As both John McCain and Barack Obama close in on their choice for a running mate, one name keeps popping up — Olympia Snowe. Her name isn’t bandied about by professional political pundits, but by bloggers and would-be wonks.

Although she won’ t be on the ticket, the frequent mention of Sen. Snowe shows the public’ s desire for strong, feisty, pro-choice women in national politics, says Bowdoin College government professor Chris Potholm. He notes that former Sens. Bill Cohen and George Mitchell were also frequently suggested as VP choices.

Regarding Sen. Obama’ s vice presidential choices, Jason, a law student at Washington and Lee University in Lexigton, Va., said this of Sen. Snowe on “A total Republican & But the bi-partisanship is so incredible. Where does she help? Independents, women, moderate Republicans, and New England (which we won a long time ago, but it’ s nice to be certain). & it’ s pretty cool just to think about it.”

Or this one on the liberal Daily Kos. “If Obama is set on pushing bi-partisanship and unifying the country — what about Snowe as his VP? & She would make a unity government seem persuasively real. Together, they would create an historic ticket with an African-American and a woman.”

Sen. Snowe is also touted as a good choice for Sen. McCain. After ruling out Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, David Kitchell, in a recent column for Howey Politics Indiana, wrote that “a better geographic choice might be Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe.”

He added: “She vets well and has few negatives” — key consideration for any VP choice.

Michael Fauntroy, a faculty member in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University in Virginia, suggested Sen. Snowe as John Kerry’ s running mate in 2004. “With 25 years of congressional experience & Snowe brings together the kind of experience and moderation that would be very attractive to voters around the nation, many of whom feel left out of American politics,” he wrote on his Web site.

Not everyone thinks the senator would be a good choice as a running mate or Cabinet member. “If we see Mike Huckabee as VP, Arnold Schwarzenegger at EPA and Olympia Snowe anywhere, we conservatives are staying home or voting for someone else,” Randall Hoven wrote on the American Thinker Web site.

Sen. Snowe downplays the attention. “The discussions are certainly flattering and I’ m honored that anyone would consider me for the Republican vice president.” But, she added, “I haven’ t been contacted for this purpose and, the bottom line is, I truly love the job I have now representing the people of Maine in the United States Senate.”

Now, about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin