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Governors might fill No. 2 spots on tickets

Huntsman is a possible veep choice for McCain

Published: Sunday, Feb. 24 2008 12:23 a.m. MST

Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, arrives at the Utah Governor's Mansion last March with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Huntsman has been an early supporter of McCain.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

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WASHINGTON — The Republican and Democratic nominees appear certain to come from the Senate. Thus, the nation's governors seem a ready pool of would-be vice presidential candidates who could provide management experience lacking at the top of each ticket.

"Seven governors have become president of the United States, and four have become vice president," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the chairman of the National Governors Association opening its winter meeting with such bits of history.

The Republican didn't mention that he's among the many governors who might have the chance to try to increase those numbers. He, like the others, tends to eschew such talk.

Still, names of more than a dozen governors — including Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. — have been floated as potential running mates on the Republican and Democratic tickets.

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona seems assured of the Republican nomination, while Democratic Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York are continuing to battle for the Democratic nod.

Jockeying for the No. 2 spot is well under way, even though the nominees typically don't choose running mates until the summer.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said it's too early to comment on the Utah governor's prospects. "Huntsman has been a long-time supporter of Sen. McCain, and he will continue to help throughout his candidacy."

Huntsman, 47, comes from one of the country's most Republican states, and he's a Mormon. But he's also solidly conservative, and that could help McCain tremendously.

Tons of names have been tossed about, from former and current members of the House and Senate to one-time governors and Cabinet officials.

But sitting governors offer an attractive blend: They are running state governments now and, thus, dealing with issues of the day; they have political and fundraising networks that are active and don't need to be dusted off, and, in many cases, they are considered rising stars in their respective parties who aspire to the next rung on the political ladder.

They also can claim they are Washington outsiders at a time when the public is craving change and when both nominees are, by their occupations, Washington insiders.

As McCain, and either Obama or Clinton, weigh their options, many considerations come into play, among them: electoral votes a state offers, whether a person would bring to the ticket credentials lacking at the top of the ticket, and, perhaps, whether the person was an early and loyal supporter.

Here's a sampling of governors who are being talked about in political circles, in alphabetical order by state:

Republicans

Sarah Palin, Alaska. The state's first woman governor, 44, is an up-and-comer who has had remarkably high approval ratings. But she lacks a national profile. She's also from a far-flung Republican-leaning state that isn't an electoral prize.

Charlie Crist, Florida. His last-minute endorsement was widely credited with helping McCain win the Florida primary and putting Crist, 51, on the national stage. Florida is certain to be in play this fall, but Crist has a centrist agenda that may rankle the GOP base.

Haley Barbour, Louisiana. The 60-year-old was lauded for his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He could give McCain a boost in conservative Southern states. But he's also a Washington insider; he's a former national GOP chairman who founded a lobbying firm.

Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota. He's a two-term governor and longtime McCain backer who is from the Midwest, a critical electoral-rich, swing-voting region. Pawlenty, 47, has a national platform with the NGA, and will host the GOP nominating convention in his state.

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