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.
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
Senate staffers of both parties say Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the Environment Committee chairman, did a poor job managing the failed global warming bill. They want somebody else handling the issue in the next Congress.
Boxer was criticized for pressuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring up a bill to raise energy taxes when gasoline was $4 a gallon. She was given low grades for her management of the bill, including the late substitution of a new 490-page measure. Needing 60 votes to end debate, Boxer got only 48.
Critical staffers would like to see global warming handled next year by Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Energy Committee chairman, or Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, Finance Committee chairman.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the 2008 Republican platform chairman, will make his first serious contact with high levels of Sen. John McCain's campaign this week, when he meets with campaign manager Rick Davis. That marks a sharp contrast from micromanaging of the 2000 and 2004 platforms by George W. Bush's operatives.
During the past two conventions, the Bush's team virtually dictated the platform (with heavy use of the president's name). The McCain strategists are giving a free hand to McCarthy, a freshman conservative and former floor leader of the California Assembly. McCarthy's co-chairman is first-term Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, also a conservative.
A footnote: McCarthy has hired as an editor former Reagan White House aide William Gribbin, whose platform experience dating back three decades provides institutional memory for the rookie co-chairmen.