John McCain’s Vice Presidential Not-So-Short List

John Hawkins lists 24 candidates that John McCain might conceivably pick as his running mate with synopses as to the pros and cons of each. I’m rather sure the eventual choice is on that list, as there’s nobody that I’ve heard of who isn’t. Indeed, there are several people I haven’t heard of on it.

Frankly, the available choices are rather uninspiring. There are good reasons for bypassing each of McCain’s big name opponents (Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee) and there aren’t a lot of Republican governors who already come with name recognition.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    I’m not sure McCain needs a national name vs a regional name. For example if Pawlenty was able to tip the historically close Minnesota and Wisconsin (and maybe shore up Iowa), then he would more than pay his freight.

    I think he also needs to know which of the two is his opponent and is there a third party candidate. Would Rice have special appeal against Obama. Probably wouldn’t help much on the black vote, but it might on the woman vote. Would Steele be a good VP choice if Hillary was the pick? Could he peel of the black vote?

    Or will McCain need to be cementing his base with the VP pick? The right pick (and the right sales technique) could make the conservatives more enthusiastic about winning in 2008 to get “their guy” in 20012 or 2016.

    He has some time to decide on all of this.

  2. Triumph says:

    Why did Hawkins leave off Cheney? He is by far the most experienced candidate–and a proven winner.

    Some of his other rationale for candidates was silly–he argues Condi Rice could more easily be framed as a candidate for “change” than Obama or Hillzilla.

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  4. den says:


  5. Elmo says:

    I’ve been thinking Condi for a few days (but didn’t want to em bear arse meself). I do think Barack will be our next Prez. But Condi would/might just make things a little more interesting (and perhaps Mac’s only chance).

    Which really leaves the question about Barry’s runnin mate?

    [And then of course what the dinga-leengs in Tehran do, in the next year or two (and/or who trips the wire first)].

    The future is here folks … best hang on 🙂

  6. Tano says:


    I’ve heard quite a few Repubs mention her, and I’ve always wondered whether they were just totally out of touch with political reality, or was I simply not seeing something.

    Just off the top of my head, a few reasons why this strikes me as the worst possible choice.

    1. Will be seen and roundly condemned as blatant tokenism – they got a black guy, or a woman, so we better find one too. This from the party that loudly preaches that identity politics are anathma.

    2. The worst National Security Advisor ever. Given the job of being the honest broker and gatekeeper to the president for national security advice, she got totally rolled by Cheney and Rummy, and failed in her primary responsibility to insure the president had solid info, and the full range of inputs.

    3. McCain needs to establish some distance from the hugely unpopular Bush administration. On the one issue he will run on, the war, his criticism vs. Bush was about how the post-invasion was run. Condi was a central figure in that fiasco.

    4. Doubling down on foreign policy cred is not something McCain needs to do. Especially for a guy who admits he knows little about the economy, in an election where the economy may well trump even the wars as the major issue.

    5. Condi has ill-defined views on social and domestic issues. How could she assuage the conservative base, who are in revolt – but not over war and foreign policy matters.

    6. She has no particular regional appeal that might flip any states. Her only discernable roots are in AL and a bit in CA – neither of which will vote differently than in the past.

    7. The notion that any blacks would vote for Condi to be VP rather than Barack to be prez, or any women for her to be VP rather than Hillary as prez, seems highly unlikely.

    Am I missing something Elmo?

  7. Elmo says:

    Love your work Tano …. most every vote for Barry will be superficial [Policies? We doan need no stinkin policies (I can walk on water ….)].

    Blatant tokenism, you bet. But puts policy back on the table. Removes color (and might cut down a little on the kumbaya choruses heard over at CNN, CBS, L.A. Daily News, etc., ad infinitum).

    And I think she’s got larger brass than Barack. Myself have no question she can do the job. And you know …. that is an important consideration (winkity).

  8. Tano says:

    I gotta agree with James that Hawkin’s list is pretty uninspiring. Its easy to poke holes in everyone on that list.

    He seems to be facing the dual pressures of using the choice to appease the base, but also wanting to use the choice to maximum effect to improve his chances with the general public in what will probably be a difficult election.

    It would probably be good to have someone relatively young, but there would also be a need to choose someone who unquestionably trumps Obama on the issue of experience. Hard to charge your opponent with being unprepared (a central theme no doubt) when you point to an inexperienced VP and proclaim them ready to assume the job on day one, if necessary.

    Someone with economic cred also seems necessary, since McCain seems easy to characterize as a one-dimensional candidate, especially given his admission of not knowing much about the economy.

    Much as he may hate to do it, maybe Romney is his best choice.

  9. Paul says:

    Would Steele be a good VP choice if Hillary was the pick? Could he peel of the black vote?

    Maybe his mother

  10. Paul says:

    Too bad Jeb’s last name is toxic, otherwise he would seem to be the best choice on paper.

    I kind of think McCain will pull a Bill Clinton 1992, and go with who he thinks is best rather than who helps based on the typical pundit criteria. Given McCain’s age, there may be more than the usual scrutiny about whether the person is “ready.” My guess is that you can go down the list, and if McCain hasn’t known them for a long time, scratch them off. All that said, if there is someone who could bag Ohio (could Portman), that would be tough to turn down.

  11. DL says:

    Tano says: (Condi would be seen as black tokenism)This from the party that loudly preaches that identity politics are anathma.

    Why would inconsistency bother you -we’re a party of law(open borders), of life (stem cell murder), of responsibility (free illegal benifits), of the constitution( mccain Feingold), of solid economics (McKyoto)of conservative values (No anti-sodomy amendment)and we’re putting up a borderline stable liberal like McCain?

    Condi as MCCain’s VP? This is like going into a tank war with a bicycle and worrying about the color of the pedals.

  12. Steph says:

    Jim Thompson former Governor of Illinois. Or Jim Edgar also former Illinois Governor.

    I just wish either man was still Governor of Illinois.

    Edgar is popular enough that he could beat Obama in Illinois. Heck he would have beaten him if he ran against him in 04 for Senate. By a wide margin.

    Heck the little known jack Ryan was beating him in the polls here before Obama paid off a reporter to dig up dirt.

  13. Roy Y. says:

    Add Janice Rogers Brown as an excellent choice for all the right reasons.

  14. Mike Marcus says:


  15. Dave says:

    Condi is strong on the second amendment, and if you want someone who will fight to defend gun ownership and defending our homes, then we need her on the McCain ticket.

    Token? Excuse me, but no one can make such a racist claim in public unless they are a totally blind liberal who can’t stand the fact Condi Rice is a success story. She used her mind and hard work to get where she is today, not based on who she married or coming from a family of wealth.

    She is the most powerful woman in DC, and with her job as Sec of State, she is also an international icon. The woman is fabulous, and McCain would be lucky to get her to accept.