Chuck Hagel: This is the most obvious one. The 60-year-old Nebraska Republican, a decorated Vietnam veteran, has, thanks to his blunt critiques of the Iraq war, supplanted his old friend John McCain as every Democrat’s favorite Republican (and a media darling). He’s still somewhat anonymous to voters across the country, but Mr. Hagel’s story and style suggest enormous appeal to independent voters, and his alienation from his party’s leadership (Nebraska Republicans are threatening to deny him re-nomination for a third term next year) meshes well with Mr. Bloomberg’s message that party politics are broken. Mr. Hagel and Mr. Bloomberg actually met for dinner recently, and afterwards Mr. Hagel voluntarily speculated on national television about a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket in ’08. If Mr. Bloomberg runs and Mr. Hagel wants in, it is tough to imagine the mayor doing any better than this. Bottom-line: His for the taking?
Joe Lieberman: The Connecticut Senator has to be mentioned because of his current independent status and because Mr. Bloomberg invested considerable political and financial capital in backing his independent Senate campaign last year. To some, Mr. Lieberman is a symbol of Democratic intolerance and political dysfunction, a good man driven from his party for refusing to subordinate his conscience to the party line. But that is far from a universal view. To many more, Mr. Lieberman is the inexplicably stubborn defender of a war that has lost the confidence of 70 percent of the public. Not much is known about Mr. Bloomberg’s own Iraq views. And rest assured, those who are fed up with this will demand (and probably are already demanding) an explanation for his fervent backing of Mr. Lieberman. But even if Mr. Bloomberg is somewhat sympathetic to the Senator’s view, choosing him as a running-mate would be a divisive gesture and one that would define the Bloomberg-Lieberman ticket in terms of the war – probably not a winning strategy in ’08. Bottom-line: He’s got a better chance of being McCain’s VP
Colin Powell: There a million reasons not to list him here, chief among them his well-established aversion to jumping into electoral politics (the party’s 1996 presidential nomination and ’96 and 2000 V.P. nominations were his if he’d wanted them). And the retired General’s political stock has dropped these last few years, the result of his decision to put his reservations aside and make the Bush administration’s now-discredited case for the Iraq war at the United Nations in 2003. General Powell, who quit as Secretary of State after the ’04 election, has all but said he feels used by the Bush administration and even the Republican Party, which he very publicly joined in 1995. He recently revealed that he’s been providing foreign policy briefings to Barack Obama. General Powell is damaged goods, but still a fairly popular one. He is at least worth mentioning here because he’s also a proud man, and a break with the GOP to join an independent ticket would provide him with an incomparable platform for redemption – and a potentially receptive audience among Americans who feel that they, too, were duped on the war. (How many of them blame General Powell for duping them is another question). Still, he’d unquestionably be a plus for a Bloomberg ticket, given the abiding respect Americans still have for him and his story. Bottom-line: A very long-shot, but easier to see him saying yes to Bloomberg than to Bush or Dole.
David Boren: Conservative columnist Robert Novak entered Boren’s name into the Veepstakes last weekend, and on the surface, the pairing would make some sense. Boren, a 66-year-old conservative Oklahoma Democrat from an era when conservative Democrats fared well in his neck of the woods, has experience as a Congressman (8 years), Governor (4 years), and U.S. Senator (16 years), not to mention his run as the University of Oklahoma’s President for the past dozen years. The son of a Senator (and the father of current Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren), Boren was the subject of presidential speculation for much of his political career, something he readily encouraged (even as he passed up golden opportunities to pursue his party’s nomination in 1988 and 1992). And, supposedly, Ross Perot offered him the Number Two spot on the Reform Party ticket in 1996. But, as much as he likes having his name out there, you can probably dismiss Boren as a serious prospect. The odd circumstances of his abrupt, middle-of-the-term departure from the Senate in 1994 left unanswered questions, which he’s been able to dodge at OU – but that he would be forced to confront if he re-entered elected politics. Bottom-line: Scratch him
Sam Nunn: The 68-year-old Georgian served 24 years in the U.S. Senate, chairing the Armed Services Committee and carving out a reputation as one of his party’s leading authorities on defense issues. He has largely been absent from the public eye since his retirement in 1996, although his name did pop up in connection with potential Cabinet posts when Al Gore and John Kerry ran for President. To a Bloomberg-led ticket, Mr. Nunn would bring the foreign policy command and credibility that Mr. Bloomberg now lacks. He would also provide regional balance, and his moderate-to-conservative ideology could play well in the South, where Mr. Bloomberg would be expected to struggle. Mr. Nunn would be a solid, reassuring pick, one who wouldn’t cause many headaches for the mayor. But it’s unrealistic to expect his presence would swing any southern states to the ticket, and given his prolonged absence from the public stage, he’s hardly a brand name to average Americans. Bottom-line: Not the first choice, but Bloomberg could do much worse.
Bob Kerrey: Friendly descriptions of the former Nebraska Senator and Governor (and current New School President and New York resident) label him “independent,” but his unpredictability could just as easily be called capricious. Kerrey, who lost part of his leg in Vietnam and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, has been all over the political map, frustrating his friends and allies with his seemingly-random changes of heart, whether on policy matters or in terms of his career plans. In 2005, out of nowhere, he told the New York Times that while he has been filling out his tax returns he began thinking about running for mayor of New York, even though he was mostly satisfied with Mr. Bloomberg’s first term performance. That notion, like so many of Mr. Kerrey’s, quickly came and went. Lately, he’s even suggested he might return to Nebraska to run for the Senate should his friend Mr. Hagel decline to run for re-election next year. Still, the 63-year-old Mr. Kerrey’s Vietnam service, maverick reputation, and often blunt outspokenness make him attractive the very independent voters Mr. Bloomberg’s bid would rely on. He’d probably have to change his residence to run (presidential electors are forbidden from voting for a President and Vice-President from the same state), but Mr. Kerrey would at least bring some color and a touch of star power to the ticket. But who knows if he’d really want it? Bottom-line: He likes the attention, but can’t see him saying yes if he’s asked
Bill Bradley: The former New Jersey Senator seemed to disappear after his 2000 presidential bid crumbled, but he re-emerged recently with a new book, “The New American Story,” that presents something of a post-partisan, independent-friendly vision of the country’s future. “Dollar Bill,” with his pro basketball past and long-standing discomfort with most of the powerful forces in his own party, has always been a favorite of independent voters. Three times – in 1984, 1988 and 1992 – he passed up presidential campaigns when the Democratic nomination seemed to be waiting for him. His primary liability is that his low-key manner borders on lifeless or, worse, aloof. Still, he remains a brand name in American politics. Bottom-line: Would be a good-to-terrific pick, but didn’t he take enough abuse in 2000?
Angus King: Angus who? Mr. King was elected as an independent to two terms as Governor of Maine, one of the most independent-friendly states in the country, serving from 1995 until 2003. For the most part, he bridged divides between the two parties in his home state, racking up a string of popular achievements and winning his 1998 re-election bid resoundingly. Of the three independent Governors elected over the last two decades – Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and Jesse Ventura in Minnesota are the others – Mr. King is the only one who’d be a realistic addition to a Bloomberg ticket. On the down side, he’s unknown to most everyone outside of northern New England. Bottom-line: A serviceable choice if the big boys (and girls, maybe) say no.