Colin Powell? Dick Cheney? Dan Lungren?
Welcome to Washington's newest parlor game, "name that vice-presidential contender." Retired General Powell, clearly Bob Dole's dream running mate, is equally clearly not going to fulfill those dreams and agree to run, say Dole advisers.
Not that the Dole campaign has entirely given up. The head of a moderate Republican group reports being contacted recently by the Dole campaign with a request: "If you have any influence on Colin Powell, please use it."
But this person, like most of political Washington, is considering who else is out there - and what each might bring to the GOP ticket. Christine Todd Whitman, governor of a key swing state, New Jersey, would bring intelligence, fiscal conservatism, and female flash to a campaign that faces a yawning gender gap.
But she favors abortion rights, and top Republicans such as House Speaker Newt Gingrich say she probably wouldn't pass muster with the party's active anti-abortion wing. Powell, says Mr. Gingrich, is probably the only pro-choice Republican that Mr. Dole could choose without cries from social conservatives.
Political scientists argue that vice-presidential nominees make only marginal difference in the November ballot, swaying maybe 1 percent of the vote. But the choice still matters. "If you're running for president, it's your first appointment," says presidential scholar Tom Cronin. "You want people to be able to say, 'He attracts good people.' "
Dole needs first to get the Inside-the-Beltway Seal of Approval, someone the press and the Republican Party faithful will react to by saying, "Yeah, that's a good choice. Yeah, he or she's presidential timber," says Mr. Cronin, president of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.
When President Clinton selected Tennessee Sen. Al Gore four years ago, the press already viewed him favorably. Having run for president in 1988, Mr. Gore had already been screened in the national press - and found to have a squeaky clean background.
Dan Quayle, by contrast, was little known inside or outside the beltway when George Bush put him on the GOP ticket in 1988, and his selection initially put former President Bush on the defensive. Of course, Bush won anyway. But in 1992, the "dump Quayle" debate proved a distraction in a reelection campaign that ultimately failed.
Dole gives a job description
This week former Senator Dole himself laid out some of the job requirements after an 80-minute meeting with his close friend and head of his vice-presidential search team, Bob Ellsworth.
"It's got to be somebody I know, somebody I can work with, somebody who can be fairly compatible with my philosophy. That's where we are," Dole told reporters after the meeting, adding that there's no hard list of candidates yet.
Dole also needs to thread the needle in finding someone who's safe - someone with no skeletons - and who will, at the same time, add some excitement to his lackluster campaign. Looking out over the landscape of realistic choices, analysts see a lot of dull white males.
At a Monitor breakfast this week, Speaker Gingrich displayed the most enthusiasm for Dan Lungren, California's conservative attorney general. "We served together in the House," said Gingrich. "He was a very effective conservative leader.... He deals with crime and drugs and issues that I think he'd be very good in articulating and that are very important to the American people. I think that he would be a substantial help in carrying the largest state in the country."
Political analysts say polls show that no potential Californian running mates - including Gov. Pete Wilson - do much for Dole's chances in a state where he trails Clinton badly. Mr. Lungren, little known outside California, might also bring an echo of the 1988 refrain, "Dan who?"
A Defense secretary, two senators, and a 'sleeper'
Though Dole says he has no list yet, investigative journalist Bob Woodward's new book on the 1996 campaign, "The Choice," reports interviews with Dole and his advisers that include several names. Powell is at the top. Beyond that, in no discernible order, the possibilities include former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Connie Mack of Florida, and one "sleeper," Gov. Tom Ridge of swing-state Pennsylvania, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights. Governors of other swing states, including John Engler of Michigan and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, are also included.
From the abortion-rights wing of the GOP, activist Ann Stone says that if Governor Ridge, pro-choice Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, or Powell isn't on the ticket, an anti-abortion Republican who believes in "big tent" inclusiveness for GOP abortion-rights supporters is "probably the best we can hope for."
Beyond Powell, voters have no clear preference for Dole's No. 2. A recent Wirthlin poll asked Republican voters who they would like, excluding Powell. The winner was "Don't know, No opinion," with 63 percent.