As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has firmed up her lead in the Democratic presidential race, speculation about her potential running mate is rising among Republicans.
"Absolutely," said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when asked if he thinks his fellow New Yorker will be nominated. "And Sen. [Barack] Obama will be the vice presidential nominee."
Some people already are talking about Mrs. Clinton as if she were the nominee before a single Democratic primary or caucus has been held. But Mr. Obama as a running mate? With that prediction, Mr. Giuliani expresses what I have heard several friends, associates and news sources say in private in recent months.
Anna Quindlen was the first of my column-writing colleagues, as far as I can tell, to make the connection. In an open letter in the July 23 Newsweek, she appealed to Mrs. Clinton to "make it your business to persuade Barack Obama to be your running mate."
We pundits should not get ahead of ourselves, of course, but we also can't help it. Since Ms. Quindlen's piece appeared, Mrs. Clinton looks even stronger in national polls and focus groups, although her lead over Mr. Obama and former Sen. John Edwards is whisper-thin in critical Iowa, where the first caucuses are to be held.
Yet the prospect of a Clinton-Obama ticket is already out there.
"Conventional thinkers like to make this sound risky, pairing a woman and a black man on the ticket," Ms. Quindlen wrote. "But ... anyone who would be put off by Obama isn't going to vote for you [Clinton] in the first place."
That's a reasonable point, but call me a conventional thinker.
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama might be able to forge an effective campaign partnership with each other, although that's a big unknown. More important, conventional political wisdom says you don't load up your political ticket with unpredictable unknowns and, let's face it, there are few factors harder to predict than race and gender.
As a journalist, I'd love to cover the Clinton-Obama team against any comers. But, considering the public's ability to take only so much change at a time, even in a campaign that espouses change, I doubt that Mrs. Clinton would want to double her risks.
Traditional political wise guys would advise her to balance her ticket, say with an agreeable white male. Or maybe a candidate of Hispanic descent like New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, with his strong crossover appeal and golden résumé as a diplomat. Considering Mrs. Clinton's reputation as a polarizing candidate, she could use a good diplomat on her team.
What about Mr. Obama? I suspect legal expert Jeffrey Toobin is on to something with his prediction. While promoting his latest book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, he recently predicted that, if elected, Mrs. Clinton would offer Mr. Obama a seat on the Supreme Court.
That would be a hard offer for Mr. Obama to pass up, even though accepting it would all but rule out his running against President Hillary Clinton in 2012. As they say on a certain TV game show, what'll it be, senator? Deal or no deal?