In the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg, the resident conservative columnist there, writes about McCain's choices for VP. The upshot is that he doesn't any great choices, just several almost-decent ones. My guesses for the top six:
Even those six have problems. Mitt Romney came across as Mr. Flaky in the primaries, changing his position with the position of the sun. Rob Portman is strongly associated with Bush. Sarah Palin is a somewhat obscure candidate. During the campaign, I anticipate some logistical problems: won't she have to, you know, go home to Alaska to be governor every now and then? Won't that take up large chunks of time? Not a huge deal, to be sure, but it occurred to me. Tim Pawlenty sounds good, but I don't know much about him. Carly Fiorina has not held elected office, and she was fired from Hewlett Packard. In other words, there isn't any good, solid reason to choose her, apart from the fact that she's a woman. John Thune is close to the same age as Obama (47), and has similar experience: he served in the US House from 1996-2002, and has been a Senator since 2004, same as Obama. Weakens McCain's charge that Obama is inexperienced. Also, he's very conservative, and strongly associated with the Christian right, so he brings both the good and bad karma associated with believing in creationism.
I'm going to narrow my choices down to Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, and John Thune. Choosing Palin would be a bold choice, but she's younger than Obama (only 44), and her experience in office is so light it makes Obama look like an elder statesman - she was elected governor in 2006, and before that was the Mayor of the city of Wasilia, Alaska, population around 8,000. Say what you will about Obama's experience, next to being the mayor of a suburb of Anchorage, state senator in Illinois suddenly has a lot of weight. She has a lot of time to make her mark, I don't think this is her turn. But having a woman on the ticket young enough to be his daughter would only highlight McCain's age. On the other hand, her approval rating is in the 80's. Of course, the fact that she's very pretty doesn't hurt.
Pawlenty is a bit older (48), still young enough to be McCain's son, but has been governor a little longer than Palin (since 2002), and before that was a state represenative. Again, not a huge contrast with Obama. He doesn't really have any foreign policy experience, but that's not much of an issue for McCain. He's very conservative, which might help with the Republican base, but not so much with independents. Sounds like he's pretty hardcore on cutting taxes, which is not as popular as it once was. So he's attractive, but not perfect.
Thune has the problem of the other two, i.e. that he doesn't have much to compare against Obama in the realm of experience. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, Thune was elected to as South Dakota's sole US Representative in the same year - not a huge difference. Having another senator on the ticket would also reinforce Obama's claim to be running against Washington insiders.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Mitt Romney may be the best of the lot. He has more experience than Obama with running things. He's older than Obama, but still younger than McCain. He's energetic. But he's also strongly associated with the kind of capitalism that has resulted in spectacular income inequality - not going to go down well with the blue collar voters.
If I were McCain, I think I would have to go with either Pawlenty or Romney.