WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- A female running mate for Sen. John McCain? Maybe, but the candidates really only come down to one.
David Paul Kuhn, writing in The Politico, has suggested three possible candidates for McCain to consider: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin; former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
That list, however, really boils down only to Hutchison. For all Kuhn's enthusiasm for Palin, she has zero coattails and hitherto even less visibility on the national scene. She brings nothing to the ticket -- except, maybe, Alaska, but that tends to trend Republican in most presidential elections anyway.
McCain needs to boost his strength most of all in Ohio and Florida and, in a more general sense, throughout the Midwest and Southwest. Palin brings him nothing there. She's a political junkie's choice -- good for policy wonks to argue over but little else.
Fiorina is even worse: It doesn't matter how good a CEO she was at Hewlett-Packard. With oil and food prices hitting record levels, the debris from the sub-prime meltdown still smoldering and the mood of the country turning big against corporate corruption, it would be political hara-kiri for McCain to pick a CEO, any CEO, however young, attractive and incorruptible, as his running mate.
Hutchison, however, fits into a far different category from Kuhn's other suggested choices. Attractive and feminine though she is, being a lady is arguably the least of the assets she would bring to McCain.
First, Hutchison is a tough, immensely experienced campaigner. Running for Senate or the House of Representatives in Texas is a contact sport, and she's good at it. Unlike former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who became the running mate for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic ticket, Hutchison has a real base with proven appeal far beyond it.
Edwards, admirable man though he is, was stepping down as junior senator from North Carolina when, with nothing to lose, he campaigned for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination and came in second. He couldn't even retain any effective political base in his own state and in the national campaign proved he had zero coattails across the South. Yet the media loved him.
Hutchison is excellent with the media too. She is a familiar face -- but not too familiar -- on the Sunday morning national talk shows. She has exactly the right blend of reassuring familiarity but has never before been on a national ticket. So she has all the benefits of being a fresh face as a presidential running mate without the dire traps that putting a far too young and green figure on the ticket, or one who has been insufficiently vetted, would bring with them. Just think Dan Quayle.
Hutchison has the intellect, character and experience to make a seasoned, valuable vice president -- and a chief executive too, for that matter, should the unthinkable ever happen.
The biggest strike against Hutchison would be that she wouldn't bring balance to the ticket, since she is from Texas and McCain is from the Southwest. But as President Bill Clinton from Arkansas proved when he selected Sen. Al Gore from Tennessee to be his running mate in 1992, there are a lot of other factors more important to consider in a running mate than geographical proximity.
Finally, Hutchison is not only a strong candidate for the vice presidential slot, she is a strong candidate in a field where the choice this year is exceptionally weak.
None of the current batch of gray, middle-aged males who currently fill the GOP's ranks of governors and senators from the Midwest has been notable for high public profile or charisma on the national scene. None of them carries any heft beyond his own state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may come closest, but there is no fire in his veins. Even the conservative support he won in his losing campaign against McCain for the GOP nomination was lukewarm and came to him only because of the lack of other credible choices.
As to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in terms of campaigning and charisma, he is a natural. But he would scare away as many voters as he attracted, and his propensity to shoot from the hip with often bizarre proposals such as his proposed national value added tax would make him a nightmare to McCain's campaign managers.
A lady on the ticket, Sen. McCain? Definitely! But make it Sen. Hutchison.