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A few possibilities for Gore’s running mate

SHARE A few possibilities for Gore’s running mate

Though the Democrats will hold the summer's second political convention, Al Gore has reportedly narrowed his vice-presidential selection list already and is collecting financial and medical data on a small number of prospects.

As with the GOP, only a few have even acknowledged being contacted. Gore has given no clue to his intentions.

Signs are he may make at least a tentative decision before George W. Bush picks his running mate, then wait to see if there's any reason to change, such as considering a woman if Bush picks Elizabeth Dole.

Despite the lack of clues, the list of likely choices is sufficiently short that informed speculation is possible. Here are the pluses and minuses of some:

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Three decades after first gaining prominence as the decorated leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he's a third-term senator and former lieutenant governor who considered his own White House bid last year.

Considered a good debater, he won a high profile 1996 re-election race against then Gov. William Weld and has been an active surrogate for Gore. Though he comes from a safely Democratic state, he brings some possible advantage in a key swing state from his marriage to the widow of former Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. In his third Senate term after two successful terms as governor, Graham would give the Democrats a fighting chance in Florida, a state many analysts consider a must for any Republican to win the White House.

But his selection might revive the politically damaging controversy over Gore's clumsy handling of the Elian Gonzalez case. Some think he's also even blander than Gore.

Former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine. A federal judge before he became a senator, Mitchell retired as Senate majority leader in 1995 and has since been active in brokering the agreement between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

He would bring some foreign policy experience, but not much political benefit. Though he often seems bland and legalistic, Mitchell was a highly partisan figure in the Senate who often clashed on economic policies with former President George Bush.

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. An early favorite who seems to have faded, he is, like Gore, the cautious son of a former senator (three-term Democrat Birch Bayh). He served two terms as governor before his election in 1998 to his father's old Senate seat.

He wouldn't add much excitement to the ticket and, though he hails from the politically crucial Middle West, his home state of Indiana is the region's most predictably Republican state.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. Another Middle Westerner, Durbin is a Catholic from downstate Illinois who served 16 years in the House before his 1996 election to the Senate.

He was an outspoken defender of President Clinton during the impeachment inquiry and has been active on a number of issues Democrats stress, including tobacco regulation, gun control and campaign finance reform.

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri. The House minority leader opted against challenging Gore for the White House to concentrate on trying to become speaker of the House.

Though some think his experience, his ties to labor and the fact that he comes from a critical swing state would make him the strongest running mate, those close to him say he feels committed to the party's effort to regain House control.

Gov. James Hunt of North Carolina. Now completing his fourth term, Hunt is an expert on education, an issue Bush hopes to make his own. Considered more competent than exciting, he would give Gore a chance of winning North Carolina.

So might Sen. John Edwards, a freshman lawmaker and former trial lawyer who is reportedly under consideration though he is a relative political newcomer and little known nationally.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. An unlikely choice unless Bush picks Elizabeth Dole, the former San Francisco mayor comes from a state that is vital for the Democrats. She is one of the most experienced prospects.

But California seems safely Democratic barring a Bush landslide, and some fear she might be damaged by her husband's extensive business dealings. That concern torpedoed her chances when Walter Mondale nearly picked her in 1984. At 67, she's the oldest of the most likely candidates.

She would be the first Jewish member of a major party ticket, as would Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, is considered more of a centrist than Kerry or Mitchell. Though Rubin's stewardship of the economy was widely acclaimed, his lack of electoral experience would seem to rule him out.

High gas prices and the controversy over security at the Energy Department laboratory in Las Alamos, N.M., presumably ended the hopes of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who would have been the first Hispanic picked.