Barack Obama's vice presidential pick is expected any day now, and the most striking thing amid all the speculation is how almost nobody has a clue who it will be.
We know the short list is said to be down to Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. That is, unless Obama surprises the punditocracy and taps Hillary Rodham Clinton or any number of other contenders.
We know Obama plans a Saturday event at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., where he kicked off his candidacy, so that could be where he introduces his running mate, two days before the Democratic convention starts in Denver. That is, unless Obama announces his pick sooner.
And we know the Obama campaign says the announcement will come in an e-mail to supporters. Then again, four years ago an airline mechanic first broke news of John Kerry's pick when he spotted John Edwards' name being painted on a plane.
Vice presidential picks rarely win elections, but they can generate excitement, a bounce in the polls and bolster the nominee. Only Obama, his wife, Michelle, and a few advisers know where Obama's running mate selection stands, and it has been a remarkably leak-free picking process for both presidential campaigns.
Every development has prompted a flurry of tea leaf interpretation. Even the turmoil in Georgia has fueled speculation, specifically that prospects are dimming for contenders with little foreign policy experience, including Govs. Kaine of Virginia and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.
Consider this shout-out Tuesday during Obama's speech in Orlando to the Veterans of Foreign Wars:
"We must help Georgia rebuild what has been destroyed," Obama said. "That is why I'm proud to join my friend, Sen. Joe Biden, in calling for an additional $1-billion in reconstruction assistance for the people of Georgia."
Vice President Biden? He brings foreign policy experience, a working-class background and strong debating skills, and is a politically appealing Catholic. But his nearly four decades in Washington don't bolster Obama's change message, and Biden is notorious for putting his foot in his mouth. Of note: Biden told reporters gathered in his driveway Tuesday, "I'm not the guy."
Bayh is a safer pick on the gaffe front. He lacks Biden's foreign policy strength, but he does have national security experience as a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committee. What's more, the popular former Indiana governor potentially brings real estate with him, putting Indiana in play.
Of course, a lot of Democrats are still holding out hope for a Clinton-Obama ticket.
"He can win Florida with Hillary Clinton on the ticket, and I don't think he can win it without her,'' said Miami lawyer Ira Leesfield, a top Clinton money raiser. "With Hillary Clinton, he gets a bump in the Hispanic community and a bump in the Jewish community and a huge bump among women."
But there's that pesky problem of how to deal with Bill Clinton, who recently declined to say in a TV interview that Obama is ready to be president and raised eyebrows Monday by praising John McCain on energy issues.
McCain, meanwhile, is expected to make his pick just after the Democratic convention ends Aug. 28, and reportedly has three rallies planned Aug. 29 (his 72nd birthday), including one in Ohio. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are seen as McCain's top choices.
Then again, the conservative National Review on Tuesday fretted that in stressing his commitment to opposing abortions, McCain may have been trying to soften the blow to conservatives should he choose an abortion rights running mate like Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at [email protected]