Trail To The Chief: Ultra-Premature VP Edition

Ultra-Premature VP Edition

When we started "Trail To The Chief," the first question we got was: "Are you sure it's not too soon to start ranking presidential candidates?" And that's fair: We don't really know what the field looks like. Maybe it pays to be circumspect.

So, naturally, for our next trick, we're going to rank the vice presidential candidates. How's that for premature coverage?

Now, of course, we're many hundreds of days away from having actual nominees, so pondering whose name might appear on the ticket after the slash and before the number "2016" is nothing but guesswork. But the truth is, we already have some feel for the type of person who might end up on a Veep shortlist. And this exercise, speculative though it is, can focus attention on some of the deeper themes of the race ahead.

When nominees really start considering who they want to share the ticket with, the usual rule of thumb is to pick a running mate who can confer some electoral advantage. Maybe there's a guy or gal who can lock down a few crucial swing states. Maybe there's a partner out there with expertise that can plug a gap in the nominee's own experience. These considerations will still play a role in 2016 -- or at least, we're pretty sure that Ohio's Rob Portman, an Ohioan from Ohio with deep roots in Ohio, hopes this is the case. Ohio.

But the American electorate is changing; it's hungry for renewal and fresh ideas. So there's a real opportunity here for a vice president who can project youthful vitality, or who reflects our ever-diversifying country. And if someone named "Bush" or "Clinton" ends up rising to the heights of our political competition, there'll be an even greater need for someone who seems plugged into the current moment, someone who can lighten the weight of dynasty and suggest by their very presence that this presidential candidate, you know, thinks about the future and stuff.

Of course, that's not to say that some middle-aged white dudes don't have a shot. (This is America, after all.) And we'll remind you that when George H.W. Bush sought somebody young and fresh for his running mate, he brought the world Dan Quayle. The mileage, it may vary! But for our opening peek at this race, here's what we got.

1 JOE BIDENWhy mess with a good thing? America’s favorite uncle should be VP for life Democrat
2 JULIAN CASTROAlmost too perfect a ticket-balancer for Hillary. Young, optimistic HUD secretary injects much-needed newness just by being there Democrat
3 SUSANA MARTINEZAlmost too perfect a ticket-balancer for Jeb, Mitt or any establishment GOP candidate. Young, optimistic New Mexico governor injects much-needed newness just by etc, etc Republican
4 MARCO RUBIOOstensibly a presidential contender, Rubio has a knack for putting his head down and working the ground. A good man-behind-the-man type Republican
5 ROB PORTMANOhioan is available, eager for a love connection Republican
6 CARLY FIORINAMergers not her strong suit, but the GOP desperately needs a woman on the ticket Republican
7 CONDOLEEZZA RICENFL needs her more, but she's the perennial, one-stop fixer for GOP demographic woes Republican
8 CORY BOOKERGonna get talked about regardless. The question is, could he end up on Rand Paul’s ticket -- starring in buddy-buddy actioner? Democrat
9 MIKE PENCEEvangelical version of everyman Rob Portman Republican
10 PAUL RYANA lot depends on how much Mitt Romney wants to put the band back together Republican
11 KIRSTEN GILLIBRANDSeems destined for something bigger, but either she or Hillary would have to move out of New York Democrat
12 ELIZABETH WARRENWhy fight with Warren when you can co-opt and contain her? Democrat
13 SCOTT WALKERO Wisconsin, cradle of Vice Presidents Republican
14 MIKE BLOOMBERGCould be on either ticket and bring his billions with him Independent
15 MARTIN O'MALLEYProbably shouldn’t be on this list either Democrat

Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press