Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating on VP Vetting Process

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This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 19, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

E.D. HILL, FOX NEWS HOST: who will be the V.P. pick? That is the big buzz on the campaign trail today. Sources are telling FOX News Barack Obama will announce his choice very, very soon. Meantime, rival John McCain will reveal his pick on August 29 in Dayton, Ohio, just one day after Obama's nomination speech and just ahead of the Republican National Convention.

So, do the V.P. picks already know they got it? What makes a candidate choose one over another?

Well, joining us now is a man who's been on that list, former Oklahoma governor, Frank Keating. In fact, he was the next person on the list when Dick Cheney got the nod in the 2000 election.

Thanks so much for being with us again.


Video: Watch E.D. Hill's interview with Frank Keating

HILL: You know, I'm confused because I think so many people paraded to the meetings, they got barbecues, all these other events, how do you tell who's in serious contention and do they even know?

KEATING: Well, you really don't. I think, those of us who've been on the short, short list, know that we're on the short, short list but we are mum. I mean, who really cared about the vice presidential picks in years passed? It was John Nance Garner called it a warm bucket of a spit. Who remembers the first vice president of Abraham Lincoln? It was Hannibal Hamlin, who went from obscurity into oblivion.

But today, because of Senator Obama's youth and because of Senator McCain's age, the V.P. pick is extremely important for the election and obviously, for the future. So, people watch very carefully.

HILL: And so little has leaked out about this, which is really amazing. Now, I know that you told us that they started asking you questions, the vetting process, in, you know, seriousness, about two months ahead of time. What was the strangest question you were asked?

KEATING: Well, they wanted everything. I think the strangest thing to me was that it was a more comprehensive background than I had to go through to become an FBI agent. But again, the V.P.'s job, the number two job in the country requires that.

The strangest thing to me, though, is none of us were interviewed. We were basically required to fill out a lot of paperwork, in my case, two thick, maybe four-inch volumes of answers and submissions. Were you ever arrested for a traffic offense? What kind of taxes have you paid? Have you ever written or said something that was controversial?

You know, E.D., tell me a politician who hasn't written or said something controversial. So, very intrusive, but terms of a hands-on interview to try to explain anything, or perhaps put yourself in front of the man that makes the decision, that was not done. So, that was strange to me.

HILL: All right. Be straight up with me. When it comes down to it, does the presidential candidate pick the person he thinks is the best person to take over for him in case something happens, or the person he thinks can best help him win?

KEATING: I think he picks somebody that he feels most comfortable with, that can obviously be his partner and helpmate during the course of his presidency, but also, can this person help me to win.

The reality is, those states in play in this — probably is going to be a very close presidential election — states like Pennsylvania or Ohio that John McCain has to win, or, for example, states like California or New Jersey that Senator Obama must win, to have somebody from those states or Indiana, in the case of Senator Bayh who's on the shortlist for Senator Obama — those are all-important considerations.

So, when all comes down to it, I think George Bush was very comfortable with Dick Cheney, he provided some gravitas to him and he chose him. In the case of John McCain, he did it himself. He can choose his yellow lab if he wishes because he really did it himself. In Obama's case, I think he's more concerned about electoral votes.

HILL: All right. Frank Keating, thanks for being with us.

KEATING: Thanks, E.D.

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