Obama's and McCain's Vice Presidential Picks Won't Matter in November

LBJ might have made a difference, but no one else has—including Dan Quayle.

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While vice-presidential mania hits its peak, can we take a deep breath and remember something: In November, it won't matter whom Barack Obama and John McCain select.

Remember two names: Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Danforth Quayle.

LBJ was the last (perhaps only) vice presidential selection deemed critical to his ticket's victory, although John F. Kennedy still would have won the presidency had he lost Texas. (And the next time someone tells you that JFK won in 1960 because of cheating in Illinois, remind them that JFK would have won even had he lost Illinois.)

Quayle, of course, is considered the gold standard of poor vice-presidential picks (earning Tom Eagleton's eternal gratitude). That George H. W. Bush won in 1988 and lost in 1992 was basically unrelated to Quayle's credentials or lack thereof.

There are two names this year that could actually make a difference. If polling numbers are to be believed (and I'm a skeptic), Sen. Hillary Clinton could solidify Obama's base. I'm doubtful of the Hillary Factor but am willing to acknowledge the possibility.

The other possible difference-maker is Bobby Jindal, the young governor of Louisiana. Were McCain to tap Jindal, it would seriously undercut his argument that Obama is unqualified for the presidency.

But in all likelihood, this election will be won or lost at the top of the ticket, not the second spot.