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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President

Aired August 15, 2008 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a special 360 report: "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President."
We're devoting the next hour to the biggest decision remaining in the presidential race.

John McCain and Barack Obama have yet to name, at least publicly, their running mates. But plenty of names are being tossed around. And it's expected Barack Obama will name his running mate within a matter of days.

It is certainly not the kind of decision that you make in haste. Whoever they pick will be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Eight vice presidents have ended up in the White House after a president has died in office. One vice president, Gerald Ford, took over after the president resigned.

It is the kind of thing voters certainly think about. Choosing the running mate had always been a high-stakes decision for presidential candidates, but this year may be the most important decision for these candidates in recent history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The candidates have all but been chosen, but one critical decision remains.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The vice presidency is the most important decision that I will make before I'm president.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They will have to share the principles and values, the goals, et cetera, but also the priorities.

COOPER: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain must pick a running mate. And the stakes could not be higher.

JONATHAN MARTIN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, "THE POLITICO": For years, the old joke was that the vice presidency wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit.

COOPER: Not anymore, say some observers. In the past, naming a vice presidential candidate didn't seem as crucial as it does now.

DANA MILBANK, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: A vice presidential choice will never win you the election. However, a poor vice presidential choice could lose you the election.

COOPER: So, what's changed?

MILBANK: This is an unusual year, in that we have two candidates, each of whom has a particularly glaring flaw that he needs to address. McCain needs to address the concern that he's too old. Obama needs to address the concern that he doesn't have enough foreign policy experience.

COOPER: Let's take a closer look at the factors.

For Obama, it's all about his resume and experience. The 47- year-old junior senator from Illinois has served four years on Capitol Hill, compared to McCain's 26.

OBAMA: If longevity is the measure by which we determine who's got the best experience to answer that phone call, then John McCain wins, because he's been there the longest.

COOPER: McCain is facing challenges, the big question, age. If elected, McCain would, at 72, be the oldest person to ever become president.

MCCAIN: I'm older than dirt, more scars than Frankenstein, but I have learned a few things along the way.

COOPER: He jokes, but analysts say it's no laughing matter.

MARTIN; There's no question that, at the age he is, that's going to be an issue, and especially if he does become president. Were he to run for reelection, he would be 76 years old. And that would even more so be on the minds of American voters.

COOPER: By September 3, the running mate issue will be resolved. And, this time around, it could be the make-or-break factor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just a couple more quick facts. The youngest vice president to ever serve was John C. Breckinridge. He was just 36 when he took office in 1857. The oldest, Alben W. Barkley. He was 72 when he became V.P. in 1949.

All right, let's talk more now about age and how it could shape the choices ahead, among other things.

Joining me are CNN's Candy Crowley, CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, and "TIME" magazine Mark Halperin.

David, do you agree that this choice for both men this time may be more important than any other vice presidential pick in recent history?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. The race is so close, Anderson, and each -- each one of the choices is going to say an awful lot about the man who makes the choice. And it may make a difference with the undecideds. It could make a real difference in how the undecideds break in November.

COOPER: Do you buy that, Mark?

MARK HALPERIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I have the greatest respect for David. I always hate whenever I feel compelled to disagree with him, but I think this has been an important choice in many of the last elections that have been close.

It was critical, I think, for Bill Clinton. I think it was very important for Al Gore, for George Bush. And I think that these guys have a big choice, no doubt about it. But I think it's -- it's easy to say it's bigger than ever, but I just don't agree.

COOPER: But aren't there so many doubts about Barack Obama, for one, that his vice presidential choice will not only say a lot about him, but also perhaps try to bolster whatever...

HALPERIN: No question, but I think there were doubts about Bill Clinton in 1992. I think there were doubts about George W. Bush in 2000.

It's critically important that they pick correctly. If either of these guys picks bad, I think it could be decisive. But I do think that it's been important in other recent races as well.

COOPER: Candy, what do you think the criteria are? I mean, what do you think both men -- well, let's talk about Barack Obama. What do you think he is looking for?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, for Barack Obama, it really is, don't do any harm at this point.

He needs somebody that doesn't, A, bring into more question Barack Obama's credentials. He needs somebody that really will toe the party line and go away. He doesn't need any more sizzle and he doesn't need any more excitement. So, he can pick somebody that we all may go, oh, my gosh, and feel let down.

But, on the other hand, Barack Obama needs not to kind of stir the pot at this point. You know, there are other considerations, I suppose. There's geography. Does he want someone from the South? There is philosophy. Does he want someone more moderate? There is that resume? Does he want someone with foreign policy credentials?

But, at the base of it, he wants, A, someone he can trust, someone people think can step into the presidency, if they need to, and somebody that doesn't ruffle any feathers at this point.

COOPER: And, David, for John McCain, is it the same thing?

GERGEN: No.

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: This is one of those interesting points -- cases, Anderson. I have got a couple disagreements going on.

Mark, with regard to your situation, my argument is, in this case, it's both candidates have to choose well. In past elections, it's often been one or the other. Both have to pick well.

And, to Candy's point, I actually think Barack needs somebody who does more than just not ruffle feathers. He need someone who helps to unite the party. And, very importantly for the Barack Obama forces, he needs somebody who will win that vice presidential debate, somebody who can carry that argument. That's what they're very much hoping they can find.

COOPER: Mark, it's interesting, a name you don't hear very much, Dick Cheney. He's been a vice president unlike any we have seen in recent times. Does his legacy continue in the next vice president?

HALPERIN: Well, I think his legacy is a big part of what they should be looking for and I think are looking for.

COOPER: Even the Democrats?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: Someone who is, as David just said and Candy said, perceived to be ready to be president without ambiguity.

If you pick someone who doesn't cross that bar, I think, in this case, for Barack Obama, you risk offending some of Hillary Clinton's supporters. And, in general, with the electorate, I think they -- that is head and shoulders above every other consideration.

Cheney, for all the unpopularity he's won since taking office, was seen by the media and I think by most of the public, even people who said he was too conservative, as someone clearly qualified, by experience, by his resume, ready to take over.

COOPER: Candy, if you agree with what was saying about the Cheney legacy, also, the thing about Dick Cheney is, he made very clear he had no presidential ambition. It's harder to find a running mate this time around who that could be said about.

CROWLEY: Well, and they don't really someone, because what the Democrats would like to do, if they take over the White House, is sort of extend it beyond eight years. So, they would like to have somebody that could step into that.

Let me just add to this that I agree with Mark more than David about...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: ... whether or not this is more important than years past, but the fact of the matter is, I think a bad pick can doom a ticket. But I think a good pick just moves the candidate along.

So, I think it does matter, and has always mattered. But I think that sometimes, if it's perceived as a bad pick, that has a lot more weight than a good one.

COOPER: Just ahead, more from Candy about Barack Obama's short list, who's on it, who's not, and, if not, why not. Candy has been digging -- coming up, what she's uncovered.

Plus, John McCain's most likely topics. A lot of names have been thrown around. Who ended up on his short list? And are there any wild cards?

"Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Listen, there's no decision that I'm going to make that's going to be more important before the November election. I intend to do it right, and I'm not going to do it in the press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Barack Obama talking about what he's looking for in a running mate.

But that's as close as he's come to tipping his hand on who he's courting to be his V.P. For months now, reporters and pundits have been looking for clues. We just got another one. We now know that Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson will speak in Denver on the third night of the Democratic Convention. So, if they already have speaking roles, does that mean they're no longer in contention? We don't know.

All three names have certainly been bandied about as possible V.P.s. And there have been others.

Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: The vice presidency is the most important decision that I will make before I'm president.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Painted as a liberal, he could use a moderate on his ticket, new to the national scene, maybe a foreign policy expert, or a popular Southern governor to help him change the electoral map. But first, Barack Obama needs to do no harm.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think the choice for Senator Obama really is one in which he is likely to make a relatively safe choice. And I say that because I think that there are enough questions about him, that I don't think he wants to add to that with the selection of a vice president. CROWLEY: Dull would be OK, too. Obama needs no help in the sizzle department. Since June, when he secured the nomination, the campaign trail has looked and sounded like the series of tryouts.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Please join me in welcoming my friend, our neighbor, the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: Evan Bayh is a moderate Democrat, a photogenic former governor, now a senator, in very Republican Indiana, which Obama would like to put in play this fall.

But Bayh is criticized by some of his colleagues as an underachiever. And he voted for the war in Iraq. And opposition to the war is Obama's basic foreign policy argument.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Look, John McCain was wrong about the war in Iraq.

CROWLEY: Joe Biden also voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution. But, after 30-plus years in the Senate, he is regarded as a foreign policy expert. He is also a seasoned political pro with strong ties to key Democratic constituencies, and he has no problem in the attack dog role reserved for V.P. nominees.

BIDEN: We don't need, as a commander in chief, a war hero. John's a war hero. We need someone with some wisdom.

CROWLEY: But Biden is known to wander off message -- even his own. And, as a longtime Washington insider, he seems at odds with a campaign running on change.

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: It's flattering to be mentioned. My mom loves it. She calls when she sees it, you know.

CROWLEY: For the freshest of faces on the national scene, there is Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia -- a gateway to the South for Obama, who would like to reverse years of Democratic presidential defeats in the region. But, with only two years as governor on his resume, is Kaine too fresh of a face for a presidential candidate defending his own credentials?

OBAMA: This will be my final counselor when I'm making decisions in the White House. And I want to make sure that I get it right.

CROWLEY: Kaine, Biden and Bayh are the most talked about possibilities, but not the only ones being vetted in a process hinted at in public pictures, but discussed in private.

In the end, it is both a policy and a political choice, a complex calculation with different answers, depending on what you factor in.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Honolulu.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Those are some of the names on the short list to keep in mind.

Let's dig deeper now with CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville, and CNN political contributor Bill Bennett, who hosts "Morning in America," a conservative national radio talk show.

James, some think Obama needs a running mate with strong national security credentials. Joe Biden's name pops up. Does he allay whatever the perceived weaknesses are of Obama?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't -- clearly, he's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So, to the extent that that's experience, and he has a background in that, I think it would obviously be helpful. He's obviously very qualified.

I thought he made an interesting run for the presidency. But, you know, who knows what it is that they -- that they want to address? And maybe they want to bring some different kind of energy to the ticket. We will know when he makes the pick. It will give us a good insight into his strategy.

Evan Bayh, Bill, I guess, would certainly bring a different kind of energy, certainly, than a Joe Biden. And I guess a lot of people think he could put the red-state Indiana in play.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I guess it depends how you think the balancing has to be done.

Does Obama still seem threatening to some independents, people in the middle? Then put the un-threatening Bayh. Does Obama still seem inexperienced in foreign policy, despite the European victory tour? If so, put in Biden.

Biden, I think, is a good choice, though, you know, he -- he always seems like the second man, or perhaps, as someone once said, the second husband, the safer choice. But look at the events, Anderson and James, of the last few days, I mean, the situation in Russia and Georgia.

You know, these are things that forces -- force you into the crucible of choice, and remind you what it is the president is about. This, I think, helps Joe Biden's odds, because he is most experienced of the people I have seen on the list, on the short list you just read through. He knows his way around these issues.

James, how do you...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Go ahead.

CARVILLE: It seems to me that -- that Senator Obama's strategy, since early June, has been about reassurance. And it seems to me to be pretty cautious. And I suspect that that's going to be reflected in his vice presidential pick a little bit. But, usually, what you see in place is that they seem to be very, very intent on reassuring people that he's really a mainstream kind of guy, that he's a really safe choice. And you just get the sense that they think they're in an advantageous position, and they don't want to do anything to mess this up.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you think any vice president really gives a bounce these days, I mean, that is significant enough to be a factor?

BENNETT: I think it's more important for Obama, frankly -- James may disagree -- because,, with McCain, you know what you're getting. You know what -- pretty much what he's going to do. You know he's the strong, tough, independent guy. You know they're not vetting a whole lot of people and saying, well, how will this work? How will this chemistry work?

One imagines, with the Obama campaign, they are. Well, there are these events and that events. How will this play? It's a very well thought out campaign, but its strength here is kind of planning and nuance. So, my guess is that they are trying to figure the odds, the best odds, if the decision hasn't already been made.

CARVILLE: Right.

And I think that -- my -- my -- again, this is nothing but a guess, but that Senator Obama will reassure us with his pick. I think Senator McCain is going to surprise us.

COOPER: We will talk about that.

Coming up, the Clinton factor. For months, Barack Obama has said Hillary Clinton would be on anyone's short list. Tonight, we look at the case for making her the V.P. How strong is it? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Plus, John McCain's short list, how short is it, who's on it, and why they made the cut -- all that when "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 31, 2008)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Would you consider an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket going down the road?

OBAMA: Well, obviously there's a big difference between those two.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: But...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A funny moment at the CNN Democratic debate in Los Angeles back in January.

Six moments later, of course, after a long and contentious race, Obama won the primary battle. Since then, he's been trying to woo Clinton supporters and heal the wounds.

A big step is going to come later this month at the Democratic Convention, when Clinton's name will be put into nomination. But could his biggest olive branch be putting her on the ticket with him?

360's Tom Foreman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For some Democrats, in the heat of the primaries, it was the dream ticket, Obama and Clinton. And look at the numbers even now.

Our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows voters inclined to give an Obama-ticket team a solid win over, say, a McCain- Romney ticket, while, by comparison, Obama alone barely beats McCain. No wonder speculation continues about whether the two top Dems should, would, could join forces.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If you watched them together in Unity, New Hampshire, not too long ago, you could see this -- this was an audition that she was doing, and doing it pretty well.

FOREMAN: On the plus side, first, the Clinton army. Eighteen million voters wanted her for president, and many remain wary of him. Put her on the ticket, and he might pull them off the sidelines.

A second plus, the Clinton clout. Bill and Hillary Clinton could bring around the voters he struggles with, old-line Democrats, blue- collar whites, and then grease the wheels of government for Obama's policies, too.

And a final plus: Like the old saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Either way you figure it, Senator Obama might want Senator Clinton close at hand.

But now look at the minuses. First, if there is even a hint that Obama fears he cannot win without putting her on his ticket, that could be seen as a signal that a co-presidency is in the offing. Second, Obama ran so strongly on the message of:

OBAMA: Choosing change.

If we don't change course...

This is one of those moments where big change can happen. FOREMAN: And he attacked Hillary Clinton as such an agent of politics as usual, taking her on his ticket could alienate his own base, especially new independent voters.

(on camera): And, thirdly, it's been said plenty. Obama had a hard enough time handling the one-two punch of Bill and Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. In the Oval Office, three really would be a crowd.

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Bill Clinton offers way too much baggage to give Hillary Clinton any higher leadership position beyond a Cabinet position, in the White House.

FOREMAN: Will she? Won't he? The guessing game has gone on for months. But, soon enough now, Democrats will find out if their dream team remains just a dream, or something they can run with.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The case for Hillary, let's dig deeper again with CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen, and Mark Halperin of "TIME" magazine.

So, Candy, as Tom Foreman just discussed in his piece, adding Hillary to the ticket could give Obama a bump in the polls. Is that reason enough to seriously consider her?

CROWLEY: I don't think so.

I think, when we look back at polling, we see that any person, any candidate, when they announce their vice presidential candidate, does get a bump in the poll. They certainly get a kind of roll, a drum roll, into the convention. I think Hillary Clinton -- this sort of goes back to my earlier point -- and that is that the Obama campaign thinks it has enough sizzle, and they need some sort of steak on this, as opposed to somebody else who is a highly exciting candidate to some, but not exactly what -- as far as we know, what Obama wants on this ticket.

COOPER: It's interesting, David. I mean, you have said in the past that the criteria for V.P. pick is whether they are qualified to be president and can they help the candidate win in November. Hillary Clinton certainly seems to take care of both those sides, her supporters would say. How come she's not perceived to be on the short list anymore?

GERGEN: Well, to go to Candy's point, I do think there may -- is a danger of overconfidence in the Obama campaign.

This is -- this could be a very, very close election, where states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania make a big, big difference. And she would make a big difference in those states. So, I think the reason -- there are two reasons, I think, that are not -- that she's not there, Anderson.

One is, there is bad blood, especially with Bill Clinton. And there's a lot of reservations in the Obama camp about Bill Clinton on both sides. And, secondly, their polling tells them that, among women, they're doing very well, that they have -- they're actually farther ahead of McCain than Kerry was in 2004. They're doing better than past Democrats have recently done among women, that their real problem is among white males, especially working-class white males.

And they don't think that Hillary necessarily solves -- they don't think that she solves that problem for them, and somebody else might do a better job.

COOPER: Mark, do you think they're overconfident?

HALPERIN: Well, I don't know that they're overconfident, but I think it's just a nonstarter for them, for the reasons David just said. In addition, besides the fact that they -- they're not confident she helps win with certain demographics, and thematically, because she doesn't represent change, there is that bad blood, which we have seen continuing to come up and still exists, despite...

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: ... deal.

COOPER: But plenty of presidents have picked vice presidents whom -- with whom they had blood, JFK/LBJ.

HALPERIN: But, when -- they have done it when thought they needed the person to absolutely win, or when they were pressured into doing it for some reason.

They're not feeling that pressure. Perhaps they're wrong. I think they have badly underestimated -- and continue to -- just how delicate this choice is. If they don't pick her, they need to pick someone that her side is happy with. I think the main reason they don't want to pick them is, if they win -- and I say them -- Bill Clinton is back in the White House.

And I think they feel that's just too complicated. It will be complicated enough for Barack Obama to govern without her and husband there with him.

COOPER: Candy, how much do you think Bill Clinton does factor into all of this?

CROWLEY: I think he factors hugely in it.

We saw only recently, when Bill Clinton was asked by ABC -- in fact, Kate Snow -- "Do you think that Barack Obama is qualified to be president?" and he said, well, you know -- or ready to step into the office -- he said, "Well, you know, not everybody is ready. I wasn't ready. I learned some things. He's a smart guy."

A simple yes would have done. And he can't help himself. They don't really need that. You want -- again, you want your vice presidential candidate, and their spouses, in this case, to not do any harm. And they don't see that happening, either on the campaign trail, or in the White House. And I think it's been a big disqualifier for her.

COOPER: David, who do you think has the best shot?

GERGEN: It's widely assumed that Evan Bayh, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine, it's down to the three of them. And I think Tim Kaine is the least likely of the three. So, to my way of thinking, it's a choice between Evan Bayh and Joe Biden.

But I have to tell you, they are very, very close-mouthed about this. And it could be a surprise.

COOPER: Who do you think for McCain?

GERGEN: For -- my way of thinking, I think it's -- I think the most -- very -- the most likely choice is -- is Mitt Romney.

COOPER: Mark?

GERGEN: I agree with David in terms of what makes sense and logic and based on what I know. But I also would not be the least bit surprised if they both pick people whose names have not been mentioned at all.

GERGEN: Right.

COOPER: Candy, do you want to hazard a guess?

CROWLEY: Well, I do, only because I have talked to a couple of people who you might think are on the list who won't to me reveal whether or not they're being vetted, that kind of thing, but who have said we have been told not to pay attention to what's being said.

COOPER: Well, if it turns out to be Candy Crowley, David Gergen, or Mark Halperin, I would hope that either of you will call us first and let us know.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Thank you, all.

GERGEN: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Well, John McCain is facing an equally tough decision. Just ahead, who is on his short list for a running mate, and why are they on it?

Plus, searching for the skeletons that could torpedo a vice president. We will go behind the scenes and talk to the people who have done the betting. What exactly do they look for, and how do they find it? -- all that when "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill. Here's what's happening now in the news.

A stern warning for Russia today from President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: With Russian troops just 29 miles up the road, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a tense visit to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, today.

Here's State Department correspondent Zain Verjee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A ceasefire after more than five difficult hours with Georgia's president. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Russia must act.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: All Russian troops and any irregular and paramilitary forces that entered with them must leave immediately.

VERJEE: President Mikheil Saakashvili says he signed to stop the Russian assault but would never surrender an inch Georgia.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: This is getting of these tanks off the streets of my towns and of my roads and of my seaports.

VERJEE: Under the cease-fire, all Russian forces deployed after August 6 must get out of Georgia. The only Russian presence to remain, about 1,500 peacekeepers in South Ossetia that were already on the ground before the fighting started. They will be allowed to patrol about three miles outside the breakaway province and only until international monitors take over.

RICE: We will turn immediately to reconstruction, and people who were displaced from their homes must be allowed to return and to live in security.

VERJEE: An emotional Saakashvili blasted the west, as Rice stood silently. He accused the U.S. and Europe of ignoring his repeated warnings that crisis was about to explode.

SAAKASHVILI: Who invited this arrogance here? Who invited this, these innocent deaths here. Not only those people who perpetrated them are responsible, but also those people who failed to stop it.

VERJEE: He says NATO gave Russia a green light to invade by not fast-tracking Georgia's bid to join the alliance.

Before she left Tbilisi, Secretary Rice visited Georgian victims of the fighting. She then headed to Crawford, Texas, to brief the president.

(on camera) Rice's diplomacy continues next week in Brussels, where she'll be meeting with all 26 NATO foreign ministers to present a united front in support of Georgia.

Zain Verjee, CNN, at the State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: A Florida woman who is a suspect in her daughter's disappearance may be getting out of jail. A half-million-dollar bond could be posted this weekend for Casey Anthony. She's the mother of 3-year-old Caylee Anthony, who has been missing since July.

Casey Anthony became a suspect after police said they caught her in several lies about her daughter's whereabouts.

I'm Erica Hill. "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President" continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The vice president really only has two duties. One is to cast a tie vote, in the Senate in case of a tie vote, to cast the tiebreaking vote. And the other is to inquire daily as to the health of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was John McCain recently with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Their joint appearance fueled speculation of Pawlenty as a strong contender for the VP slot.

Presidential candidates typically used to wait until their conventions to unveil their running mates, but that has changed. And there's a good chance McCain is going to announce his choice for V.P. before he arrives in Minnesota. A lot of people are certain they know who's on his short list and why they're on it.

Here's CNN's Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's always tension in political primaries.

MCCAIN: "Timetables" was the buzz word for withdrawal. MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not using the actual quote.

HENRY: But Mitt Romney's attacks on John McCain were especially brutal.

ROMNEY: We are different. I am conservative.

HENRY: Now it's all smiles, ever since the former Massachusetts governor shifted his fire to Barack Obama.

ROMNEY: This guy's not ready for primetime.

HENRY: Romney's boosters say McCain needs a running mate who can be an attack dog yet still project a positive image with his photogenic family.

And overwhelming number of Republican voters at this McCain town hall meeting in Ohio told us they want Romney, because he will excite conservatives.

SHERRY KEY, URBANA, OHIO: I think he's good on economics, and that's what John McCain needs. And Mitt Romney would be the best bet. So yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he's a little more conservative on family values.

MCCAIN: Please welcome the youthful and dynamic...

HENRY: But a softer-edged Republican on the list, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, could balance the ticket with youth and vigor.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: We want to be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club. It's meant to be expansive. It's meant to be inclusive.

HENRY: That message has helped Pawlenty win over independent voters in a Democratic state. But he faces a major hurdle.

KEN DUBERSTEIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They got to be comfortable day one with him as somebody who could be their president in case of a horrible emergency.

HENRY: Several Republicans in Ohio answered no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know anything about him.

HENRY: In fairness to Pawlenty, polls show Romney, a recent presidential candidate, has more national name recognition. Several voters told us they're open to Pawlenty as VP as long as they learn more about him.

Buzz has been building that McCain, who's unpredictable, may pick former Democrat Joe Lieberman or moderate Republican Tom Ridge, both of whom support abortion rights. McCain himself floated a trial balloon to the conservative "Weekly Standard," saying the former Pennsylvania governor, quote, "happens to be pro choice, and I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."

It would showcase McCain's maverick image, but could split the party by infuriating conservatives.

DUBERSTEIN: If he wants a big, bold stroke, there is Tom Ridge. There is Joe Lieberman. And certainly, they would set off fireworks. Good and bad. Playing it safe is probably Mitt Romney.

HENRY (on camera): But can Romney and McCain get along? As one Republican strategist put it, winning is much more important than chemistry.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: With that short list and those wild cards in mind, again, let's bring in CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist James Carville and CNN political contributor Bill Bennett, who hosts "Morning in America," a conservative national radio talk show.

So Bill, Mitt Romney has been one of the most vocal and visible candidates on the short list. There was certainly a lot of animosity between him and McCain during the primary. Is that all forgotten? Does that matter at this point?

BILL BENNETT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if it's all forgotten. I remember talking to Bob Dole in '96 and he said, "Who should be my running mate?"

I said, "Jack Kemp."

And he said, "Not a chance, I wouldn't pick a guy." You know, lo and behold. People get over these things. And, you know, get over them pretty quickly.

I think Romney is a very good choice for John McCain. Particularly, if he says something like, "Look, you know what we'll do. We'll divide the responsibilities here. He's got the domestic portfolio, economic issues, and you know, I will be taking the lead in foreign policy and military affairs." That looks like a nice division of labor with two very competent people. So I think -- I think there's a strong -- very strong case for Romney.

COOPER: James, two possibilities just mentioned for McCain are former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. And that looks increasingly unlikely. And Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both, I guess, could help McCain in crucial battleground states.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I just have a sense in you should never say these things on television, but I'm going to say it. I have a sense that Senator McCain's ultimate pick for vice president is somebody that we're not discussing. I think he's going to surprise us.

I think that, again, just strategically, I have the sense that the Obama people think they're in an advantageous position, and they want to reassure. They're being very cautious. And I think that Senator McCain is out. He's swinging at everything that comes close to the plate.

And I -- my guess is that everybody gets over these primaries. I mean, Senator Kennedy got over it with Senator Johnson and then Governor Reagan got over it with George H.W. Bush in 1980. Or Kerry and Edwards. So I don't think that's the drawback.

I think McCain is -- I think he wants to scramble the jets here, and that's just a guess. But I'll go ahead and make that prediction.

COOPER: It's an interesting idea, Bill. How many surprises, though, are there out there? I mean, this is a guy who's been, you know, followed very closely for the last year or two. Everybody who he has hung out with has been sort of photographed. And who would be the surprise?

BENNETT: Well, I suppose, you know, there's still some talk about the governor of Alaska. She is a very capable, competent person. There's some sentiment for her. I don't know. I'd be curious. James is the one that says it's going to be an interesting pick. Has he got a candidate for that pick?

CARVILLE: If I knew, I wouldn't be surprised.

BENNETT: OK. OK. All right. Fair enough.

COOPER: Bill, what about Tom Ridge?

BENNETT: I don't think so. I mean, Ridge arguably does -- is very popular in Pennsylvania. Very confident guy.

Don't think John McCain wants to risk further alienating the conservative base. Tom Ridge is pro-choice and, you know, that's not going to help John McCain enough, I think. I think the two likely picks, I shouldn't say this because you can run the tape, is -- are Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty at this point. But it would be very interesting if James is right.

CARVILLE: One of us will be right. You know what? If I'm wrong, it will be the third time in my life that's ever happened.

COOPER: James Carville, Bill Bennett, thank you very much.

Ahead on "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President," a look behind the scenes at the vetting process. A lot of it, of course, conducted in secret but insiders tell us how they size up possible VPs to make sure there are no surprises later.

Also, VP highs and lows. We'll look at the best and worst choices in vice-presidential history when this special edition of 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Picking your VP, which way to you go, senator or governor, experience or an outsider, from a swing state or not, male or female? A lot of options, a lot of tough decisions to be made. 360's Gary Tuchman is going to show us how the secret search is done.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before Dick Cheney was George W. Bush's vice president...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My vice presidential search. He's doing a really good job.

TUCHMAN: ... he was heading the search effort to choose George w. Bush's vice president.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The lesson I want to share with you is this: if you ever get asked to head up an important search committee, say yes.

TUCHMAN: Dick Cheney's selection was a surprise. But the way the search was conducted was not. It was secretive, because...

MICHAEL BERMAN, LOBBYIST: One of the things you're looking for, of course, is to make sure there's no distraction.

TUCHMAN: Michael Berman is a lawyer and lobbyist, who was in charge of vetting Geraldine Ferraro for Walter Mondale.

BERMAN: For me the pressure was having to look at Gerry Ferraro in one day. The preceding day I had actually spent looking at Michael Dukakis. So I felt a fair amount of pressure there and felt afterwards that I felt badly about the fact that we had missed some things, obviously.

TUCHMAN: Allegations about her husband's financial dealings caused considerable controversy and plagued Mondale's campaign. Rest assured, one day vetting is a thing of the past.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.

TUCHMAN: With the help of the Internet, the first step is now public reviewing of the candidate. Documents, quotes, finances are scoured before discussions even begin. And then intense, time- consuming, face-to-face interrogations.

BERMAN: It's really lawyers, doctors, accountants, you name it, to know everything there is to know about the person's finances, their health, their social life, their married life, anything you can think of.

TUCHMAN: So what type of person should presidential candidates be looking for, and what shouldn't they be looking for?

DAN COEN, VICEPRESIDENTS.COM: We really feel in the old days candidates were selected to bring home a state or a region. Like a Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, who was there to bring home Texas. It doesn't work.

TUCHMAN: Dan Coen is a vice-presidential scholar who runs a Web magazine called VicePresidents.com. He says after the VP candidate is selected, the public and media need to say...

COEN: Yes, you got it right.

You want to rule anybody out who simply isn't going to make a good impression right from the start. If people don't feel that the choice was made correctly, then that candidate for president is oh for 1 right out of the gate.

BERMAN: A successful vetter is one who, at the end of the day, if a person is selected, that nothing comes out that the nominee didn't know about in advance.

TUCHMAN: We'll know the level of success soon enough.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's what goes into picking a vice president. There have been some good ones and bad ones. Coming up, a historian picks the best and worst of all time. Senators Obama and McCain might want to take notes on this one.

You're watching "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Bentsen?

LLOYD BENTSEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A memorable moment from the 1988 vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle. Despite that zinger, Bentsen and Dukakis lost the election to Bush and Quayle.

Many analysts say in hindsight, Bentsen was actually a bad choice for a running mate. He had too much charisma. It's not good to outshine the presidential candidate.

Throughout history, vice presidents have both helped and hurt their parties. We asked historian Lee Edwards of the conservative Heritage Foundation to come up with a list of the best and worst vice- presidential choices in recent years.

With that, here's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the categories of best and worst choices of a vice-presidential contender, Edwards sees Dick Cheney as No. 5 on the list. George W. Bush made a good choice, he says, for a presidential running mate. Why? Say what you will about him. When he was selected, he brought lots of Washington experience, which the nominee didn't have at the time. More on Cheney in a minute.

Richard Nixon would be No. 4 best pick. This selection by Republican Dwight Eisenhower brought more than youth and California balance to the ticket. Nixon had other assets which became huge liabilities when he finally ended up in the White House.

LEE EDWARDS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Richard Nixon was known as the man who would cut and slash the opposition. And so the kind of dirty politics work would be done by Nixon.

JOHNS: Al Gore gets No. 3 on the list. Gore was a good choice because, as the senator from Tennessee, he brought Washington experience to a ticket featuring a little-known governor from Arkansas.

George Herbert Walker Bush is No. 2 on the list. After running against Ronald Reagan in the primary, Bush joined him on the ticket and helped unite the party.

And the award for best choice of a presidential running mate goes to Lyndon Johnson, selected by Democratic presidential nominee John Kennedy. Kennedy, a northerner, needed someone to balance him out in the south.

EDWARDS: Lyndon Johnson was the man, and he delivered Texas, which helped John Kennedy in a very close race.

JOHNS: Which brings us to the four worst vice-presidential choices, and Dick Cheney again. He might have been a great choice for a running mate, but he's one of the most unpopular people in an unpopular administration.

Republican Spiro Agnew would be No. 3. Edwards says he helped get Richard Nixon elected president. But after taking office, Agnew pleaded no contest to tax evasion and money laundering back when he had been governor of Maryland.

Dan Quayle is runner-up for worst choice, selected by Bush 41. Quayle was supposed to become the Republican John Kennedy but quickly became a laughing stock. Remember this?

BENTSEN: Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

JOHNS: And this?

QUAYLE: One little bit on the end. Potato, how is that spelled?

JOHNS: We could go on. But it's Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton who gets conservative historian Lee Edwards' award as the worst of the worst.

Picked by Democratic nominee George McGovern, Eagleton was quickly dumped after reports that he'd been hospitalized for, quote, "nervous exhaustion" and given electroshock treatments, raising questions about his fitness to serve. It was a disaster for the campaign.

(on camera) And it made the candidate, it made the nominee look bad.

EDWARDS: Yes, it did. There's no question about it. The way he picked him, and that he didn't do enough serious investigation on the record.

JOHNS: A history lesson that presumptive nominees ignore at their peril.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're waiting to see if John McCain and Barack Obama choose a running mate whom voters applaud or make a misstep and choose poorly. Either way, one of them is picking the 47th vice president of the United States.

And as always, CNN is the place to be for politics. When each candidate announces his V.P. choice, we'll bring it to you live, of course. And don't miss our special coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Thanks for joining us on this special 360 edition, "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President." I'm Anderson cooper. Good night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: I'm Erica Hill. Here's what's happening now in the news.

A new tropical storm has formed in the Caribbean. Meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest for us.

Hi, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Erica, we do have. We have our sixth named storm now, Tropical Storm Fay over the Dominican Republic. Not getting stronger tonight, because, well, it's over land and storms get stronger over water.

It is forecast to move very close to Florida by Monday, although not forecast to ever really be a hurricane. Up to 70 miles an hour. That's close enough. Obviously, the storm could be right, the storm could be left. We'll keep watching for you all weekend long -- Erica.

HILL: All right, Chad, thanks.

A Texas school district may become the first in the nation to allow public school teachers and staff to carry guns. The concealed firearms policy aimed at curbing violence is scheduled to go into effect in the Harold Independence School District, which is about 150 miles northwest of Ft. Worth.

U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won a record-tying seventh gold medal at the Olympics by just 0.01 of a second. He will swim for No. 8 tomorrow.

I'm Erica Hill. Stay with CNN, your source for breaking news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a special 360 report: "Crucial Choice: The Next Vice President." We're devoting the next hour to the biggest decision remaining in the presidential race.

John McCain and Barack Obama have yet to name, at least publicly, their running mates. But plenty of names are being tossed around. And it's expected Barack Obama will name his running mate within a matter of days.

It is certainly not the kind of decision that you make in haste. Whoever they pick will be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Eight vice presidents have ended up in the White House after a president has died in office. One vice president, Gerald Ford, took over after the president resigned.

It is the kind of thing voters certainly think about. Choosing the right running mate has always been a high-stakes decision for presidential candidates, but this year may be the most important decision for these candidates in recent history.