George Bush's spokesman suggests that there is "something really unseemly" about efforts to promote this or that person as the ideal vice presidential candidate.
Democrat Michael Dukakis is even more blunt. "The nominee makes that decision," he says.But the people who are promoting various running mates as the only real hope for the Republican or Democratic ticket in the fall are not easily discouraged.
To begin with, they tend to be people who thought neither Bush nor Dukakis had a chance of surviving the primary season. Depending on their place on the political spectrum, they spent much of the past year dreaming that Mario Cuomo or Edward M. Kennedy, Pat Buchanan or Jeane Kirkpatrick would bring some excitement to the presidential race.
Bush was saddled with the "wimp factor," with Iran-Contra and his unwillingness to talk about where he differed with President Reagan. He was giving new definition to the phrase "loyal to a fault."
The Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday should give Bush the 1,139 delegates he needs to claim a majority at the Republican National Convention next August in New Orleans.
That same primary should give Dukakis a fourth straight primary victory and convince most of the remaining doubters that the Massachusetts governor will be the candidate chosen in Atlanta in July to recapture the White House for the Democrats.
But the skeptics still doubt either man can win in November without considerable help from a carefully chosen running mate.
Dukakis has a perceived problem of geography.
Not since 1976, when Georgian Jimmy Carter was at the top of the ticket, has a Democratic presidential candidate carried the South. Carter carried 10 of 11 Southern states in 1976, but four years later lost 10 of 11 states in the region to Ronald Reagan.
This year, conventional wisdom is the Democrats need to carry the South.
To bolster his Southern strength, Dukakis is being urged to choose from a small group of Southern senators Sam Nunn of Georgia, Lloyd Bentsen of Texas or Bob Graham of Florida.
Nunn is viewed as the party's most impressive spokesman on national security issues, an area where Dukakis is seen as potentially vulnerable. But on domestic policy Nunn is a Reagan Democrat. Bentsen and Graham have more basic credentials each comes from a state that is high on the Democrats' short list of those their nominee must carry in November.
Neither Bush nor his party has to worry as much about geography. After all, Bush is from practically everywhere claiming ties with Massachusetts, where he was born; Connecticut, where he grew up; Texas, where he now has a home; and Maine where he has a home and a burial plot.
In obvious contrast to the Democrats, the Republicans have been looking unbeatable in the South and West in recent presidential elections.
But Bush makes a lot of Republicans nervous. Some think he's a weak candidate; others find him ideologically suspect.
The party's conservative wing wants a signal from Bush that he is a loyal conservative who won't ditch the Reagan agenda if he becomes president. What they now view as the clearest signal would be the choice of one of their own as his running mate.
Few people set conservative hearts aflutter like Jeane Kirkpatrick, the hard-line former U.N. ambassador. So now comes Curt Clink-scales, a conservative activist, who has formed an unauthorized committee to draft Kirkpatrick for the GOP ticket an effort the former ambassador disavowed through a spokesman.
About the only politician who regularly campaigns for the vice presidential nomination is Endicott Peabody, the former governor of Massachusetts who now resides in New Hampshire.
However, Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, who was a conservative favorite in the early stages of this year's presidential campaign, now is coming as closed to Peabody as he can get.
Kemp denies he's running for the vice presidency, but makes no secret that he'd love to have the job.