Hillary Clinton’s advisers and allies have begun extensive discussions about who should be her running mate, seeking to compile a list of 15 to 20 potential picks for her team to start vetting by late spring.
Clinton’s team will grapple with complicated questions like whether the United States is ready for an all-female ticket, and whether her choice for vice president would be able to handle working in a White House in which former President Bill Clinton wielded significant influence on policy.
While the nomination fight is still fluid, Hillary Clinton is confident enough of victory that she has described a vision of a running mate and objectives for the search, according to campaign advisers and more than a dozen Democrats close to the campaign or the Clintons.
She does not have a front-runner in mind, they said, but she is intrigued by several contenders and scenarios.
Among the names under discussion by Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and campaign advisers: Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, former governors from the key state of Virginia; Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who represents both a more liberal wing of the party and a swing state; former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a prominent African-American Democrat; and Thomas E. Perez, President Barack Obama’s labor secretary and a Hispanic civil rights lawyer.
But Hillary Clinton is also open to a woman, campaign advisers said. One obvious possibility is Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is hugely popular among progressive Democrats, though she has not been helpful to Clinton’s campaign, declining to endorse the former secretary of state.
Still, Warren has not been ruled out, according to the campaign advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the confidential search process.
Clinton has offered general guidance as her team begins the search: She cares less about ideological and personal compatibility than about picking a winner, someone who can dominate the vice presidential debate and convince Americans that Clinton is their best choice.
She also wants a partner who is unquestionably qualified for the presidency and would help create the strongest contrast with the Republican ticket, which could be dogged by questions about Donald Trump’s fitness for the presidency or Sen. Ted Cruz’s unbending conservatism, according to those interviewed. And she wants someone who could be an effective attack dog against either candidate.
Despite the passions stirred during the primary, Clinton does not feel pressure to enthrall the supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, since she thinks most of them would ultimately vote for her, an assertion backed up by polling.
The most unpredictable issue for the search, at least at this early stage, is the turmoil in the Republican race, which may not yield a nominee until the party’s convention in mid-July.
Clinton is likely to make her pick soon after the Republican ticket is known, according to Democrats close to the campaign, and her political calculations in choosing a running mate may shift depending on whether the opposing nominee is Trump, Cruz or someone unexpected, and who the Republican No. 2 is.
If Gov. John Kasich of Ohio or Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American, end up on the Republican ticket, Clinton might be more inclined to pick Brown (to help her in Ohio) or Perez (to help excite Hispanic voters).
Advisers to Clinton said she was in the unique position of having firsthand expertise at the vetting and selection process: She was deeply involved in Bill Clinton’s search in 1992 that resulted in the selection of Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, with whom she later clashed at times. She supported Bill Clinton putting another young Southern moderate on the ticket, which was seen as a bold choice at the time — and which her advisers point to as evidence that she may be unconventional if she is nominated.
“Hillary understands how the vice presidency can work well, and not work well, far better than anyone running or anyone on her staff,” said Richard W. Riley, a friend of the Clintons who was the education secretary under Bill Clinton.