Both the Obama and McCain campaigns like to say that their vice presidential selection process will be secret, compartmentalized and private. But that's not really true. Take yesterday's visits to Capitol Hill by James Johnson and Eric Holder. They spent a half hour each with five Democratic leaders. The discussions with some involved a long list of names; with others, Johnson and Holder seemed to just listen. There's no way that the two would have been able to sneak onto the Hill without being noticed, and there's no way in heck that staffers for members who took the meetings would let the day go by without making sure that reporters knew how important their bosses was/where. So this was mostly public spectacle. Certainly, if, say, Nancy Pelosi expressed her opposition to a Clinton/Obama unity ticket, it would be useful information for Obama, but, well, she's already said that.

The McCain campaign is also conducting part of its process in public. Like the Obama campaign, would-be contenders are asked to campaign, to appear as a public surrogates, to attend barbeques in Arizona, to represent the campaign on Fox News. (Note to Gov. Pawlenty: the McCain campaign was mucho impressed with your performance on FNS against Gov. Tim Kaine.)

The campaigns claim they don't float trial balloons. False. Balloons are floating everywhere around us. Public reaction matters...maybe not all that much, but enough to give us glimpses of the process and enough to give the campaigns feedback about their potential choices.

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