Friday, August 29, 2008


Wow, did John McCain really just pick Tina Fey as his running mate?

Oh wait, that spunky, bespectacled woman with the upswept hair is actually Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. The people at Saturday Night Live must be doing cartwheels right about now.

McCain dropped a big fat news bomb right on top of Barack Obama's post-convention bounce this morning. Talk about a buzz kill. We all knew his vice presidential pick was coming today, but everyone expected Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, with Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman as the dark horses.

But there was a filly most pundits forgot about. We did blog about Palin back in May (check the archives), but I took her off my list later as too young and inexperienced, and tainted by an abuse of power investigation, which is still ongoing. My colleague Marc Sandalow, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle, is the only one I know who still thought she had a shot at the veep spot. She was so little-known that McCain's press secretary, Tucker Bounds, still can't pronounce her name. He keeps calling her PAL-lin, but it's PAY-lin, like Michael Palin from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

So here's what I know about Sarah Palin: she's 44, married to a fisherman/oil field worker (very Alaska), and has five kids. They have the unlikely names of Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. I have no idea what's going on there. She's a pistol-packin' hockey mom (soccer moms die of frostbite in Alaska; they have hockey moms instead. Also, ice-fishing moms). She likes to hunt and eat moose. She could probably teach Obama and Biden how to handle a gun. She favors drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and could probably do it herself, with her husband. She just had her fifth child last spring, and little Trig has Down Syndrome, which means he's probably incredibly sweet and loving, and she's a seriously devoted mother.

(Although - and will this become an issue in the campaign? - how in the world is a mom with a four-month old, with Down Syndrome no less, going to campaign full-time for vice president for the next two months? Who will take care of that baby? Dad and the four older kids? Will America, for the first time ever, see a candidate for national office tote a newborn around? And how can the McCain campaign afford all that jet fuel bringing Palin back and forth from Alaska?)

More about Governor Palin: She is staunchly anti-abortion, pro-gun rights, devoutly Christian and is quite conservative. She was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska - it's REALLY small, I've been there and that's like being mayor of oh, say, San Bruno? I believe Wasilla has about 5000 people. Her family makes up seven of them.

She's been Governor of Alaska for less than two years, riding into office on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment up there. But she's caught up in her own little ethics difficulty. Her sister had a messy divorce from an apparently bad dude, who was a state trooper. Someone on Palin's staff called the state public safety commissioner to get the trooper fired. Palin's husband may have placed a call too. The commissioner refused, so Palin fired him. Now the state legislature is investigating whether she did anything wrong. She denies any knowledge of the phone calls.

If you saw her speech, you know why she's been considered a Republican up-and-comer. She's charming, personable, feisty and has a great backstory. She also has a classic northern accent, which sounds like a Minnesotan who went out moose-hunting and strayed a little too far. She pronounces nuclear "nook-u-lar," which always drives me crazy, but hey, it worked for President Bush.

OOPS: Gotta run, they're boarding my flight home from Denver. I will finish this post when I get home tonight and then send it out!

OKAY, I'M BACK. Ahh, home sweet home. Looks like I missed a heat wave in the Bay Area....But now back to our blog:

So. Sarah Palin. A game-changer for McCain. A guarantee that America will make history this year, with either our first black president or our first female vice president. Stop and take that in for a moment. 2008 really will go down in history, and we're all witnessing it.

But in the next 67 days, will Palin prove to be the clincher for McCain...or will she turn out to be a huge mistake? She seems a little over her head, but underestimate her at your peril. Sure, she has no national or foreign policy experience, but her oldest son is about to go fight in Iraq and she commands the Alaska National Guard (what exactly do they guard? the caribou herd from Russian invasion?), and that definitely counts for something. She can answer any questions about her lack of experience with a pretty powerful retort - hey, I'm raising five children while governing the largest state in the Union, what in the world could be harder than that? Joe Biden is likely to say something extremely, inadvertently sexist during their lone vice presidential debate. He probably can't help it. McCain certainly just guaranteed the highest veep debate ratings in history - and thank God we've been spared a Biden-Romney dronefest.

Palin could siphon off just enough disenchanted Hillary supporters to swing a state like Ohio or Florida to the Republicans. She will certainly galvanize the party's conservative base, who will lap this pick up. She checks off more boxes for McCain than any other possible choice - working class, likes guns, pro-life, a mom, Christian conservative, union member, humble roots - check, check, check. But let's see how the perky routine holds up on the grand stage. She could start to grate on people a bit with her frontier mom routine and that irritating accent. Do you think Hillary Clinton is fuming right now at the prospect of this Alaskan upstart usurping her rightful place in history? Yah, you betcha.


Getting stuck on the jam-packed convention floor just before Hillary Clinton's speech, and finding myself smushed against Spike Lee, then trudging shoulder-to-shoulder with him from the California delegation all the way to New Jersey, while dozens of people snapped pictures with him.....

Wandering the corporate suite level, which was awash in Senators, Governors, lobbyists and titans of corporate America, not to mention food far superior to what we proles were getting...

Discovering the 1000 free bikes available to ride around Denver during the convention, complete with helmet and lock, that you could leave at one of seven parking lots when done. The bike pared a 35-minute shuttle bus and hike across town for Clinton's meeting with her delegates, to just four minutes...and they'll have the bicycles in Saint Paul too!...

Interviewing Barack Obama's 84-year-old godmother in the front row of the Invesco Field crowd...asking Jesse Jackson for some perspective on Obama's historic nomination - maybe the only guy who, when you ask, Did you ever think you'd see a black man nominated? has a different answer - as in, yes, 1988, when I was running...

And so much more...maybe later this weekend....time for some sleep now!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Stack of Blog Items a Mile High

My apologies for not blogging since Tuesday. When you work 16-hour days for radio and TV, the Internet is the first casualty. Or something like that!

Oh wait...I can't blog now either. A CBS News runner just came with my floor pass - I have a 30-minute window to run down to the field, interview people and get the lay of the land here at Invesco Field at Mile High (where the Broncos play). It's my only chance for a couple hours to go down I will be back next hour to really fill you in!

Okay, I'm back. Whew. This has been a whirlwind week. I could blog for days - so many things I haven't had time to talk about on the radio, or even here.

Here's a brief sample:

Making the transition the Pepsi Center to Invesco was no simple feat, for anyone involved with this production. The technicians started working at 2am, moving everything over here and setting it all up. Just as we were all settling into a routine, figuring out short cuts to move around the convention hall and the like, we were uprooted and had to start all over. They moved the media here in a convoy of buses, but rather than wait in a long bus queue at the Pepsi Center, I caught a Democratic National Committee shuttle downtown, which went directly to Invesco. That is, as directly as the Secret Service would allow, which was about a mile away. When I got off, I found that I had to enter through a special media security entrance - except the Secret Service wouldn't allow anyone through on foot. So I backtracked and flagged down one of the special Press buses, and the driver was kind enough to let me on.

Upon boarding, I discovered I had gotten on the bus for Obama's traveling press. So suddenly, I was on a coach full of finely coiffed network correspondents, tough-as-nails network cameramen, and reporters from all around the world speaking everything from French to Japanese. But when the bus reached the Secret Service barricades, it was stopped cold. Two agents climbed aboard and asked if we all had credentials. We did. But it turned out the bus didn't have the proper pass, and neither did the driver. The agents said we'd have to wait for a supervisor to come and clear the bus, bring a credential and have the bomb-sniffing dogs work it over. Or, they said, we could get out and hike the last half-mile or so. That was just fine with me, since I only had about 25 minutes at that point before my next live shot, and I needed to be inside the stadium. But the network crews had huge amounts of gear, and none seemed too eager to hike in the hot midday sun.

I got off, left them behind, and made it in, just in time. For all I know, they're still waiting for the hound dogs.

Speaking of hounds...the scene when Hillary Clinton released hers...I mean, released her delegates...was amazing. She convened a special meeting of all her delegates at the Colorado Convention Center, a sprawling facility across town from the Pepsi Center. Most of the 1900 Clintonistas poured in, jamming the room. They brought friends and family and other interested parties along with them, joined by maybe 300 media, again from all over the globe. I was stuck on the platform between a Hassidic reporter from Orthodox Jewish Radio (or something like that) and a woman from Radio France. As I was plugging into the audio box, I recognized the woman in front of me. She looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place her. She exclaimed, "Oh my God, you're..." then looked at my press pass to get my name. It turned out to be Liz Moore, who lived down the hall from me in my college freshman dormitory. We didn't have time to catch up, but we reminisced for about 30 seconds and then focused on the bedlam at hand.

Hillary Clinton came in to a roar from her delegates. She thanked them, and then said, in keeping with tradition, that as the losing candidate, she was releasing them from their commitment to vote for her on the first ballot. They were free to vote how they saw fit, however their heart and conscience dictated. She had already cast her ballot, for Barack Obama.

The delegates screamed "No! No!" and many started to weep. Eventually, many of them did vote for Obama, and later that evening, Clinton herself interrupted the state-by-state roll call on the floor and called for his nomination by acclamation. Now he's the Democratic nominee for president. But wait, it's time to go back to work! More blog soon...

I promise.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Altitude Adjustments

It must be the altitude.

That's everyone's excuse for everything here at the Democratic National Convention. Tired feet? Hot and sweaty? Parched throat? Having hallucinations about giant blue donkeys and red elephants on the street? Oh wait - those are really there.

We're only a mile high, which is less than going skiing at Tahoe. Maybe the fatigue and the thirst are actually from working 16-hour days on four or five hours' sleep, which is what almost all the media types are doing here in Denver.

I thought I might be suffering some sort of heat stroke when I ducked into a downtown restaurant today, seeking succor, and ran smack into Susan Sarandon instead. "Is there bottled water here?" I asked her. She smiled quite sweetly. "Yes, I'm sure there is. Ask over there," she said, pointing to a scantily clad hostess. I thanked her, spun around and stumbled into actress Anne Hathaway, actor Josh Lucas and director Spike Lee. Was this a political convention or the Vanity Fair Oscar party? It turns out it was a luncheon thrown by the Congressional Black Caucus, or maybe it was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It was one of those groups with lots of C's in the name. I got my water, went back out into the blinding sun, and nearly got flattened by a shuttle bus. Someone handed me a free burrito and a "Burritos for Obama" t-shirt. Someone else gave me a "Listen To Your Mama and Vote for Obama" fridge magnet. I stuffed all my swag into my bulging pockets and staggered towards the convention center. It's about a 20-minute walk in the mountain sun from where the light rail lets you off.

The burrito was delicious. If I keep walking this much, the t-shirt will fit by the time I get home.

I've learned the hard way that it pays to bring outside food to this convention. Since it's in a sports arena, the only food for sale is arena concession stand food: nachos, pizza, churros, hot dogs, donuts. I managed to find a small iceberg lettuce salad with no dressing yesterday. So today, I bought a delicious pesto chicken/fresh mozzarella sandwich and some tarragon chicken almond salad at a gourmet market nearby. That, plus the burrito, should get me through another marathon day.

It's a green convention, which means they emphasize recycling and such. They actually have garbage monitors who stand by the bins, trying to figure out whether your cardboard french fries box is compostable or not. A glance inside the barrels reveals utter confusion. Plastic bottles mixed with trash; paper Coke cups - oops, I mean Pepsi; it's the Pepsi Center - piled on top of non-recyclables. One big melting pot of trash. This is the party of diversity, after all. And as far as I could tell, it all ends up going to the same place anyway.

But then efficient staffers run around bringing us printouts of every single speech. Sheaf after sheaf of impenetrable remarks by the Chicago City Clerk and the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Corrections for American Samoa. Never mind that we get them by email, too. I try to wave off the runners and tell them I don't need the handouts, but their feelings seem so hurt that their only task - performed quite well - is so unappreciated, that I take them anyway. These texts pile up at our feet, until someone crumples them up and takes them away. We've been encouraged to throw them in the recycling bins, but they're already full of Pepsi cups and cold French fries.

Not to mention those water bottles. We're consuming a lot of water, since it's so hot and muggy. I think I lost three pounds of water weight just walking through all the security checkpoints, which are more like X-ray-equipped saunas.

I didn't know the insides of my elbows could sweat that much. Must be the altitude.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Rocky Mountain Highs - And Lows

The first of many brief posts over the next four days in Denver...

I have arrived at the Democratic National Convention, and so far the nightmarish logistics outweigh the excitement and fun. I'm sure there will be some fun at some point. At least I hope so.

It's 85 degrees, with 85% humidity. Denver doesn't have enough hotel rooms, so the 15,000 media, 5000 delegates and party officials, and thousands of other people here are spread out across 50 miles of Colorado. I'm about 15 miles away as the crow flies - about 75 minutes, as the light rail/shuttle bus/walking reporter crawls.

The security is intense, as you might imagine, and it's a long walk from anywhere to anywhere else - slowed down by metal detectors and big crowds.

The layout in the Pepsi Center is less than ideal, but hey, this is why they pay me the big bucks, right?

On the fun side, I did go down in the elevator with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, who greeted me like a long-lost friend. Not recognizing him, I was confused and asked if we'd met before. He took off his sunglasses and introduced himself, praising KCBS and said he knew our station well, and that we run a solid news operation. This brilliantly disarming move kept me from sharing my honest opinion of his radio show. I asked him how he was doing here so far, and he muttered something about trying to avoid the liberals. I wished him luck with that.

Then I literally ran into the entire "Daily Show" political team - all four of Jon Stewart's reporters - taping a not especially funny bit about how the food vendors in the arena are trying to outgreen each other (the pretzel stand recycles; the nacho stand has green salsa, etc.). I thought I would do a funny bit with them for the radio, since I did that at the last convention (GOP in 2004) with then-Comedy Central correspondents Mo Rocca and Stephen Colbert. The new guys? Not so funny. When the camera was off, they were as grumpy and stone-faced as all the other hot, sweaty, tired-legged media. Rob Riggle - I think that's his name - swore into my microphone. I guess I won't be using that on the radio!

I have scored some excellent Obama-Biden buttons for my collection, not to mention a pack of Obama playing cards - the kind of thing you only snag at a convention.

Maybe Hannity will want to play a little Texas Hold 'Em during some interminable speech by the assistant state treasurer of Iowa later.

I'll get back to you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden His Time

That text message you were waiting for from Barack Obama came while you were sleeping, if you live on the East Coast - and maybe even if you live in California. Lucky for you, the Sovern Nation never sleeps (well, it just seems that way).

Just after midnight Pacific time, it jingled my iPhone: "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee."

The news actually leaked out about two hours earlier, when first the Associated Press, then the New York Times and CNN, and finally, CBS News, quoted anonymous Obama campaign sources as saying the Delaware Senator was Obama's vice presidential pick.

It's hard to imagine that such a carefully controlled campaign could let something this important trickle out, but if the leak was intentional, then the Obama camp really bungled this one. Many of those who signed up for the text were already getting irritated by the drawn-out running mate drama. Imagine how they'll feel when they wake up in the morning to learn that they were NOT the first to know, as promised by the Obama campaign.

The text alert campaign was a shrewd move, allowing Obama to stockpile even more email addresses and cell phone numbers - which are already being used to solicit even more campaign contributions. Having joined the Obama email list a long time ago, to keep up on the campaign's activities, let me warn the newbies: you're in for almost daily pleas for money. Every new twist in the race becomes an excuse to hound supporters for cash.

But that brilliant marketing ploy could backfire, if some of those supporters feel cheated by the way this went down. And the Biden pick itself could boomerang, too.

Joe Biden is a gifted politician. I first met him 30 years ago, near the end of his first term in the Senate. We were both freshmen - I in college, he in Congress. At the invitation of my professor, he came to talk with my foreign policy class. He was already becoming a highly regarded Senate expert on foreign affairs, and he held us in rapt attention. At the end of the allotted hour, we were still thirsty for information. He glanced at his watch, took off his tie, rolled up his sleeves, and told us, "What the hell, I've got nowhere else to be. I'll stay here as long as you kids have questions." And he proceeded to stay long into the night, maybe three hours more, discussing the nitty-gritty of the international issues of the day, which at that time included South African apartheid, the Cold War, looming changes in Iran, and, as always, the Middle East.

I remember thinking, "Man, this is one ambitious politician. Who comes hundreds of miles north from Delaware to spend an evening talking with out-of-state college kids? We're not even his constituents." There was only one answer: a guy who plans to run for president someday. Which he did, ten years later. And again, 20 years after that.

The remarkable thing is that when I interviewed him for KCBS during this 2008 campaign, Biden remembered that long, wonky evening in Providence back in 1978. At first, I thought it was just a bit of Biden bluster, but he recalled specific details that proved he wasn't bluffing.

Now he will be the Democratic nominee for vice president, perhaps capping a career of outstanding service in the Senate, where he has become one of its most knowledgeable and venerable members, outranking even John McCain. Biden brings a lot to the ticket - Washington experience, foreign policy expertise, gray hair and gravitas - all of which Obama is sorely lacking. He can counter some of the doubts about Obama's readiness, and there's no doubt he will be a pit bull on the campaign trail when the Democrats need one. Being from Delaware doesn't help, but Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, so he might help swing that state to Obama. He is Irish Catholic, from a blue collar background, and has a moving history as a devoted family man who's overcome personal tragedy.

But he brings a lot of baggage along with all those international frequent flier miles, and I don't mean the kind they charge you $25 to check now. Biden's two presidential bids failed miserably. He's been caught embellishing his resume and plagiarizing. His gift of gab sometimes extends to a bit of the blarney - and take it from me, when you talk that much, you will inevitably open mouth and insert foot. I will be stunned if Biden doesn't commit some verbal gaffe at some point this fall. He already embarrassed himself by describing Obama as "articulate and clean" at the start of this campaign. His selection could be taken as tacit admission by Obama that he needs help running the country from someone with more seasoning. And Biden's presence on the ticket neutralizes Obama's ability to attack McCain as a Washington insider who's part of the problem - since he just chose a running mate who's been in D.C. even longer than the Republican nominee.

As I wrote last month, Obama-Biden sounds an awful lot like Osama bin Laden. How long will it take for the conservatives to start mocking the Democratic ticket as "Obama bin Biden"?

Joe Biden is Barack Obama's version of Dick Cheney - an eminence grise who can balance his relative youth and inexperience. But if Obama represents change and newness, why, when making his most important campaign decision, did he emulate President Bush? That's not exactly taking the country in a new direction.

Ultimately, running mates don't typically matter much. The choice of Biden gives the Republicans some new ammo, but if he's an effective campaigner - and we already know he can be funny, forceful and smart in debates - he may help more than he hurts. If McCain chooses Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, as expected, then the veeps are probably a wash. The race will still be a referendum on Barack Obama. If the American people are comfortable with him, he will be president. But if and when he says he will deliver his State of the Union message by text, I want to read it first on my cell phone, not in the Washington Post.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Currying Favor

Barack Obama blew through San Francisco last night, one last time before next week's Democratic National Convention in Denver. And while he was here, he blew away the all-time single-event presidential fundraising record.

Obama raked in an astounding $7.8 million during three hours at the Fairmont Hotel. A million-dollar haul is good for one of these stops; two million is a great night. But almost eight million? That is simply astonishing. One could argue this wasn't a single event; the Illinois Senator went from room to room, knocking off two VIP receptions and a gala dinner in the Grand Ballroom (heirloom tomato salad, lavender salt-crusted beef tenderloin and carrot cake mousse, if you must know). But it was still a one-stop haul that dwarfed anything any other candidate has ever done high atop tony Nob Hill, or anywhere else in America for that matter.

Much of the money was sucked out of the deep pockets of about 200 South Asian and Asian Pacific Islander donors. It was an elegantly dressed crowd, with some of the women in beautiful saris. They certainly looked like they could afford the $14,000-a-head ticket.

Yes, you read that right: 14k per person. You could get in for a mere $2300, the federal maximum contribution to Obama's general election campaign. But that only got you that plate of beef and a chance to see the candidate deliver his usual stump speech. For the extra $11,700 - most of it going to the Democratic National Committee - you could shake hands with The Man himself, exchange a few words, and pose for a picture.

We've all heard Obama adopt a Southern drawl when campaigning in Alabama, or sound like a brother from the hood when he's back home in Chicago. But he struck quite a different tone in the VIP room with the Indian and Pakistani crowd.

"I not only think I'm a desi, I am a desi," he told them, using a Hindi word, derived from the Sanskrit, that means a person of South Asian descent. In India, it also can mean local, or indigenous. "I'm your homeboy." He told the well-heeled donors that he became an expert at whipping up dal during his freshman year at Occidental College, where his roommate was from Pakistan. "But someone else made the naan," he joked.

Well, he's certainly learned how to make bread since then.

There's nothing wrong with trying to connect with a crowd. I do the same thing when I interview someone. I try to find something we have in common, so that we click and become comfortable. I've lived in six different states, have eight far-flung siblings, and have had a pretty full life, so there's usually some sort of connection to be made.

But Obama's getting awfully close to pandering to some of these audiences, especially when he's asking for their money. Now he's a South Asian homeboy? Last time I checked, he's half-Kenyan, half-Kansan. Yes, he was raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, but that's not exactly Mumbai. Technically, Indonesia is part of Southeast Asia, although since it's in between South Asia and the Pacific Islands, I suppose I should cut him some slack, given the diversity of this particular audience.

I just find the whole campaign fundraising thing unseemly, and the ingratiating tone doesn't make it any more attractive. And I wonder whether Obama should be describing himself as a "South Asian homeboy" at a time when the conservatives are putting out best-selling books portraying him as an un-American, Arabic-speaking, closet Muslim, radical. He needn't deny his heritage; he should embrace it. But that doesn't mean pretending to be all things to all people.

Do they even know what dal is in Iowa or New Hampshire?

He'd better hope swing voters don't select "naan of the above" in November.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Veepstakes Part II

The buzz is building. The four-year wait is almost over. The network TV coverage is about to begin.

No, not the Summer Olympics. I'm talking about the national political conventions, which have been stripped of most of their relevance and news value but remain compelling theater for true political junkies.

This time around, Barack Obama and John McCain are threatening to suck the last bit of drama out of their parties' quadrennial confabs by naming their vice presidential selections ahead of time. That doesn't usually happen; in some years, the running mate choice has kept convention-goers guessing right up until the moment of nomination, on the convention's second night.

But with McCain and Obama jockeying for whatever advantage they can get - and with the convention schedule compressed this year, and competing with the Olympics for attention - one or both of the candidates may seek an early August boost by ending the suspense and picking a running mate early.

We already vetted McCain's potential choices a while back, although you can add late-breaking rising star Eric Cantor, a Jewish, conservative Congressman from Virginia, to McCain's short list. Now it's time to break down Obama's possible veeps:

THE VIRGINIANS: Barack Obama is no dummy. He's studied the electoral map and he sees an awful lot of red in between the blue coasts. He knows that this election is all about him - he has said as much - and that unless he pulls a Thomas Eagleton or Dan Quayle out of his hat, his vice presidential choice is not likely to make a huge difference. So he'd like to find someone who can help him put a little blue in the heartland, whether it's Virginia, Indiana or Colorado. He knows that if he can just move one or two states into the Democratic column, he can win the White House. And that's why he's looking so hard at Virginia, a solidly Republican state in recent history, that is becoming more and more Democratic. It's elected two consecutive Democratic governors, and one U.S. Senator, and may elect a second Democrat to the Senate this November. And all of those Democrats have been considered by the Obama camp for the vice presidency.

One of them, former governor Mark Warner, is not a serious contender, since he's running for a Senate seat that the Democrats need to capture. Another, freshman Senator Jim Webb, seems to have taken himself out of the running, and, despite his experience as Navy Secretary for Ronald Reagan, probably isn't seasoned enough politically for Obama. That leaves Governor Tim Kaine, who may well be the frontrunner now. Kaine was Mayor of Richmond, was elected Lieutenant Governor, and then succeeded Warner as governor. He's only 50, has no military and little foreign affairs experience, and doesn't really bring the gray-haired gravitas many observers think Obama needs on the ticket. But he and Obama are said to be simpatico, and like Obama, he's a Harvard lawyer with Midwestern roots, who has lived abroad. His selection could give the Democrats a ticket like the 1992 team of Clinton and Gore - two smart, next generation, up-and-comers who appeal to young voters and independents. Kaine has some pluses - born in Minnesota, raised in Missouri, went to Harvard Law School, is fluent in Spanish - and some minuses: he's Catholic and has a fairly short government resume. Plus, the Republicans could knock an Obama-Kaine ticket as a couple of brash Ivy Leaguers. But the more you look at Kaine's background, the more he clicks as a potential partner for Obama.

BAYH-PARTISAN: Somewhere in my campaign button collection, I have some old Birch Bayh for President pins from 1976. One of them reads "I'm Bayh Partisan." Barack Obama may be, too - because he is strongly considering Birch's son Evan for the vice presidency. Evan Bayh (he's actually Birch Evan Bayh the third) almost ran for president himself this year, but bowed out at the last minute. He's a former Governor of Indiana who is now in his second term in the U.S. Senate. He's a Clintonesque (Bill, not Hillary) centrist, who would be a safe, maybe even boring, pick. But if Obama wants to play it by the book, Bayh could be his man.

THE VANQUISHED RIVALS: Hillary Clinton? Since she represents New York, I'll sum up her vice presidential prospects this way: fuhgedaboutit. Ain't gonna happen. Bill Richardson? He makes a lot of sense on paper - Latino, seasoned, excellent foreign policy experience, from a swing state - but as Richardson proved in the primaries, campaigns aren't run on paper. He ran a terrible, clumsy campaign, so there's little reason to think he'd be any more effective as Obama's running mate. John Edwards? Been there, done that. That leaves Chris Dodd and Joe Biden - and word has it they're both on Obama's list. Dodd would make a great vice president; he comes across like your favorite uncle, a sweet, genuinely caring man. He's got loads of experience, gray hair, young children and is fluent in Spanish. But he also represents Connecticut, and it's hard to see how that helps Obama get elected president, and I don't think he'd be comfortable in the role of vice presidential attack dog.

Biden would love to be vice president - let's face it, Biden would love to be ANYTHING if it means attention and an invitation to speak - but he wouldn't add much to the ticket. Delaware is a tiny state that is safely in the Democrats' column, and despite Biden's 30 years-plus of foreign policy expertise, he wouldn't move voters in the South or the Mountain states. I see him more as a potential Secretary of State for Obama, but sources insist he's under serious consideration as another "safe" alternative to Kaine, and has made the short list.

DARK HORSES AND WILD CARDS: This list could go on a long time, but I'm in danger of becoming a Joe Biden speech, so we'll try to keep it brief. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is pushing nine-term Texas Congressman Chet Edwards, but that's because she wants a House member to get some consideration. There's no reason to think he's on Obama's list. Obama has examined some generals, including Wesley Clark and James Jones, but all indications are he's moved back toward choosing a conventional politician. Obama is said to like Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius, who has raised her profile in recent years and could run for president herself someday. She is 60 years old, in her second term, and has proven adept at attracting crossover voters. If Obama decides he wants a woman - one not named Hillary Clinton - Sibelius could be the choice, but that could also alienate Clinton supporters who will see the selection of any other woman as an affront. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has also been mentioned, but choosing her would give the governorship there to the Republicans, and Napolitano has said that no one from the Obama camp has contacted her yet, so she seems out of the running. There was some early talk about Sam Nunn - isn't there always? - but that's faded now, as has speculation about Missouri's freshman Senator, Claire McCaskill.

There are also a few governors said to have been considered, but at this point, if the vetters haven't asked for financial records and the like, they're probably out of the running, because Obama only has three weeks left to make his decision. Those governors include Ohio's Ted Strickland (an early and avid Hillary supporter, which makes his selection unlikely), Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell (Jewish and given to speaking bluntly and honestly, which makes him a long shot) and Colorado's Bill Ritter, mainly because he governs a state Obama wants to snatch from the GOP.

So where does that leave us? I will go boldly out onto a limb that someone can saw off later this month, when I'm proven completely wrong. I claim no track record for predicting running mates, but here goes: Even though I'm intrigued by the Eric Cantor candidacy for McCain's veep slot - attracting Jewish voters who are nervous about Obama could help McCain win Florida, Pennsylvania or New Jersey - I think McCain will go with Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. And I think Obama's whittled his list down to Kaine and Bayh. "Obama-Kaine" does sound like some sort of numbing agent, but "Obama-Bayh" would present some intriguing song possibilities. And besides, "Obama-Biden" sounds too much like "Osama bin Laden."

Feel free to post your own suggestions below. And check back in three weeks to tell me how wrong I was...