VEEPSTEAKS: THE BIG JUICY PART….Here’s where I go through a long list of potential VP contenders for your amusement! And you get to throw stuff at me in comments! First, the ones which I recommend to you, my fellow netroots progressive:

John Edwards: His plans on health care and global warming moved the entire race to the left, and he had an astonishing number of good proposals on everything from making sure poor people could get fresh produce to regulating hog waste. I don’t think that anybody available would use the VP media spotlight as well as Edwards would. And after two and a half years of repenting his war vote and rejecting the ‘War on Terror’ framework, he’s a fine partner for Obama on foreign policy issues.

Not only will he (and Elizabeth!) push hard for universal health care within the Obama administration, but he’s about the best weapon you can imagine to sell the plan. If Judd Gregg or George Voinovich are filibustering health care reform in 2010, Obama could send Edwards to NH or OH and have him spend a week telling stories about little girls who died because they didn’t have health care coverage. That’s what he used to do for a living, and he did it pretty darned well.

As far as electability goes, take a look at the recent OH and VA polls that included VP candidates. Sure, Edwards’ advantages over the other Democrats are mostly name recognition. But I didn’t expect any VP possibility to move the numbers this strongly. When you add on Edwards as a VP, he adds between 3 and 9 points to Obama’s total in Ohio, depending on who McCain is paired with. He adds between 2 and 11 points to Obama’s numbers in Virginia. None of the other Democrats added anything to Obama’s numbers (no strike against them, because nobody knew who they were). I look at this as a favorability test, and it’s one that Edwards passes. Furthermore, McCain has a pretty terrible anti-worker voting record, and the mill worker’s son is exactly the guy who could drive that home.

Kathleen Sebelius: Her story in Kansas is a barrel of awesome. She’s a popular pro-choice Governor who fought with unprecedented success against health insurance companies (from whom she refused to take contributions). The best thing — and the part that fits best with the Obama message of national unity — is her uncanny ability to turn high-profile Kansas Republicans into Democrats. The former GOP state party chair? Now her lieutenant governor. The formerly Republican Attorney General? Turned into a Democrat. Six GOP members of the state legislature became Democrats under her watch. Of course, part of that is because the Kansas Republican Party came apart over teaching evolution in the schools. But she was there to pick up the pieces and take them home with her.

The downside to Sebelius is that picking her deprives us of an potential Senate challenger in Kansas when 2010 rolls around. And I hear that her State of the Union response wasn’t so hot. If anyone knows more about her speeches, please do tell — the SOTU response is a weird gig and maybe it wasn’t representative of her real talents.

Sherrod Brown: Okay, nobody is mentioning Sherrod Brown. But I will! He’s the Ohio Senator who refused to accept his Congressional health care package back in his House days, in protest of the fact that all Americans didn’t have health care coverage. If you think, as I do, that Obama would be well served to add individual mandates to his health care plan, Brown is (like Edwards) the kind of guy who might be able to get that going. He’s a straight down-the-line progressive with a 100% NARAL rating, and any of us on the left would love to see a Brown administration in 2016. We should be able to replace an Ohio Democratic Senator reasonably well, too.

Brian Schweitzer: Not many people are talking about him either, though Markos would sprout wings and fly around with joy if he were selected. Schweitzer is a Montana Democratic governor with a whopping 70% approval rating. He’s pro-choice and pro-gun. I’m told that he has a pretty solid economic populist streak. Believe it or not, he speaks fluent Arabic — he worked in the Middle East on irrigation projects for several years.

Montana is represented entirely by Democrats at the Governor and Senator levels, so it’s not like we need him to run for Senate soon. One of those Senate Democrats is the conservative Max Baucus, who could use some replacing, but I don’t know when he’ll retire. If you’re partial to macho-man Western Dems, you might enjoy David Sirota’s article on him.

Now for the VP picks whom I think are overrated. (By the way, I just don’t know enough about Janet Napolitano to have any idea what to say.) Not that I dislike all of these folks — it’s usually that I think they belong better somewhere else:

Jim Webb: Look, he’s a wonderful Senator — one of the best we’ve got on foreign policy, and a solid economic populist as well. Let’s have him on TV more often. But when we’re trying to get 60 votes for health care reform, we can’t afford to lose a Democratic seat in Virginia while Tim Kaine is still ineligible to run. There’s also the matter of his past negative remarks on women in the military — I’m quite optimistic that Hillary’s most committed supporters will come around and support Obama, but I don’t want to add insult to injury.

But above all, I wonder if he’s really up for life in the presidential fishbowl. With career politicians, you can usually have more confidence that they’ll be able to put up with all the BS that comes with running for national office. I’ve talked to a couple people who watched his Senate race, who say that campaigning 24/7 for months on end isn’t really his forte. So let’s keep him as a general-purpose foreign policy spokesman in the Senate.

Another thing is that I’m usually not a big fan of ticket-balancing, especially for something like credibility on foreign policy issues. Mori Dinauer is right that if Obama picks Webb for those purposes, the media narrative becomes “Obama lacks credibility on foreign policy issues — that’s why he had to pick Webb!” Given that people tend to think much more about the top of the ticket than the bottom, this can actually do more to hurt you on an issue than to help you.

The times you see ticket-balancing succeed are when you balance to satisfy your base (by picking a more extreme person who makes you look more moderate) or when you pick someone boring who has more experience (because Presidential voters don’t care about experience anyway, and usually pick the candidate with less experience). I’m confident enough in the Iraq War poll numbers, in Obama’s instincts on the issue, and in the impressiveness of his smart decision in 2002 that I think he’ll be able to handle the politics of foreign policy on his own.

Bill Richardson: This man belongs in the Cabinet, not on the campaign trail. He’s kind of a gaffe machine. Remember the ‘Whizzer White’ remark, the line about homosexuality being a choice (in front of gay rights organizations), and the time he forgot which labor union he was addressing and called them by the name of their rivals? And this time, if he gets asked a question about Katrina and he wasn’t paying attention, he won’t have Obama to stage whisper to him. I hope he gets a good place in an Obama administration, but I don’t want it to be VP.

Hillary Clinton: Her voters will come back into the fold without her in the VP slot, her poll numbers are icky, her consultants won’t play well with Obama’s people, she’ll mess up the Obama antiwar message, and won’t it be sweet to see all the money the GOP spent smearing her go to waste? I present these arguments… and more! in detail here.

Now, I don’t have the personal dislike of her that some people do. I really liked her during the 1990s, and there’s no denying that the sexism thrown at her by the media has been repulsive. But she’s just not the person we need at this time (that bizarre assassination remark definitely doesn’t help).

Joe Biden: He’s not the worst choice by a long shot, but I’ll have to disagree with my esteemed host on this one. Yes, the guy often comes out with good quips and says awesome stuff. On the other hand, he sometimes comes out with gaffes (remember that one about the Indians at 7-11s?) and embarrasses himself. Will the memorable quip to embarrassing gaffe ratio remain above 1? That’s the question. I also worry about him as a vehicle for Obama’s antiwar message.

And his performance at the Alito confirmation hearings was deeply disappointing. Sure, I’m confident that if he becomes president, he’ll appoint judges who are good and pro-choice. But after that I don’t see him as the kind of guy who’d ever be on a mission to move the judiciary seriously to the left.

So that’s that… what do you think?