personal story -- she gave up her congressional seat when pregnant with twins and then went on to become the first female senator from Arkansas since 1932 -- that would appeal to traditionalists and feminists alike. Sure, she's a little on the conservative side, but having a centrist on the ticket might be good for Kerry. She's the one, after all, who turned the child tax credit into a political issue that worked for the Dems last year. Also, she's got a great down-home way of talking that takes the big things and breaks them down for regular people. In a debate, Cheney could talk about big ideas, such as freedom and democracy, but she'd challenge him with anecdotes about how we're shortchanging our troops in Iraq so badly that their mothers have to send them blankets, and that they're drinking water out of the Euphrates River because their rations are too low. She's pro-military and pro-military families. On the other hand, if Bayh really could help Kerry win, that would forestall a possible clash between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in 2008. And that's one legacy grudge match the nation could really do without.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta