Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) has had a difficult week. He suffered controversy over a comment on the "surge" in Iraq, while his opponent in the presidential election, Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) traveled abroad and received good reviews and positive press coverage.
In the meantime, rumors have surfaced suggesting that McCain plans to announce his vice-presidential pick imminently.
The buzz has swirled around three Republican governors: Florida's Charlie Crist, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Romney has emerged as the favorite. Following a divisive primary campaign, Romney reversed roles and become a loyal soldier. He has used his fundraising prowess to get McCain and the GOP back in the money race. He has a personal fortune that's estimated at more than $250 million, which he earned working for Bain Capital Management, a private-equity firm.
Moreover, Romney ran a campaign centered on uniting the Republican base. He worked hard to appeal to fiscal conservatives and has the strongest background on economics. He spoke strongly on military matters, calling for increased defense spending.
Finally, he talked about his faith. Although he isn't an evangelical Christian, he received good reviews for his comments about religion, which helped downplay fears about his Mormon faith.
Pawlenty's prospects could be improving. He has performed steadily as a McCain surrogate on television and could be an excellent balance to the so-called maverick. Pawlenty is plain-spoken, noncontroversial and 24 years younger than McCain.
Furthermore, his state, Minnesota, could play an important role as a swing state. A
conducted by Quinnipiac University on Thursday measuring Minnesota voters' sentiment showed McCain trailing Obama 44 to 46, up from 37 to 54.
Crist's name also has come up. He endorsed McCain before the Florida primary that put McCain on track to win the nomination. On paper, Florida remains a swing state. But older demographics and an increasingly Republican-leaning electorate already favor McCain. Crist adds little to the ticket at this point.
Political bettors at
concur. They have Romney leading the field with a 33% chance of becoming the nominee. Pawlenty sits in second place with close to a 20% chance, while nobody else in the field rises above 10%.
Obama's overseas trip has overshadowed speculation about whom he'll tap as a running mate. Several prominent choices from key Southern states have removed their names from contention including former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia.
Obama's strategy in selecting a candidate comes down to two options. First, he could choose primary rival Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) in an effort to unite the Democratic Party, while also potentially attracting more female and senior voters. Both voting blocs strongly supported Clinton.
Despite media reports that Clinton has no interest in the job, she's still in the running. She has not publicly removed her name, which signifies she's interested in the position. I think she would take the position if it were offered.
It's also clear that she has been vetted by his vice presidential selection team. Moreover, she has continued to work on behalf of Obama and urged her fundraisers to donate to his campaign.
Second, he could select a male with a middle of the road voting record and foreign policy experience. The prominent names in this column include: Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.), former Sen. Sam Nunn (D., Ga.), Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.), and Gov. Bill Richardson (D., N.M.).
Both Biden and Richardson have the highest profile after being candidates themselves taking part in more than 15 democratic presidential debates. Biden in particular has been mentioned prominently.
But I think the campaign demonstrated why neither of these candidates have a chance. They have a tendency to speak extemporaneously. Campaigns would rather prefer a candidate able to stay on message and not become a distraction. Worse for Biden, he's from Delaware -- a small state with few electoral votes of consequence.
Bayh's and Nunn's names consistently find mention in the process. Democrats have fared poorly with male working class voters in the Midwest and South in recent elections with only former President Bill Clinton showing any success. These senators would aid Obama in winning these states and would improve his chances of securing votes with white male voters in those states.
The Obama campaign has predicted he could win several Southern states. This makes me think they can either organize a dormant black vote there, or they plan to choose someone such as Bayh or Nunn.
Political bettors are more evenly divided on who could become the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Bayh has lead over Biden and Clinton, 19.9% to 13.5% and12.6%. Nunn and Richardson trail significantly at 6% and 4.7%.