Consider this the first installment of the Bipartisan Rules' power rankings assessing the field of potential McCain VP candidates.
1. Tim Pawlenty: Age (47), broad moderate appeal, strong executive experience, and popularity as a 2-term governor in a swing state (Minnesota) make him the clear frontrunner. Perhaps the thing that puts Pawlenty at the top of the list is that he has stayed loyal to McCain since day one.
2. Condoleeza Rice: Would help form a dynamic ticket with immense bipartisan appeal. The worst-case scenario for Dems. However, McCain can't afford to let himself be tied to the current administration, and picking a Bush Cabinet official -- even one as competent and popular as Condi -- would allow Dems to tee off.
3. Charlie Crist: Could this be his reward for effectively delivering a Florida primary win to McCain, thus propelling him to the nomination? Crist is in his mid-50s and is immensely popular in his home state (Florida) that promises to be a battleground, at least against HRC.
4. Mitt Romney: Just won't go away. Does for McCain what Biden or Webb would do for Obama: address his biggest weakness (the economy). It's unclear that Romney would appeal to any particular constituency, however, and there is no reason to think that he would bring any new voters to the table. On top of all that, McCain seems to genuinely hate his guts.
5. Bobby Jindal: According to Bill Kristol, quietly being talked about by Team McCain as a serious candidate. Jindal, the first-term governor of Louisiana and son of Indian immigrants, is extraordinarily young (36) but has a strong reformist streak and would be an intriguing pick.
6. Tom Ridge: Pro: Would almost certainly deliver Pennsylvania to McCain and deliver a crushing blow to the Dems. Reinforces McCain's already impressive foreign policy credentials. Con: Is in his mid-60s, and McCain has already acknowledged that it would be difficult to pick a pro-choice veep.
Until the Chairman corrects me, the top 3 for HRC:
1. Wesley Clark: One of HRC's most strident supporters would lend enormous foreign-policy cred, as well as start eating away at McCain's chokehold on moderates.
2. Evan Bayh: At 53 has already been a governor and into his 2nd term in the Senate. Considered relatively moderate and would put a traditionally red state into play. Tough to argue that any combo would be better for Dems than HRC/Bayh.
3. John Edwards: The man who says he will commit the rest of his life to eliminating poverty, one $400 haircut at a time, hasn't endorsed anyone yet. However, if she wins the nomination, HRC will need to reach out to the left, and adding Edwards would be an olive branch to the lefty populists who worship at the altar of the Changemaker.
...and the top 3 for Obama:
1. Joe Biden: Dems' version of McCain; foreign policy attacks go completely out the window if Biden is Obama's VP. Also, a great attack dog. Only drawback is that Delaware's finest has a history of saying some pretty stupid things.
2. Jim Webb: Former Reagan cabinet official and Vietnam vet. Huge moderate appeal. Like Biden, would be a smart choice to offset Obama's complete lack of substance or knowledge on foreign policy.
3. Bill Richardson: Risked longtime friendship with the Clinton's to switch sides mid-stream. Would deliver the Hispanic vote to Obama, something that many pundits believe -- especially against McCain -- he will have a hard time winning.