Brian Howey: Gauging the Hoosier "Veepstake 6"

By Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - We've counted six Hoosiers who have made one or more published veepstakes lists over the first six months of this year. Some names, like Gov. Mitch Daniels, make zero sense. Others, like the rumored Obama-Lugar ticket seem far-fetched. Here's our current read on things, subject to vast change between now and convention season late this summer.

Barack Obama Veep

Sen. Evan Bayh: As the Obama campaign pours over the maps and its strategy of putting red states into play, the conversation when it comes to Indiana's 11 Electoral College votes would almost certainly include Bayh. While he backed Hillary Clinton in the Indiana primary, he did so with supreme respect for Obama.  It was Obama’s ascendancy that prompted the pragmatic Bayh to exit the presidential race in December 2006.

Bayh’s political tentacles reach into Iowa and New Hampshire, where his own presidential campaign trained dozens of operatives and he established relations with many local legislators and other party officials. Some believe those alliances in New Hampshire helped Clinton win the state. He certainly put her in play in Indiana. Without Bayh, there is no way Clinton could have won.

Bayh has run five general election races in Indiana, winning the first two in 1986 and 1988 by 8 and 6 percent, followed by his gubernatorial re-elect at 25 percent, and his two Senate races at 29 and 24 percent. He is squeaky clean on the ethics front. He is credible on military affairs, having served on the Armed Services Committee.

Democratic blogger Alan Katz observed on May 7, "By helping Sen. Clinton win Indiana’s Democratic primary, Sen. Bayh has created a new opportunity: running for vice president on an Obama-Bayh ticket. Most significantly, he’s a proven vote getter in a red state who appeals to the working class voters.  Sen. Obama has been losing to Sen. Clinton. His (Bayh) selection as a running mate by Sen. Obama would be a clear signal to these voters that they would neither be ignored nor forgotten in an Obama administration.” Odds: 10 to 1.

Sen. Richard Lugar: First, Lugar is too old to be McCain's vice presidential nominee. McCain needs a youth. Prior to the May primary, we were talking with a reporter at NPR and the subject of Lugar's relationship with Obama came up. "You know about the rumors," the reporter said. No, what? "An Obama-Lugar ticket." Get out!

Actually, there is some logic. Obama has talked about ending the politics of usual in Washington. So what better way than to pick a Republican vice president? Second, he and Lugar have a mutually warm relationship. There are some who believe that Obama needs an experienced Washington hand with considerable foreign exposure. Lugar fits all those bills. The idea of having Lugar's voice steadily in a President Obama's ear is a credible one, though extremely, extremely unlikely. Odds: 100 to 1.

Tim Roemer: The former six-term Northern Indiana congressman voluntarily left Congress, but not before sponsoring the 9/11 Commission legislation and then serving on that bipartisan panel. He was a strong proponent for U.S. intelligence reform. He was an early backer of Obama and campaigned extensively in the Indiana primary. Roemer is relatively young, Catholic, and brings intelligence, national security and education credentials that could benefit Obama. Many observers believe Roemer has an excellent chance at making an Obama cabinet. Odds 20 to 1.

Lee Hamilton: Like Roemer, he's a former Indiana congressman and 9/11 Commissioner. He would fit the "wise old man" bringing maturity to the 46-year-old Obama's ticket. Odds: 100 to 1.

My Prediction: I see three names ahead of Hoosiers on the Obama veep list: Virginia Sen. James Webb, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. If I had to bet, it would be Obama-Webb.

John McCain Veep

Rep. Mike Pence: The Hoosier congressman is a leading conservative who has parted with McCain on key issues, such as McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. The two shared an infamous moment together at the Sorja Market in Baghdad on April 1, 2007. After McCain became the presumptive nominee, Pence urged him to make clear to conservatives where he stood on fiscal and life issues. Pence could very well be on McCain's veep list, but the fact is, you have to go back to 1964 and the Goldwater-Miller ticket to find a House member making the final cut. Plus, the conservative split with McCain seems to have toned down. Odds: 100-1.

Gov. Mitch Daniels: The governor has repeatedly said that 2008 would be his final political campaign. He has too much work left to do here and feels he can be more effective working at the state level.  A McCain-Daniels ticket is a total pipedream. No odds.

My Prediction: A month ago, I would have been comfortable predicting a McCain-Romney ticket. But if McCain wants to attract Hillary Clinton voters, he might look at young, attractive Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who is creating considerable buzz these days. If I had to bet: McCain-Palin. At this point, I think the gender opportunity trumps geography.

Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com.

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