Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before multimillionaire Democratic power broker James A. Johnson quit as Sen. Barack Obama's chief vice presidential screener, the name that came to the fore in his internal discussions was 65-year-old, six-term Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware.

Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, made a good impression in his losing bid for the presidential nomination this year. The downside on him is that he talks too much. But he provides expertise and experience in national security that Obama lacks and, as a Catholic, adds cultural diversity to the ticket.

A footnote: Presidential supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton who are possibilities for vice president include Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. The leading Clintonite for vice president, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, has definitively ruled himself out.

MCCAIN'S NON-VPs

Sources close to Sen. John McCain say the Republican presidential candidate likes the idea of Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, re-elected from Connecticut as an independent in 2006, or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge -- if he could get away with it. The political consensus is that McCain couldn't get away with either, and he knows it.

Lieberman, one of McCain's closest Senate friends, vigorously supports him for president and sometimes joins him on the campaign trail. However, Lieberman opposes Republican policy on nearly everything except Iraq, where he has backed the war effort.

Ridge, who served as President Bush's secretary of homeland security, is a generally conservative Republican except for being pro-choice on abortion. He was considered for vice president in 1996 and 2000, but was ruled out both times because of the abortion issue.

NOT REACHING BISHOPS

A meeting by Sen. John McCain with several Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, in Orlando, Fla., Friday was canceled by the Republican candidate's campaign after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops got cold feet.

John Carr, a former Carter administration official who is the conference's director of social development and world peace, questioned whether the meeting seemingly would put the church in the Republican corner. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn next privately expressed concern, which spread to other bishops expected to attend the meeting.

McCain's campaign, which has experienced trouble courting evangelicals, had made better progress with Catholic outreach prior to cancellation of Friday's meeting.

BOXING IN BOXER


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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