VP Options Lack the Pizzazz of Past Picks

It seems somehow appropriate that Sen. Barack Obama announced Sen. Joe Biden's selection as his running mate at 3 a.m. on a Saturday in August. It's not certain that anybody cares.

An ABCNews/Washington Post poll found that 75 percent of voters polled said the VP pick doesn't affect their vote. It also found that 13 percent of those polled may be persuaded to vote for Obama because he selected Biden, while 10 percent said putting Biden on the ticket convinced them to vote against Obama.

Barring a big surprise, the Republican options to many seem just as colorless. Tim Pawlenty? Mitt Romney?

It may be too much to ask for the VP candidates to generate excitement, especially in an election that has already made history by setting record primary turnouts, record amounts of money spent, and having a woman and a black man battle for a major party nomination.

Nevertheless, there is precedent for the VP candidate to generate some enthusiasm, or at least interest.

Take the 2000 election. The Democrats and Al Gore selected Sen. Joe Lieberman, the first Jew to appear on a national ticket. At times, he stole the show, especially when he campaigned in heavily Jewish districts of cities like Miami.

That same year the Republicans created interest of their own when Dick Cheney was appointed to head George W. Bush's VP search committee -- and found himself.

The Clinton-Gore team emerged in 1992 as a surprisingly fresh-faced duo that was just short of Kennedyesque as the candidates and their wives toured the country on a bus together like best pals.

Walter Mondale enlivened his doomed 1984 bid by selecting Rep. Geraldine Ferraro to be the first woman on a national ticket. It was such a novelty at the time that one Republican asked Ferraro if she could bake blueberry muffins. After she debated the GOP's VP candidate George H.W. Bush, it was declared a draw. Her spirited performance earned a succinct critique from Bush's wife Barbara: "I can't say it, but it rhymes with rich."

Ferraro's star power actually boosted Mondale's poll numbers for a while, bringing him even with Ronald Reagan before they both went down under the Reagan-Bush landslide.

Even Republican Dan Quayle generated enthusiasm -- although it was among the Democrats -- after he bounded onstage next to George H.W. Bush like an untrained puppy. His smack down by Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen when Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy in the VP debate -- "Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy" -- remains the gold standard of political put-downs.

The Democrats ran ads featuring a picture of Quayle with the message "Just a heartbeat away." Despite the voting public's inability to imagine Quayle in the Oval Office, Bush won the election.

Sen. John McCain might yet inject the unexpected in this race. He could, for instance, select his pal Joe Lieberman. The Connecticut senator would then rack up another first: the first person to run for vice president for two major parties in modern times. But even that smacks of a rerun.

McCain reportedly intends to announce his pick at the end of this week, the day after the Democratic convention ends. The timing is meant to minimize the bounce the Democratic candidate generally receives after a week in the political spotlight.

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