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McCain's Veep prospects

January 29, 2008 |  9:45 pm

With John McCain perhaps on the path to the Republican presidential nomination (and that remains a big perhaps, given the significant financial advantage Mitt Romney still enjoys over him), speculation inevitably has intensified about possible running mates for the Arizona senator.

A possible "fusion ticket" will continue to be bandied about, despite Joe Lieberman tossing cold water on it today. But as unpredictable as McCain can be, it's hard to imagine that even he would risk irretrievably alienating social conservatives by picking a pro-choice Democrat as his vice presidential candidate.

McCain, if he decides to aggressively woo social conservatives, obviously would give Mike Huckabee a look. The pair have frequently exchanged kind words during debates, causing some pundits to view Huckabee as actively vying for the No. 2 spot.

At the least, the longer Huckabee stays in a race it would take a miracle for him to win, the more goodwill he builds up ...

in the McCain camp. That's because of the presumption that most of the vote Huckabee gets would likely go to Romney, were the former Arkansas governor to end his candidacy.

McCain did nothing to scotch chatter about Huckabee's Veep prospects with the kind words he directed toward him in his victory speech Tuesday night. Said the winner of the Florida primary: "Gov. Huckabee and his supporters, as always, brought to this campaign conviction and passion and something we don't always have enough of in these contests: good humor and grace."

Still, our eyes couldn't help but notice the perpetually tanned, lean governor of Florida who loomed behind McCain during the speech: Charlie Crist.

McCain clearly got a big boost from Crist's endorsement of him in the closing days of the hard-fought primary campaign with Romney. That's the sort of help a politician doesn't forget. Crist's popularity in a state McCain almost certainly would need to carry to win the presidency also helps his prospects for landing on the national ticket.

Crist, 51, may face a hurdle stemming from his personal life. He had a brief marriage (less than a year) during his '20s, but since then has been single. So much for the traditional tableau of the newly minted running mate surrounded by a smiling spouse and children.

Also on the stage with McCain in Florida was another politician whose recent endorsement was a boon for him: Sen. Mel Martinez. At first blush, he would seem a natural contender for the ticket, improving the GOP's chances to compete for the Latino vote.

But it won't happen. As Martinez himself pointed out, when asked about his vice presidential availability, he was born a citizen of Cuba, making him constitutionally ineligible for the office.

-- Don Frederick

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