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Picking a No. 2 in the glare of the Internet age

More than ever, vice presidential wannabes must maneuver between groveling and remaining cool.

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Romney has a proven track record as one of the party's top fundraisers, especially critical in a race where Obama is outraising McCain by more than 2 to 1.

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Romney also has a track record as a successful business executive, giving him a comfort level with economic matters that could give McCain a boost on the top issue of concern to voters. On the negative side, Romney would have to defend his business record of downsizing and layoffs.

Two other names consistently mentioned with McCain are Gov. Pawlenty and former Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, who also served as budget director under President Bush. Both are personally close to McCain and from swing states, but are untested on the national stage. Romney has the benefit of having been vetted by the media during his presidential run; he emerged with an intact image as a squeaky-clean family man.

On the Great Mentioner's list for Obama, two top names are Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Biden is a party elder with major foreign policy credentials, but he's known for being long-winded. Bayh, who is just a few years older than Obama, has the benefit of reinforcing the "generational change" theme while bringing to the table extensive policy experience in both domestic and international affairs.

Both men are popular at home and could be helpful in bringing along swing states. Though Delaware is solidly blue, neighboring Pennsylvania (which gets a lot of Biden coverage, especially in the Philadelphia media market) is a crucial swing state.

Neighboring New Jersey, which leans blue but isn't 100 percent, also could be swayed by having a quasi-local boy on the ticket.

Political strategists aren't convinced that the potential to nudge a state in one direction or another is that high on the list of criteria these days. It's been almost 50 years since Lyndon Johnson helped John F. Kennedy win the crucial swing state of Texas, the last clear example of a running mate's geographic utility.

What really matters is that the veep choice do no harm and seem presidential enough in the event he or she has to step in to do the job. But even a "bad" choice doesn't have to be a deal-breaker.

"When President Bush's father chose Dan Quayle, it wasn't seen as a good presidential choice, and he won anyway," says Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster.

The idea of an Obama-Hillary Clinton ticket seems to be fading, with polls indicating her selection would do nearly as much harm as good with likely voters. It also hasn't helped to have an outside group with ties to the Clinton campaign agitating vocally for her selection, analysts say. A potential president wants to be seen making his own decisions, not caving in to outside pressure.