I think Lizza does a solid and fair job of discussing the merits of picking a Veep early. It's a no-brainer - Kerry needs to get his VP sooner rather than later, and waiting till the convention is a disadvantage for all the reasons Lizza lays out in his piece. The only argument against picking early, that he forgot, was that the idea is championed by Chris Lehane, the attack-dog democratic advisor who nearly ruined Kerry's campaign before being fired, then moved to Clark and sank that boat. Lehane is likely also the reason Dean faced attack ads comparing him to Osama bin Laden - from the left. Still, the Lehane curse aside, I think choosing a Veep early would be a great idea.
The more interesting question is how do you choose your running mate - and on that score. Lizza lays out three historical models:
The first is the compensation model. Kerry could pick a classic ticket-balancer to make up for his flaws. This is what Gore did in 2000 when he chose Lieberman.
The second model is the magnification model. Kerry could pick someone who emphasizes all his own strengths. This is what Clinton did in 1992.
The final model for picking a veep is to go with someone whose primary asset is that he or she can carry a specific state. This one has actually fallen out of fashion in recent years.
Lizza offers Edwards, Clark, and Graham as possible options for each of these respective models. Let me also add that all the successful Democratic tickets since FDR have included at least one Southerner.
But looking at the criteria above, it's clear that there's one candidate that actually meets all three criteria - Bob Graham. Graham compensates for Kerry's aloofness, due to his long history of "town meeting" style representation among his constituency. Graham magnifies Kerry's foreign policy credentials, since he has a strong reputation on both sides of the aisle in that arena. And Graham would deliver Florida, the keystone to the 2000 election and likely to be equally influential to the 2004 outcome, given the stakes. Plus he's a Southerner.