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Whom should they choose?

Who would Stephen Fairchild of Pittsboro like to see as vice president? "Someone with the highest personal integrity," he says. Jerry Blow of Raleigh says a president needs a vice president who is "an excellent adviser." And Alice Osborn of Raleigh said the vice president should be someone who is "seen but not heard."

The picking of a running mate will be the next big decision that defines the candidacies of Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The big danger is if they make a bad choice. Think back to George McGovern's pick of Tom Eagleton in 1972. Eagleton withdrew after two weeks, when it was revealed that he had been undergoing electroshock therapy to treat depression.

For some, the choice is all about balancing the ticket. Who will bring geographic balance to the ticket -- a governor or senator popular in a battleground state? Or who might help with a key constituency, such as women voters? Is there a Lyndon Johnson-type pick out there to boost Obama's or McCain's White House hopes like Johnson did for John Kennedy?

As far as David Elstein of Durham is concerned, all the talk about who the VP might be is just a waste of time. Borrowing a line from political consultant Jim Carville, he says: "It's the president, stupid."

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