Friday, March 14, 2008

Southern govs = McCain VP material?

Three of John McCain's endorsements were lost in all of the excitement over Super Tuesday II: Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Perdue and Barbour announced their support at a news conference in Washington on Monday; Riley, and three other governors endorsing McCain, were not in attendance. The Southern-fried trio joined Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who also endorsed McCain and worked with him in the state on the eve of its primary there on Jan. 29. Pundits generally give Crist credit for pushing McCain over the edge and giving him the victory in a tight race with Mitt Romney.

Each of these men has been mentioned as possible VP material for McCain, who must now begin the task of screening and vetting potential running mates. Crist has spent the most time with McCain during primary season. After McCain won the Sunshine State, Crist tagged along with him to California and was on hand when McCain accepted the endorsements of Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He gave a national stump speech the ol' college try in this interview on Feb. 25 (note that he gets in the line about lowering taxes in Florida by $25 billion -- not bad for an national amateur). And Crist has gotten a lot of face time in the national press over the last two weeks by virtue of the discussions surrounding the Democratic delegate dustup.

But in comments made March 6 while fundraising with Crist, McCain seemed to temper speculation that the "Tan Man" sits in the catbird seat:

During his first campaign appearance since clinching the GOP presidential nomination, McCain said he has not even begun looking at vice presidential candidates ...

"You know, obviously, we have just begun that process, and we, in fact, have not even outlined how we're going to go about this," McCain said at a news conference after he and Crist shook hands with people at a diner. "We're looking at how the process was conducted by other candidates and nominees of their party.

"But I know one thing about Governor Crist," he added. "And that is that he is a great governor. He does a great job. And I think that ... there are many ways for him to serve the country." ...

Crist, 51, is among more than a half-dozen politicians mentioned as a potential running mate. His last-minute endorsement of McCain is credited with helping him win the pivotal Florida primary election on Jan. 29. Sworn in to office last year, his state will be a battleground for the November election.

"The process is really open," McCain said of his search. "But I know that Governor Crist will continue to serve this country in many respects in the future. He's still a very young man."

At the end of this piece that examines the relationship between Riley and McCain, the author adds that the Republican nominee-to-be and the Mississippi governor have been at fierce odds in the past:

"I like John McCain. His family is from Mississippi. He is a genuine American hero," said Barbour during the Republican primary of 2000. "But genuine American heroes have got to play by the same rules of telling it like it is as everybody else. And Senator McCain says he's going to break up all these lobbyists, these power brokers, and his campaign is full of lobbyists. Some of my best friends -- There's nothing wrong with it. What's wrong is the phony baloney of being hypocritical about it."
There is plenty to consider in making his selection, but in the mind of this political junkie, what it will come down to for John McCain is whether he wants a running mate who can help him shore up the conservative base, someone who can help him in a competitive state like Ohio, or a vice presidential pick who is ready to be president if the unthinkable happens.

No one can do it all.