Salena Zito

Maybe it’s time John McCain got another person to run on the Republican ticket with him besides George W. Bush. Branding is a big part of campaigning. So far, the best branding on the 2008 campaign trail has been orchestrated by the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama. Their incessant use of every possible combination of McCain-Bush makes it hard to separate the two men from each other. The best way to combat this negative branding is pretty simple: Change the conversation. One quick way to remove Bush from the McCain ticket would be to begin a very public, speculative discussion about McCain’s running mate. Combating negative branding also can be managed by taking your opponent’s perceived weaknesses and turning them into your positive. Right now, the Democrats’ Achilles' heel is that their party is fractured between Obama and Hillary Clinton -- and the only way they seemingly can recover is to place both candidates on the party’s presidential ticket. So, Mr. McCain, why not show that your strongest opponent and chief rival in the Republican primaries -- Mitt Romney -- is in consideration to be your wingman? Picking (or at least publicly considering) Romney would show that McCain really is trying to bring the Republican Party together and that he is not somebody who holds a grudge. In an ironic sort of way, the process of elimination that delivered McCain the nomination could be the same kind of process that delivers Romney onto the Republican ticket. All of the folks McCain is screening for vice president have flaws, but Romney probably has the most strengths. Plus, Romney’s flaws already have been vetted, most notably his penchant for flip-flopping.

Democrat strategist John Lapp says that while Romney undermines McCain’s whole “straight-talk” thing -- with his flip-flopping on guns, abortion rights and human rights -- a McCain-Romney ticket has distinct advantages.

“Theoretically, as a former governor and CEO, Mitt Romney is not part of the Republican mess in Washington and he could double down on McCain’s reputation as a maverick,” Lapp says.

The person who the McCain people say is in charge of his veep search is former Reagan White House counsel Arthur Culvahouse. But anyone who knows McCain knows he will make the choice, and Culvahouse and his search committee’s job will be to approve that choice.

If McCain locked himself in a room to come up with a list -- a sort of David Letterman-like breakdown of the top reasons he should pick Mitt Romney as his vice president -- it might look something like this:

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.