John McCain has zero charisma. Next to the excitement of Obama, he looks like an old man defending the status quo. Ironically, his career has embodied exactly the opposite. He is what Obama symbolizes - a person who rises above party, confronts the special interests, and wants to change the way Washington works.
Yet despite his inability to campaign effectively, polls show him tied with Obama, due largely to doubts about the Democrat not to enthusiasm for McCain.
But if he chooses the right vice presidential candidate, McCain can give his candidacy excitement and meaning, transforming the drab into the unusual and the ordinary into the spectacular.
The easiest way to do so is to name a woman. Two seem available. But Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, an attractive candidate for the future, is too inexperienced and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is, perhaps, too experienced. Both would have difficulty navigating a presidential campaign. Hutchison might just seem like an old woman running with an old man and Palin with McCain might seem like a father-daughter team, the younger partner just learning the ropes.
Instead, McCain should choose Senator Joe Lieberman. By choosing a Democrat - the party's nominee for vice president only eight years ago -- McCain would dramatically demonstrate that his candidacy transcends the normal, vitriolic partisanship that grips Washington.
It would be the first bi-partisan ticket since Abraham Lincoln sought to transcend party and picked Andrew Johnson, the Democratic pro-union governor of Tennessee, to be his 1864 running mate. Then, as now, the system was broken and there was an evident need to overcome the narrow constraints of partisanship and act in the national interest.
Obama scares the daylights out of a lot of Democrats and Independents. With a Democratic running mate, McCain would become a viable alternative.
Sure McCain and Lieberman disagree on a lot of issues. But their very disagreements would be sources of strength - a statement that no one person has all the answers and that solutions forged in consensus and dialogue are the key to a functioning democracy. Would Lieberman alienate the Party base? Most top McCain advisors don't think so. With anti-Obama sentiment rising with each new proposed tax increase he offers, the likelihood is that they will turn out with total enthusiasm whoever McCain picks.
While neither McCain nor Lieberman are exactly charismatic. Between them, watching paint dry is more exciting. But by running together, the ticket epitomizes an end to gridlock, partisan bickering and privilege, and dogmatic adherence to narrow ideology.
Mitt Romney, the current VP front runner has a hard time getting people to vote for him. Despite outspending his combined opponents 3:1, he lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and California. Why take on the baggage that kept voters from Romney in the primaries?
Obama too, would want to name a woman since he is now losing the votes of women over forty, a natural Democratic constituency. But he can't choose Hillary. If he did, he would inherit all their scandals, past and present and would be linked to a candidate awash in special interest money who is married to a former president knee deep in tainted associations with rulers from Dubai to Kazakhstan.
But if Obama doesn't choose Hillary, he can't choose another woman. That would elevate another woman to be competition with Hillary, a declaration of war on the Clintons.
So Obama will go with a safe choice: Virginia's Governor Tim Kaine, Indiana's Senator Evan Bayh, or Delaware's Senator Joe Biden. Biden is the best choice. He is well versed in national security issues and offers reassurance that Obama will have someone to turn to. Excellent in debate, he can be counted on to bring the war to the Republicans. He would add reassurance and gravitas to the ticket just as Cheney did for Bush and Johnson did for Kennedy. (The only problem is that anyone objectively looking at an Obama-Biden ticket wonders if it shouldn't be upside down).
Kaine lacks the very experience that Obama misses and adds nothing. Neither one can find the men's room in the White House without a GPS.
Bayh lacks any killer instinct. He refused to attack the Republicans when tapped to give the keynote speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention and is allergic to negative campaigning. That's OK in a presidential candidate, but what's a vice president for if not to sock it to the other side?
So the race may boil down to Obama-Bayh vs. McCain-Romney. But it should be Obama-Biden vs. McCain-Lieberman.