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In the veep guessing game, two dark horses get a moment in the sun

July 5, 2008 | 10:59 pm

As Barack Obama and John McCain take their sweet time settling on running-mate choices, one result is that the net cast in the inevitable guessing game gets wider and wider.

As The Times' Doyle McManus aptly put it in a recent overview on the plethora of vice-presidential prospects: "Never in modern memory have so many eminent people been mentioned for a job that has been compared -- unfavorably -- to a bucket of warm spit."

In the spirit of such speculation, veteran political journalist Paul West this weekend spotlighted two possibilities -- one for Obama, the other for McCain -- who definitely would be surprise picks.

For the Democrats, West offered up Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

In a definite understatement, West writes that Reed "isn't flashy, and he wouldn't upstage the star." But here's the core of the case he makes for the lawmaker with virtually no national profile:

"He's a Catholic with working-class roots (his father was a school janitor) and could enhance the ticket's appeal to those swing voters. He has expertise on issues at the center of the campaign debate: economics and the housing crisis.

"More important, he would offset Obama's lack of national security experience. Reed, 58, has a reputation as a serious thinker and is a respected voice on defense matters. He's a West Point graduate and Army Ranger with views that are right in line with Obama's. He voted against the 2002 Iraq war resolution and became an early critic of the way the war was fought while working to increase the size of the Army."

For the Republicans, West goes one better in the obscurity department -- dropping the little-known name of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. He notes:

"On a personal level, Huntsman and McCain both have adopted children from Asia. (Huntsman's are from China and India; McCain's is from Bangladesh.) Their moderate-conservative political views are in sync, and Huntsman has gone out of his way to praise McCain's stance on immigration reform."

West's complete piece, in which he also says that Bill Clinton's 1992 selection of Al Gore "is widely regarded by strategists in both parties as the best vice-presidential pick in at least 20 years," can be read on The Swamp blog.

--Don Frederick