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John McCain's veepstakes

John McCain must envy Barack Obama. The Illinois senator needs a running mate who does just three things: Appeal to centrists and moderates, bolster his foreign-policy weak spot and not turn off the base. Plenty of potential VPs can do that.

McCain, meanwhile, needs a running mate who can do roughly a dozen things: reassure skittish evangelicals, deliver a key state, shore up his weakness on economics, appeal to swing voters, attract women, be an acceptable conservative standard-bearer, add energy to the ticket, and on and on. ... Yet no potential veep can do all of these things, and only a few can do most of them. The advantage for McCain is that, as the stodgy underdog, he has to think big, while the perhaps too-exciting Obama seems sure to play it safe. To follow: a guide to the most-discussed candidates for the job.

 Appeals toAlienatesRisk factorBottom line

Former Gov. Mitt Romney
R-Massachusetts
Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing wonkosphere, Mormons, CEOs, McCain-wary Bush donors, millionaires with important hairJohn McCain







Low. Though he could exponentially increase the "Hey, look at the dull white guys!" factor

Safest of the bold picks







Former Rep. Rob Portman
R-Ohio. Director of the Office of Management and Budget, 2005-07
Indispensable Ohio voters, free traders, conservative establishment, C-SPAN junkies







Protectionists












Low in terms of skeletons or gaffes; high on the may-bore-voters-into-a-stupor scale







The responsible choice if McCain was ahead by 20 points, but probably really can't deliver Ohio





Sen. Joe Lieberman
I-Connecticut
Independents, hawks, swing Dems, Jews, Israel supporters, neocons

Left-wing bloggers, Republicans who'd like at least one GOP loyalist on the ticket

High: For every swing voter he lures, two conservatives might be turned off

Better to save him for secretary of Defense or State



Gov. Charlie Crist
R-Florida
Valuable Florida voters, non-ideological Republicans, Greek Americans



People who still don't understand why he's on the shortlist, fans of natural tanning



Medium-High: Too many potential surprises from the just-got-engaged governor
McCain's been doing OK in Florida, so why bother?




Former Gov. Mike Huckabee
R-Arkansas
Pro-government evangelicals, pro-lifers, Southerners, working-class populists



Economic conservatives, the conservative establishment, and me personally



High: Would suck up McCain's oxygen while promising to raise taxes on people who don't laugh at his jokesGOP doesn't need a Lonesome Rhodes character as its heir-apparent



Gov. Haley Barbour
R-Mississippi
Conservative establishment, K Street, Southerners, NASCAR dads



Moderates, centrists, Southernphobes





Medium: Former K Street warlord would undermine McCain's reformer appealA one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest stands a better chance


Gov. Bobby Jindal
R-Louisiana
Conservative wonks, Indian Americans, media, nearly everyone else



Whippersnapper-phobes






Low: Great reform credentials and identity politics oomph. Little foreign policy experienceGreat for the GOP. Still, could look like McCain's intern




Gov. Sarah Palin
R-Alaska
Women, pro-lifers, visually unimpaired heterosexual men, pro-Hillary swing voters






Alaska's kleptocracy










Medium: Provincial political experience and no foreign policy; putting her young kids through the wringer may not fly


Savvy former beauty queen from the most outsider state has a great story and solid pro-life credentials; could be a home run

Carly Fiorina
McCain advisor, former Hewlett-Packard chief
Women, media, Chamber of Commerce crowd





Conservatives who think a record of conservatism is really important





High: Smooth talker, too smooth; never say "Viagra" in connection with oldest candidate ever


If McCain goes for a woman, she seems to be his favorite






Sen. Tom Coburn
R-Oklahoma
Barack Obama, social conservatives, GOP rank and file



Independents, moderates, swing Democrats





Medium: Delivers no states; makes Bob Portman seem sexy



Would rev up the base and bolster McCain's pork-buster rep


Sen. John Thune
R-South Dakota
Republicans who loved seeing him take out Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004



Anyone who didn't







Low: Attractive, relatively safe






Earmarking junior senator doesn't help the McCain narrative



Rep. Marsha Blackburn
R-Tennessee
Everyone who says, "If only Tom Coburn was female"



Liberals who think conservative women are traitors



Low: She'd please the base while putting the gender card in play

The safest of the female picks





Former Gov. Jeb Bush
R- Florida
Bush loyalists, Floridians, Latinos, GOP establishment, wonks, many conservatives



Those inclined to self-immolate at the prospect of hearing the name "Bush" for 4 to 16 more years



Stratospheric: Best governor of either party in 20 years, with reform cred and Latino crossover appeal, but ...... Would-be self-immolators outnumber Bush loyalists by 5 to 1



Gov. Tim Pawlenty
R-Minnesota
John McCain, moderates, reformers, wonks, Minnesota-based conservative bloggers


The many who think conservative reform is a Trojan horse for "me-too Republicanism"




Medium: Popular, hockey-playing coiner of the buzzphrase "Sam's Club Republican" couldn't deliver own stateMost plausible of the reformer veeps






Tom Ridge
Former Pennsylvania governor and secretary of Homeland Security
Tom Ridge, Pennsylvanians, pro-choice Republicans, pro-nuclear-freeze Republicans, fans of color-coded terror


Conservatives who have looked at his post-Vietnam War record






High: The only argument anyone makes is that he could carry Pennsylvania





If he can't deliver the Keystone State, "Sexier than Arlen Specter" won't wow the base



Jonah Goldberg, a weekly Op-Ed columnist and editor at large for National Review Online, is the author of "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning."Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

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