The Republican and Democratic nominees are certain to come from the Senate. Thus, the nation's governors seem a ready pool of would-be vice presidential candidates who could provide management experience lacking at the top of each ticket.
"Seven governors have become president of the United States, and four have become vice president," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the chairman of the National Governors Association opening its winter meeting with such bits of history.
The Republican didn't, of course, mention that he's among the many governors who might have the chance to try to increase those numbers. He, like the others, tends to eschew such talk.
Still, names of more than a dozen governors have been floated as potential running mates on the Republican and Democratic tickets.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is assured the Republican nomination, while Democratic Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York are continuing to battle for the Democratic nod.
Jockeying for the No. 2 spot is well under way even though the nominees typically don't choose running mates until the summer. Tons of names have been tossed about, from former and current members of the House and Senate to one-time governors and Cabinet officials.
But sitting governors offer an attractive blend: They are running state governments now and, thus, dealing with issues of the day; they have political and fundraising networks that are active and don't need to be dusted off, and, in many cases, they are considered rising stars in their respective parties who aspire to the next rung on the political ladder.
They also can claim they are Washington outsiders at a time when the public is craving change and when both nominees are, by their occupations, Washington insiders.
As McCain, and either Obama or Clinton, weigh their options, many considerations come into play, among them: electoral votes a state offers, whether a person would bring to the ticket credentials lacking at the top of the ticket, and, perhaps, whether the person was an early and loyal supporter.
A sampling of governors who are being talked about in political circles, in alphabetical order by state:
- Sarah Palin, Alaska. The state's first woman governor, 44, is an up-and-comer who has had remarkably high approval ratings. But she lacks a national profile. She's also from a far-flung Republican-leaning state that isn't an electoral prize.
- Charlie Crist, Florida. His last-minute endorsement was widely credited with helping McCain win the Florida primary and putting Crist, 51, on the national stage. Florida is certain to be in play this fall, but Crist has a centrist agenda that may rankle the GOP base.
- Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota. He's a two-term governor and longtime McCain backer who is from the Midwest, a critical electoral-rich, swing-voting region. Pawlenty, 47, has a national platform with the NGA, and will host the GOP nominating convention in his state.
- Haley Barbour, Mississippi. The 60-year-old was lauded for his leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He could give McCain a boost in conservative Southern states. But he's also a Washington insider; he's a former national GOP chairman who founded a lobbying firm.
- Mark Sanford, South Carolina. While in Congress in 2000, he endorsed McCain in his first presidential bid but was neutral this year as governor. The two remain friendly. Age 47, Sanford has an independent streak that sometimes conflicts with the establishment.
- Jon Huntsman Jr., Utah. He has been a loyal McCain backer since early on. Huntsman, 47, comes from one of the country's most Republican states and he's a Mormon. But he's also solidly conservative, and that could help McCain tremendously.
- Janet Napolitano, Arizona. Age 50, she has proven that she can attract independents and crossover Republicans. In any other year, she could help Democrats capitalize on a changing Southwest. This year that would be tough; McCain is an Arizona senator. But she backed Obama and he might find it advantageous to choose a woman if he wins the nomination.
- Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas. She knows how to win _ twice _ in a state that's solidly Republican in presidential elections, which could help the Democratic nominee expand the playing field. Age 59, she has a moderate image and is politically savvy. She's another woman who backed Obama and campaigned for him.
- Bill Richardson, New Mexico. He ran for president this year but dropped out after poor showings in a celebrity-packed field. A Hispanic who is 60, he appeals to an up-for-grabs constituency in a politically shifting region. He has foreign policy experience.
- Ted Strickland, Ohio. A big-time Clinton backer, he probably would only be considered for the slot if she wins the nomination. Strickland, 66, had a generally moderate voting record in Congress, and could help deliver the pivotal state for her.
- Tim Kaine, Virginia. He's another Democrat who ran as a moderate and proved he can win in a state that leans Republican in presidential elections. Virginia, too, is a potential swing state that he could help turn Democratic. Kaine, 49, backed Obama early.
- Joe Manchin, West Virginia. This first term governor, 60, is popular in the state, and could help put a state that Bush won twice into the Democratic column. He is known nationally for his legislative efforts following several deadly mine accidents.