In the next few weeks, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama will announce his vice presidential pick, and in all likelihood, his Republican counterpart John McCain will announce his choice for second-in-command soon after.
At this point in the race, Democratic strategist James Carville told "Good Morning America" today, the vice presidential picks are crucial to setting the tone for each ticket.
Still, he says, there's no denying that Sen. Hillary Clinton's shadow still looms over Obama's choice.
Clinton Looms Large
"Obviously, Senator Clinton running the race as she did, to get literally half the votes and have a large constituency like she does… I've seen polling that shows she helped him. That has to be considered," said Carville, who is a close Clinton supporter.
Adding to the speculation that a Clinton veep candidacy is still alive, Obama phoned Clinton fundraiser Jill Iscol last week.
"He said that he admired Hillary Clinton, that he respected her enormously, how could he not consider her for VP and that she certainly was on his list," Iscol said.
Citing a historical precedent for former party rivals making their way to second-in-command on the ticket, Carville added, "Senator Kennedy picked Johnson. President Reagan picked Bush to be his vice president. John Kerry, Edwards."
But, until final choices are made, the Beltway is consumed studying all the comments and body language — every last nuance from engagements to haircuts to international trips — to try and figure out who the vice presidential nominees will be.
A Game of Clue?
Family values conservatives were concerned that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida wouldn't be a suitable vice presidential pick because he's been a bachelor for decades. Earlier this month, Crist got engaged.
The Minneapolis media have written that Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chances of being picked were hurt by his mullet, or "hockey hair." Suddenly, the Republican governor was sporting a new, distinguished haircut.
Former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp says the second spot on the ticket isn't something you can campaign for.
"You cannot campaign for it. I think that is the most important thing," said Kemp, Bob Dole's running mate on the 1996 GOP ticket.
Tell that to Mitt Romney, who's shown amazing willingness to take to the airwaves to praise former party rival John McCain. Last week on Fox News, Romney described the Republican nominee as "someone I respect enormously."
Over the weekend, word spread that Republican Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel — an opponent of the war in Iraq who has not endorsed McCain — will accompany Obama on his upcoming trip to Iraq.
Clinton aside, Carville says that while he likes Hagel, he doesn't think Obama will "pick an almost down the line Republican" when "there are plenty of Democrats that have been in the military that he could pick."
There are elements to see-and-be-seen in the vice presidential vetting process as well, and Carville cited former Democratic presidential rival and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as an example.
Carville describes Virginia's former Democratic governor Mark Warner as "a moderate, successful governor, kind of a tech guy" and says "Warner is somebody that I'm sure [Obama's] considering."
Timing also matters, says Carville.
"I think what they want to do is bring some drama, probably want to get as close to the convention as possible," Carville said, opening the possibility up to the first night of the convention as a good announcement window.
"I think that's one of the things that's probably under consideration. There's a reason these candidates do that very often because it gives us something to talk about."