Today we learned that Obama has commenced the search — ever so delicately — for his running-mate. As he starts, what should we be looking for?

First, we should keep in mind that he may be looking over at McCain while making his decision. The way the conventions fall gives McCain an advantage. The Democratic National Convention will be held the last week of August, while the Republicans’ gathering will be held the first week of September. McCain has the ability to hold out and delay the naming of a running-mate until he sees what card Obama plays. This is a significant disadvantage for Obama should he not nominate, say, a female, especially given his problems with some of the female Democratic voters who have steadfastly supported Clinton. McCain could easily follow up with a feminine choice of his own to draw those voters away from Obama in November.

Next, we should be wary of any speculated contenders that are currently in Washington. Obama’s campaign message will be “change,” and Obama can not hammer McCain on his “insider” image if he’s tagging along a fellow insider. This would seemingly do away with Christopher Dodd’s and Hillary Clinton’s chances.

We should also think about Obama’s geographic strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Obama will probably need to make up at least some ground with working class voters. This might put someone like John Edwards in play, someone who has a message that did resonate well with the group of people Hillary Clinton has attracted to her campaign. Obama could send Edwards throughout Appalachia and eventually travel with Edwards late this summer on a poverty tour, which would bring back images of Robert Kennedy.

One meme the Republicans have shown they are prepared to use is Obama’s patriotism, or lack thereof. Republicans use Obama’s lack of flag pin, his association with Jeremiah Wright, and his wife’s comments to make Obama look like a dangerous outsider to many middle-class, hard-working Americans. Obama could look to neutralize this by choosing his own political maverick and war hero like Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska).

And finally, we should probably examine what states could be put in play by a vice presidential nomination. Even without any consideration given to putting Governor Tim Kaine on the ticket, Virginia is a state that could be turned blue in a presidential election for the first time since 1964, given Obama’s 28 percent margin of victory in February. But Kaine provides Obama an additional boost. Kaine, a Democrat, has a decent 51 percent approval rating in Virginia, and should he be added to the ticket, he may further the vacuum effect Obama seems to be having on the Virginia Republican Party. On the other hand, another governor who has been mentioned as a contender, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, doesn’t make much sense. While Richardson is an outsider, he lacks charisma, he’s not that well-spoken, and the west doesn’t seem to be an area that Obama needs assistance with right now.

Of course this is all just speculation, but I think we can start to make some educated guesses on what might happen over the next couple months. I think the names to watch are John Edwards, Tim Kaine, and maybe even Tom Daschle, who is an outsider, a former senator, and the co-chairperson of Obama’s campaign. The positive thing about all of these names is that each seems capable of joining Obama in the quest to re-orient our government toward the common good.