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Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama And The Vice Presidential Search Process

Marc Ambinder

Here's what I know
: the campaign has taken a collective vow of omerta when it comes to answering questions about the process. I know that, when I've asked senior officials whether James Johnson, a major Obama fundraiser/superdelegate wrangler/Washington hand/Kerry veepstakes vetter has been tapped to run Obama's search, communication abruptly stops, as though I've mentioned "Skull and Bones" in the presence of a member. I know that Barack Obama regularly says that he won't begin to think about veepstakes until after voting ends on June 4, so I suspect that, if Johnson, or Valerie Jarrett, or anyone else, has been asked to help Obama, it won't happen until after that.

Here's what else I suspect: that Obama will wind up vetting more candidates than one might suspect; that the vetting will be extremely thorough and private; that several women will be vetted NOT as tokens but as actual potential choices; that Hillary Clinton WILL be asked to submit the vetting documents IF she signals that she wants to be considered; that Obama DOES NOT have a frontrunner in mind; that the campaign, even if it uses another vetter, will seek to emulate the Kerry/Johnson process; that Obama, or his campaign manager, has asked senior staff to say not word one about the process, ever, thus accounting for the reticence of his press staff even to joke about it.

Here's what I don't know: whether, at some point, the campaign will release a short list to publicly test names -- a la Gore in 2000; I don't know which pollster(s) will be dedicated to the outfit. (Kerry polled some potential choices in 2004); I don't know whether Tom Daschle wants to be vice president or merely chief of staff or just Tom Daschle; I don't know whether Obama will consider vetting a Republican.

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