Why are Mike Huckabee and Bill Richardson no longer being touted for VP?
Today’s front page of the Wall Street Journal leads with claims that both Obama and McCain are about to announce their VP choices in the coming week. They give a list of prospective candidates on the ‘Narrow List’ that everyone here will be familiar with from our discussions.
For McCain, Governors Pawlenty (MN), Crist (FL) and Palin (AK) join Carly Fiorina (CEO of HP), fmr Governor Mitt Romney (MA), Senator John Thune (SD) and former Congressman Rob Portman of Ohio are considered the frontrunners.
Obama is said to be looking primarily at five of his Senate colleagues – Bayh (IN), Dodd (CT), Biden (DE), Clinton (NY), and Jack Reed (RI) – along with Govs Tim Kaine (VA) and Kathleen Sebelius (KS).
This list is typical of the general consensus in the media at the moment – there are hundreds of these lists, and the variance is rarely very great, usually just the inclusion of a slightly quirky choice (Gov Schweitzer of MT, or Sen Olympia Snowe of ME). All are reasonably strong candidates, and I am sure they have all been considered. There are many other candidates who have fallen by the wayside thanks to their near-Shermanesque denials that they would accept – Gov Bobby Jindal (LA) and Sen Jim Webb (VA) come first to mind.
What strikes me as interesting is that there are two men who I would have expected to be in the final two or three for each party, who have been completely sidelined in recent weeks.
The first is Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico – a Mayor, Congerssman, Ambassador to the UN, special negotiator with North Korea and Iraq, Secretary of Energy under President Clinton, now a second-term South-Western Governor. He is popular, articulate, Hispanic (but without an overtly Hispanic name), experienced, likeable, and clever. He has run for President, and has been vetted by the media more than many other contenders.
The second is former-Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. He came second in the GOP Presidential primary process, is popular amongst Christians (even if his approach to spending does not always endear him to fiscal conservatives), an excellent public speaker, extremely likeable (he epitomises the folksiness that Americans like in GW Bush, but in a way intelligeable even to Europeans), and was the candidate that John McCain seemed to dislike the least.
I don’t think either man will actually be chosen – Richardson is probably being lined up for Secretary of State, and Huckabee does not have the fundraising record that I think will be a key consideration for McCain – but I am interested that they are publically (if you can describe ‘leaks’ as public) not being mooted.
Announcing a VP inevitably involves a degree of secrecy – GHW Bush deliberately kept Dan Quayle’s name off any lists until he was announced – which makes me wonder if these two men are in fact being seriously considered. If they are not, I don’t see why their names wouldn’t be leaked just to add confusion and another layer to the smoke-screen, given that both would be considered completely plausible.
What I like about both men is that, even beyond their talents and qualities, both would be excellent on the campaign trail, would be able and loyal vice-Presidents, and yet have also clearly demonstrated that the are serious contenders to take the Oval Office themselves further down the line. Both began with shaky Presidential Campaigns, but adapted to the media circus and evolved into respected challengers.
My hunch still tells me that Tim Kaine or Evan Bayh are most likely for Obama, and Tim Pawlenty (the personal-loyalty choice) might only lose out to Mitt Romney (for executive experience in domestic policy, and for fundraising). To those who doubt that the animosity between Romney and McCain has been resolved, I think a look at the relationship between Bob Dole and Jac Kemp probably best illustrates the GOP’s preparedness to choose pragmatically.
So, in spite of myself, I remain intrigued as to why two of the most appealing candidates for the VP job, who have gone out of their way to avoid denying they want the job, are being completely ignored in the final stretch. Maybe, just maybe, they are being kept out of the spotlight for a reason.