McCain and Obama size up potential running mates

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The Independent US

The running-mate guessing game erupted in earnest yesterday as John McCain prepared to welcome a trio of potential Republican contenders to his Arizona ranch this weekend while Barack Obama was reported to be seeking help with his own search for a possible vice-presidential partner.

The chatter surrounding Mr McCain's options coincides with other potentially important business this morning – the release of medical records that his campaign hopes will ease concerns about his advanced age and his struggles with skin cancer.

His guest list for the three-day Memorial Day weekend holds one intriguing surprise: Bobby Jindal. The popular and recently elected Republican Governor of Louisiana is striking by virtue of his Indian heritage – his parents came to America from Punjab – and, at 36 years old, his youth.

Also due at the ranch this evening are Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who dropped out of the Republican nomination race in February, and the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, whose endorsement of Mr McCain helped him win that state's pivotal primary.

History suggests the importance of picking the perfect running mate can be overstated. But none of that will halt the fun of gossip that has already started, even if neither candidate will need to announce their choices until much nearer to their respective party conventions.

For Republicans, therefore, Mr Romney might fit, and has the kind of strong economic credentials that Mr McCain lacks. He is also a formidable fund-raiser. Mr Crist is also popular in Florida, a state that Mr McCain would need to lock up in November. Mr Jindal may appeal if the Republicans have concluded that their opponent will be Mr Obama. Mr McCain has signalled that he intends to keep the selection process as secret as possible.

Even more discreet are the moves under way in the Obama camp, not least because the candidate has not yet entirely dispatched his rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton. But according to wire reports, Mr Obama has appointed Jim Johnson to start vetting candidates. John Kerry used Mr Johnson for the same purpose in 2004.

Myriad names for Mr Obama spring to mind, including Sam Nunn, the conservative former Democrat senator from Georgia. Speculation has extended to Joe Biden and the former defence secretary, William Cohen.

He may consider supporters of Hillary Clinton such as Senator Evan Bayh of Ohio. And so to Hillary. If the case for harnessing Mrs Clinton to his ticket is persuasive, the one against it is strong too. Mr Obama may not relish getting two running mates for the price of one – Hillary and Bill.

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