Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain will raise money, travel abroad to strengthen his foreign policy credentials, and begin thinking about his choice for running mate over the coming weeks, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight over the Democratic nomination, aides say. “ 'While those two are throwing deck chairs at each other, he'll look like the president,' says a senior adviser to McCain. (The Washington Times) McCain, who will be the oldest first-term president if elected, said this week he had just had a complete health check, and “everything’s fine.” (The Arizona Republic)
What the commentators said
McCain’s age “inevitably invites questions about whether his running mate would be a suitable president,” said Gerald Seib in The Wall Street Journal, so youth and experience will be crucial in picking the perfect VP. McCain’s “vice-presidential sidekick” will have to be “a younger politician who is viewed as a potential president, and also can help win the South, woo social conservatives, and shore up Sen. McCain's weaknesses on economic policy. Oh, and being a woman would be nice, too.”
The pick should also make front-page news, said Star Parker in the Boston Herald, because it will be tough for McCain to get free publicity while the Democrats brawl. Selecting former Arkansas governor and presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee as his running mate would do the trick. And the choice would also “shore up the large evangelical base and give positive content to a campaign defined primarily by fighting terrorism.”
No, Huckabee would only magnify McCain’s trouble with conservatives, said Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. The list of “plausible presidents” is short, and includes just Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Tom Ridge, and Joe Lieberman. And Romney -- a former Massachusetts governor who is acceptable to conservatives -- has the “best ratio of virtues to drawbacks. But there's just one problem: McCain doesn't like him.”
There are plenty of other names out there for him to consider, said Hendrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker. At the top of the list: Governors Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota; Charlie Crist, of Florida; Jon Huntsman, Jr., of Utah; and Mark Sanford, of South Carolina. “What shines through this list of names is the banality of the calculations behind it.” If McCain really wants to “refurbish his maverick image,” “galvanize the attention of the press, the nation, and the world,” and “make a bold play for the center without seriously alienating ‘the base’” — he might choose Condoleezza Rice.
McCain will have to be “bold,” said William Kristol in The New York Times (free registration), but that doesn’t mean he’ll face a shortage of options. “He could pick a hawkish and principled Democrat like Joe Lieberman,” or “he could reach beyond the usual bevy of elected officials by tapping either David Petraeus or Raymond Odierno — the two generals who turned around the Iraq war. Or “he could persuade the most impressive conservative in American public life, Clarence Thomas, to join the ticket.” That would make headlines.
“Clarence Thomas? As Vice President?” said Steve Benen in The Carpetbagger Report blog. “I suppose it’s possible that Kristol is thinking about the racial dynamic — if Obama is on the Democratic ticket, Republicans might want “balance” for their ticket — but if Clarence Thomas is “the most impressive conservative in American public life,” the right is in much deeper trouble than I’d realized.”