WASHINGTON (AFP) — US political junkies will be casting nervous glances at their mobile phones this week, with Democratic White House pick Barack Obama promising to name his running mate by text message and email.
In an unprecedented move, the Obama campaign says it will first reveal his choice of vice presidential nominees not to the political media pack, but to the two million supporters who have bankrolled his tilt at history.
Many observers think the Illinois Senator could make his pick as soon as this week, to give him time to showcase his presidential ticket before the Democratic National Convention between August 25 and 28 in Denver, Colorado.
Republican John McCain is also mulling his choice of vice presidential nominee, and could spring a surprise this week, or wait until just before the Republican convention, between September 1 and 4.
Both candidates have holes in their political resumes they need to plug, and making the right choice is vitally important.
Obama, 47, has said he does not want merely a ceremonial vice president, but is seeking an integral cog in his governing machine.
"I'm not interested in a vice president who I send off to go to funerals," he told NBC television last month.
"I want somebody who is going to roll up their sleeves and be willing to work."
Republican McCain meanwhile, who would be 72, and the oldest president ever inaugurated for a first term next January, may be looking for some youth.
"I am aware of the enhanced importance of this issue given my age," McCain said back April.
As the 'VP' stakes heat up Obama and McCain campaign teams are scouring financial records and personal histories of potential picks for any hidden scandal.
Conventional wisdom has it that a vice presidential candidate must reflect the core message behind their boss's campaign, or make up for his political deficiencies.
And since the 'VP' is popularly seen as a heartbeat away from the presidency McCain and Obama must also think the unthinkable -- ensure that their number two is fit to serve in the event of their demise.
Since Obama is short of national security experience, he may opt for a veteran political hand.
For Obama, Senator Joseph Biden, former senator Sam Nunn, or even ex United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson might be a fit, but picking an establishment figure might undercut his vow to reform Washington's clogged political system.
Or, the Illinois senator might chose to compliment his youthful message, emulating Bill Clinton, who picked Al Gore in 1992.
Virginia governor Tim Kaine is from middle America, speaks fluent Spanish and may be able to help deliver his southern swing state, which Obama is targeting.
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, or Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who both delivered their states to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, are long-shots and both say they will not accept if asked.
When Clinton admitted defeat in the Democratic nominating race against Obama in June, she signaled she might accept the number two spot.
But "dream ticket" talk has since faded, with Clinton seen as a symptom of the "old politics" Obama vows to change.
Should Obama wish to chose a woman nevertheless, he could go for Kathleen Sebelius, 60, a governor who has cross-partisan appeal in the traditionally Republican state of Kansas.
Or he may give the nod to Indiana senator Evan Bayh, a strong Clinton supporter, who is seen as having appeal to white conservative Democrats, and some national security expertise.
Some pundits believe McCain may try to balance his ticket with a much younger running mate.
That could be good news for Tim Pawlenty, 47, governor of Minnesota, who could help McCain with the powerful Christian conservative block.
Florida is also a prize, so speculation is surrounding the state's governor Charlie Crist, who is young, popular and has a formidable political machine.
As Obama tries to portray McCain as illiterate on economics, the Republican might be tempted to shore up his credentials on the number one campaign issue.
That has brought former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, 61, into the frame.
Another 'safe' economic pair of hands might be former congressman and US trade representative Rob Portman, who hails from Ohio, a state McCain must have in his column if he is to win the White House in November.
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