This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," May 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: John Kerry's search for a running mate is the topic of this week's trail dust.

Kerry met with Jim Johnson, the man in charge of the search, earlier this week, and there are signs an announcement is only weeks away. So far, background checks have been completed on the following five individuals: Florida Senator Bob Graham, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri, former general Wesley Clark of Arkansas, and Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa.

Now, choosing a running mate early will give Kerry a boost in raising money, though he just raised $50 million. And it'll also help him get his message out.

Here's my test, my veep test for Kerry. Is it going to be a question of ego or is it going to be a question of pragmatism? And by that, I mean, is he going to pick someone who's his equal, someone who's an established figure in the Democratic Party, or is he going to name a midget, somebody who he can dominate during the campaign and will really just sort of fade into the background?

I think it's a choice between someone like Dick Gephardt, who I think would be the best running mate for Kerry, or John Edwards, who certainly established himself on his own as a figure in the Democrat, as opposed to someone like Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who I don't even think would help Kerry win Florida.

Equal or midget?

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I'm not sure that Bob Graham is a, a midget. He was chairman of the...

BARNES: Well, compared to...

KONDRACKE: ... Senate ... Intelligence Committee ... but he didn't, I mean, he didn't get, do very well running for president. But anyway...

BARNES: But he's no Dick Gephardt.

KONDRACKE: ... what, you know, on, on "Hannity & Colmes" this week, Kerry said that he was going to choose, quote unquote, "right before the convention"...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... which, which suggests that it's, you know, that ... going to be, be done in the conventional manner. But, I, you know, Jim Johnson, who I think wants to be Treasury secretary in a Kerry administration, and I think would make a good one, and he's in charge of this vetting process, is holding this, the whole process ... very close to the vest...

BARNES: That's for sure.

KONDRACKE: ... and even people who have talked to him have no idea where this is, where this is going. But, but they think that it genuinely is Gephardt or Edwards, and maybe Vilsack in third place.

BARNES: Yes, but they're guessing.

KONDRACKE: But they're guessing.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: OK.

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