The Magazine

The Veepstakes

There's an obvious winner.

Mar 17, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 26 • By FRED BARNES
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Presidential nominees once tried to balance their ticket with someone who'd helped win a state they might otherwise lose. This hasn't entirely gone out of fashion. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota is often mentioned in this regard. Former House member John Kasich and ex-trade representative and budget director Rob Portman, both from Ohio, are too.

McCain has also been advised, at least by the media, to pick a much younger person for vice president. Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri, 37, and a handful of others have had their names trotted out. Some of them have impressive credentials. Blunt, for example, is an Annapolis graduate and a Naval Reservist called to active duty after 9/11.

But I don't believe the option of choosing a running mate for purely political reasons is open to McCain--not during wartime, anyway. His strong suit against Barack Obama, his likeliest Democratic opponent, or even against Hillary Clinton, is experience. In fact, Clinton has set up Obama to be attacked by McCain on this front.

Her TV ad raising doubts about Obama's readiness to be president was critical to her victories last week in the Ohio and Texas primaries. She also said in a campaign appearance: "Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I will bring a lifetime of experience [to the White House] and Senator Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002. I think that is a significant difference." In Obama's 2002 speech, he opposed the invasion of Iraq. One can envision her comment in a McCain TV ad zinging Obama.

McCain would throw away the experience issue if he named a much younger running mate or someone without national stature or a background in world affairs. Obama's response could be devastating: "If experience is so important, why did you pick a running mate who has so little, indeed less than I do?"

Romney thus appears to have the best ratio of virtues to drawbacks. But there's just one problem: McCain doesn't like him. Just how important compatibility is--that is something McCain will have to decide.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.