The Washington Post, 3/5/8

Now that he is the Republican presidential nominee, John McCain has a big decision ahead of him — who to choose as his vice presidential running mate.

A top priority for him is to pick a running mate whose presence on the ticket would reassure Americans concerned about McCain’s age.

McCain is 71 years old and would be the oldest person ever elected to a first presidential term. He has survived a bout with melanoma and suffered harsh treatment as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

Voters do not typically base their vote on the vice presidential choice but they do want to be assured that the running mate would be able to take over if the president were to die or become incapacitated.

McCain aides made clear McCain is a long way from picking someone, saying the campaign had not yet even begun to set up process by which to evaluate potential vice presidential nominees.

It does not necessarily mean McCain must pick someone far younger.

“I don’t think you’re going to balance the ticket on age,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed. “Pick someone who is going to help you win and who can step in and serve as president if there is a crisis.”

Brinkley said the most reassuring person McCain could pick in the Republican Party would be retired Gen. Colin Powell, a former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military position in the Defense Department.

Powell, 70, has said he does not want the job but Brinkley said Republican Party elders might be able to persuade him.

“Powell is someone everyone could imagine as president,” Brinkley said.

Two possibilities include Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, 51, who could help McCain win the battleground state of Florida in the November election, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 47, who could do the same in Minnesota.

There are plenty of other names: Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who says she does not want it; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham or South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former White House budget director Rob Portman, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio.