John McCain's Dwindling Outside-the-Box V.P. Options

Yesterday, Barack Obama lost one of his better V.P. options when Jim Webb backed out of the running, apparently deciding

Yesterday, Barack Obama lost one of his better V.P. options when Jim Webb backed out of the running, apparently deciding that the rigorous vetting process and the intense scrutiny of a national campaign weren’t for him.

Around the same time, one of John McCain’s most intriguing options might also have removed herself – but not intentionally. That would be Carly Fiorina, whose nonchalant mentions of Viagra and birth control at a breakfast with reporters yesterday are reverberating in the blogosphere today, seemingly confirming the conventional wisdom that the ousted Hewlett Packard C.E.O. would simply be too risky an addition to the G.O.P.’s national ticket.

You can actually make a case that the bluntness she exhibited yesterday would actually help McCain and the G.O.P. – loosening up the party’s uptight image and simply drawing more attention to the ticket – but the conventional wisdom is probably still right: The circumstances of Fiorina’s departure from H.P. in 2005 alone would probably haunt her and McCain well into the fall if she were to join the ticket.

But if not Fiorina for McCain, then whom?

Obviously, if McCain wants to make a safe choice, he has plenty of options – chief among them, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty. But as I (and others) have written, he would reap no meaningful benefit from taking a Pawlenty, who would strike most Americans as a generic politician. But doesn’t McCain, who is running uphill, need a V.P. pick that will spark some more interest than that?

Fiorina obviously fits the bill as an outside the box candidate, but her prospects seem to be fading. Bobby Jindal, the 37-year-old Louisiana governor and son of Indian immigrants, is another obvious option, but some regard him as too green – and also risky – just as Sarah Palin, the 41 44-year-old first-term governor of Alaska (two years removed from being the mayor of a town of 800 5,500 people) is also dismissed as too inexperienced. Bill Gates’ name was floated last week, but that couldn’t have been serious. He’s not even a Republican, is he?

The idea of picking an unconventional running-mate seems entirely consistent with McCain’s political instincts and style. But when I try to think of who he could realistically pick to fill this role, the only name that seems truly plausible to me is Joe Lieberman. Are there others out there? Am I forgetting someone?


CORRECTION: Palin, as it turns out, is 44 and not 41, and the town she served as Mayor, Wasilla, has about 5,500 people, not 800. Also, she left the mayor’s office in 2002, and did not jump directly from Mayor to Governor in 2006.  No excuse for these errors. John McCain's Dwindling Outside-the-Box V.P. Options