THE VEEPSTAKES….Tom Schaller suggests that Hillary Clinton is already eyeing Evan Bayh as her running mate:

If Hillary wants to knock Barack Obama on his heels, she could put Bayh (or better yet, Iowa’s Tom Vilsack?) on the ticket by, say, July 1. Having a running mate during the primary allows her to balance the ticket from the start; doubles the principles (and spouses) who can raise money and campaign; would take some of the spotlight off her; and reduces her risks of burnout or becoming overexposed. Of course, if Obama beats her to the punch …

I don’t know if Bayh or Vilsack are the right guys, but this is an idea that’s always intrigued me too. In recent history the vice presidency has been viewed as sort of a consolation prize for one of the losing presidential contenders (Edwards in 04, Bush in 80), but this perception is mostly a myth (Cheney and Lieberman in 2000, Kemp in 96, Gore in 92, Quayle and Bentsen in 88, Ferraro in 84, Mondale and Dole in 76). So why not balance the ticket early, get a second campaigning organization, and improve your fundraising from the start? What’s the advantage of waiting?

In fact, since we’re tossing off weird ideas here, how about announcing your top cabinet members during the convention? Let’s say, State, Defense, and Treasury. It gives people an idea of what your administration would look like, it reduces policy competition on your team, and it provides a bigger dedicated campaigning staff for the general election.

There are downsides, of course. Choosing your team early reduces the number of people who stay in suck-up mode hoping for a cabinet appointment if you win. Your nominees will have enemies as well as friends. A bigger campaign group increases the odds of a fatal gaffe of some kind. And waiting can be helpful. Maybe the campaign itself will produce a new star?

Anyway, just a thought. I’ve always figured that someday some risk-taking candidate will go this route. Maybe not Hillary, but someone.

UPDATE: Kemp wasn’t a losing contender in 1996. I’ve corrected the text accordingly. And in comments, JoshA says that announcing cabinet members prior to an election would violate anti-patronage laws. Seems silly, but there you have it.

Also in comments, Ken D. reminds me that someone already tried the early VP idea:

Reagan did name a VP (PA Gov. Sen. Schweiker) late in the 1976 campaign for exactly those reasons. It didn’t work; Schweiker couldn’t swing a single convention vote, iirc, and Ford won the nomination. Part of the problem is that it is hard to name people without their consent, which will be hard to come by unless they have already endorsed you, which drastically limits the pool. The accepted and conventional way of going about this, however imperfect, will be hard to shake.