Stephanopoulos extracts a paean to Tim Russert from John Edwards, then launches into a substantive discussion of tax policy, taking up Edwards’ challenge to have more robust conversation about real issues that affect real people.  They also talk about the piece written by Fred Thompson (who?) which castigates the Supreme Court’s recent upholding of American values, American rights, and the American constitution.

But then, they get into the fun part:

In response to Stephanopoulos’ question, "But, you wouldn’t rule it [VP] out completely," Edwards stated: "I’d take anything he [Obama] asked me to think about seriously." 

"But obviously this is something I’ve done and it’s not a job that I’m seeking."

It was nice of Edwards to first say that Senator Obama has great choices. Who among those other choices made news recently?

In her veto of a Voter ID bill passed by the Kansas legislature last month, Kathleen Sibelius offered this ringing defense of the right to vote, and the state’s role in protecting that right:

Here in Kansas and across the country, we have seen a record number of new voters active in the election process. Secretaries of State across the country are anticipating record-breaking turnout in November. We must take advantage of this opportunity to engage the next generation of leaders and decision makers in the political process, and ensure their participation continues throughout their lifetimes.

Additionally, no elected official should support enacting new laws discouraging or disenfranchising any American who has been legally voting for years. I cannot support creating any roadblock to prevent our citizens from adding their voices to the democratic discourse that makes our nation great.

The Secretary of State’s office is charged with the oversight of elections in Kansas and our hard working county clerks and election officials deserve thanks for ensuring the integrity of the democratic process. I have the utmost confidence in their diligence to guarantee secure and fair elections across our state. HB 2019 seeks to solve a problem of voter fraud which does not exist in our state due to the tireless efforts of our local election officials.

Excellent framing there: we know voter fraud doesn’t exist, why are state legislatures passing laws against it? Surely they aren’t trying to disenfranchise people!

Out of the Veepstakes by their own hand this week: Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, who was about as clear as one can be about these things:

“Absolutely not. If drafted I will not run, nominated I will not accept, and if elected I will not serve.”

Accepting Virginia Democrats’ nomination for a race for John Warner’s United States Senate seat against the hapless former GOP Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore (who?) yesterday was Mark Warner, who also seemed to definitively rule out a race for the Naval Observatory:

"Let me be clear about this: I have been working very hard these last few months to ask the people of Virginia to give me the honor of being their United States senator," Warner said. "I will not seek, and I will not accept, any other opportunity."

That’s as close as politicians get to Shermanesque statements. For those keeping track at home, as we parse the words of those who aspire — or don’t — to move in after the Cheneys, here’s what General Sherman said:

"If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve."

That was about the Presidency, of course. Those who seek to move to the pixellated world of One Observatory Circle have to dance more delicately: availability-if-asked is best, while active seeking is frowned upon — and surrogates are told to pipe down.

In Wisconsin this weekend, as Democrats gathered for their state convention, an unofficial and unscientific straw poll showed attendees favor Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, and John Edwards as running mates for Senator Obama.

Of the 259 votes cast in the straw poll, 49 went to the former first lady.

Far more intriguing was the fact that an almost equivalent total — 44 votes — was recorded for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, another former contender for the Democratic nod.  Richardson’s campaign faded early, long before Wisconsin’s February 19 primary, but he retains a healthy level of support among the state’s most active Democrats.

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee and a candidate for this year’s presidential nod, won 34 votes. That’s to be expected, as Edwards almost won Wisconsin’s 2004 presidential primary and had a well-organized Wisconsin campaign — backed by Congressman Dave Obey and a number of legislators — before he dropped out of this year’s competition.

Retired General Wesley Clark, a 2004 presidential contender who toyed with running this year and has visited Wisconsin many times — most recently as a Clinton backer — received 27 voters.

The best finish for a contender who has never mounted a presidential bid went to Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who has been actively positioning himself as a candidate for the No. 2 place on the ticket. The former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, who has remade himself as a populist Democrat, took 32 votes.

Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and impressed many observers with his debate performances as a long shot presidential candidate before finishing fifth in January’s Iowa caucuses, won 12 votes, as did Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

In his column in the San Francisco Chronicle today, David Sirota pushed the Overton Window open wide for an economic populist Veep pick:

That means for Obama to really draw the most effective general-election contrast, the smart vice presidential pick is not Clinton, but an anti-Clinton – and there are many of them.

In the Senate, there is Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Jim Webb or Claire McCaskill – all economic populists. In the statehouse, there is Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer – a guy who told the New York Times, "I was a critic of NAFTA, I was a critic of CAFTA and I’ll be a critic of SHAFTA." And outside the electoral arena there are people like Anna Burger – a leader of one of the largest labor unions, who was recently hailed by the Wall Street Journal as one of the 50 most influential women in America.

Chris Dodd? Pat Leahy? Bill Nelson? Sheldon Whitehouse? Each offers credentials and electoral math in his favor. All offer the downside of a GOP governor ready to appoint his replacement.  In a Senate where we might be close to sixty votes for cloture, can we afford to give Joe Lieberman that kind of power again?

I would like to see Barbara Boxer’s name mentioned more often in these speculative discussions; she’s a fighter for women’s rights and the environment, despite her friendship for and (thus) advocacy of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut in summer 2006. I also want to see Russ Feingold’s name floated as a contender. And if we are taking the battle to all fifty states this year, why not put on our ticket the primary proponent of the Fifty-State Democratic Party, Howard Dean?  

And while we are talking about governors, how about New York’s David Paterson or Deval Patrick of Massachusetts?  Is there some reason Barack Obama shouldn’t consider them?  Bill Clinton made a "reinforcing choice" of another DLC Southern white male in Al Gore in 1992; we haven’t heard much about Barack Obama reinforcing his strengths with Paterson or Patrick….

Did you catch the governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, downplaying his chances of being selected two months ago?

"This is not something that I’ve been seeking," Bredesen said. "I think there are other people out there who have been actively seeking it, and I think that’s much more likely of an outcome."

While Bredesen says it’s nice to be mentioned, at this point he’s taking most of the rumors as just that–rumors.  But he says it’s not that way for everyone in the Bredesen family tree.

"My mother loves it, and every time I see a news article, I clip it and send it to my mother," he said. "She’s the only one who takes it seriously."

Yeah, but then:

Bredesen gained national attention again last week for another reason altogether. After a lengthy state of apparent indecision, Bredesen got on Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential bandwagon with a very late in the game endorsement. The fair-weather nod for Obama came also with a quip from Bredesen about how Tennessee is probably not in play in 2008 for the Democratic ticket.

Tennessee went for Bush in both his campaigns.  Would a term-limited Democratic governor put the state in play?  I wonder if Bredesen has the machine to win the state for the top of the ticket if he’s on it.  

Feeding the High Broderist Villager narrative, Walter Shapiro delves the crossover and media possibilities for both parties in an unfortunately concluded paragraph published in Salon last Thursday:

About this time in the veepstakes, there is often a flurry of talk about erasing party lines in the quest for an unconventional path to an electoral majority. McCain himself was on John Kerry’s 2004 short list. And this time around, Joe Lieberman (McCain) and Chuck Hagel (Obama) have the requisite crossover appeal. But there is an even bolder way of reaching out to the other side — taking an esteemed figure from the media. In the old days, first Walter Cronkite and then Bill Moyers were mentioned by that powerful offstage figure called the Great Mentioner (a wonderful title invented by columnist Russell Baker). Tom Brokaw and — maybe even in the right light — Tim Russert might fit that familiar-but-above-the-fray profile today.

Oops, nobody could have anticipated….

(But at least I have brought this Sunday Late Nite post full circle, and still avoided the topic I promised myself I would avoid tonight.)

All in all, I agree with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who had this to say about who should be picked for the job:

“I have two words to say about who Obama should select and they are, ‘Obama’s choice,’” said Rev. Sharpton.  “If we have the confidence to select him as our candidate I believe that people should have the confidence to allow him to select a running mate,” he said.

Neverthless, who would you recommend Barack Obama consider for his Veep?

{YouTube from ABC’s This Week courtesy of NCDem