Monday, February 25, 2008

GOP Veep Stakes, and the winner is?

GOP Veep Stakes

Charlie Crist
The popular Florida governor might lock up the Sunshine State for McCain early on. (AP File photo)

* Charlie Crist: Less than two years after winning election as the governor of Florida, Crist is already being talked up in Republican circles as a potential VP. (The St. Petersburg Times even has a Charlie Crist veep-o-meter measuring his chances. In retrospect, McCain's win in Florida was the tipping point in his bid for the nomination, and that victory was fueled in no small part by a last-minute endorsement from Crist. One strike against Crist is that he isn't regarded by movement conservatives as one of them.

* Jon Huntsman Jr.: Huntsman, the governor of Utah, is the dark horse pick of this list. His original endorsement was seen a major coup for McCain -- Huntsman is Mormon, thus his support was seen as a slap at Mitt Romney. Huntsman also has significant chops among the Reagan/Bush crowd; he served in both Bush administrations and was a staff assistant in the Reagan White House in the early 1980s. Did we mention he is the son of the wealthiest man in Utah?

* Tim Pawlenty: The two-term Minnesota governor has to be considered the frontrunner at the moment to be McCain's pick. He hails from the electorally important Midwest, is young enough to balance concerns about McCain's age, and he stuck by the Arizona senator in the darkest days of the campaign. The criticism that Pawlenty is an unknown on the national stage may, in fact, be an argument in his favor -- voters won't bring any preconceived notions about him to the ticket. Never forget that one of the guiding principles in picking a VP is to find someone who is comfortable being seen but not heard. Want more about the man they call "Tpaw"? Make sure to read Jonathan Martin's profile of the man.

* Mark Sanford: If Tpaw is the top choice these days, Sanford isn't far behind. Term-limited out of office in 2010, Sanford is young (47) and the rare Republican who can bridge the chasm between social and economic conservatives. Sanford was an early endorser of McCain during the latter's 2000 presidential candidacy and, even though he stayed neutral this year, retains a good relationship with McCain. Fiscal conservatives -- led by the Club For Growth -- LOVE Sanford and have already begun lobbying on his behalf.

* John Thune: A rising star in the party, Thune is a hero to conservatives for defeating Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.) in 2004. He also hails from the Plains -- a potentially competitive area with Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin up for grabs. Thune, like Sanford and Pawlenty, is in his 40s, helping McCain offset any concerns about his age.

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