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Starting Gate: No-Brainers?

In the midst of delivering birthday cake to reporters on his plane last night, Barack Obama was grilled on a number of campaign topics but there was one topic he said remains off limits – the vice presidential selection process. "Until I introduce my VP nominee, you're not going to pry anything out of me," Obama told reporters.

On the senator's schedule this week is a 21-hour stopover in Indiana – a huge chunk of time to devote to any one state in the age of modern, three-state-a-day campaigns. The investment is spurring more speculation about Evan Bayh, the state's popular senator and someone who has been atop the Democratic vice presidential since he himself opted not to run for president this cycle.

As one of the most reliable GOP states in presidential politics, Obama is definitely looking to put Indiana in play and Bayh, whose name has deep roots in the state, could help. But there's more to this potential team than just carrying a state.

One of the reasons Bayh was considered a strong presidential possible himself was the desire on the part of Democrats to broaden their appeal among mid-western and blue-collar voters with a more moderate approach. Through his years in the Senate, Bayh has built a centrist record, one that has at times irked progressives but also one that could help balance a ticket and help Obama settle some nagging questions voters seem to have about his candidacy. He's not always popular with the base, but that seems to be the least of Obama's worries heading into November.

On the GOP side, the bench from which John McCain will choose a running mate appears to be smaller. The occasional story about Eric Cantor's possible vetting or Bobby Jindal's meetings with the candidate aside, the two names which have dominated on the Republican side are Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Should McCain go with Pawlenty, he would be getting an out-of-Washington politician with executive experience from a state McCain would like to win. But with Romney, he would be getting all that and more.

The former Massachusetts governor may not have convinced all conservatives, but he was able to make inroads. The Olympics will help remind voters of his admirable job of rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake games and he has extensive business experience to go along with a little time in an executive position. Maybe more importantly, Romney has proven that he can stay on message, be an energetic booster of the candidate at the top and has shown a willingness to take the gloves off and go after the opposition.

The vice presidential sweepstakes always provides lots of good grist for the parlor games in political circles. Does the candidate get along with a certain person, do they fill a demographic or ideological need, does one of the candidates need to do something to really "shake things up?" But once the reality draws nearer, the picture clears up in quick order. It's easier to talk about taking risks than actually doing it. For all the names and choices, it's hard to argue that there are better ones than Bayh and Romney. But that's why they call it a guessing game.

Around The Track

  • An in-depth look at voting registration changes in the past three years by the New York Times shows a trend away from Republicans, one that could alter political races at all levels for cycles to come.
  • Obama campaigns in Ohio today where he will continue his focus on energy, reports CBS News' Michelle Levi. "Under Senator McCain's plan, the oil companies get billions more, we don't pay any less at the pump, and we stay in the same cycle of dependence on oil that got us into this crisis," Obama will say, according to prepared remarks.
  • "You can argue that even if you've been vice president for eight years, that no one can be fully ready for the pressures of the office." – Bill Clinton, in an interview with ABC News, asked whether Obama is ready to be president.
  • Plans for distributing tickets to Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco field will be announced Wednesday, the Rocky Mountain News reports
  • . Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat Waak tells the paper that she has a list of more than 10,000 people who have requested information on attending.