In March of 2004, Sen. John Kerry asked James Johnson, the former Fannie Mae CEO and long-time Democratic strategist, to head the search for his ticket-mate.
Whether Kerry made the right choice in the end by picking John Edwards is for history to decide, but the search itself was a model of efficiency and secrecy. It took Johnson and a small team of carefully selected lawyers and researchers a few months to carefully vet the ten or so finalists that Kerry had settled on.
As of April of 2008, Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are way behind Kerry's pace.
The candidates do not discuss the vice presidential search with their senior staff. And neither Obama nor Clinton has established a process for winnowing the field of potential candidates.
Obama has one advantage: Johnson is already aboard. He and wife Maxine Isaacs are major fundraisers, and Johnson is currently Obama's chief liaison to many of the party's undecided superdelegates. It is unclear whether Obama will appoint Johnson to head his search. Some campaign insiders believe that Obama wants Valerie Jarrett, Obama's best friend and counselor, to fill that role. (For Clinton, insiders believe that longtime attorney Cheryl Mills or former chief of staff Evelyn Lieberman are likely to be tapped -- though they don't know, because Clinton herself isn't talking.)