They call it part parlor game, part reporting assignment. Politico has launched a presidential race of its own featuring none of the announced candidates, or President Obama.
"The public has had it with Washington and conventional politics," write editor Jim Vandehei and reporter Mike Allen. "It has lost trust and respect in the conventional governing class ... Is there a person in politics, business or entertainment who could harness the public's hunger for something new, different and inspiring?"
To start the ball rolling, they came up with five names: former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles of Charlotte, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Here's part of what they say about Bowles: "Many voters seem open to, if not hungry for, a real discussion about tough changes. Ask Republicans and Democrats alike to name a serious and responsible thinker who could lead this discussion and the name Erskine Bowles often tops the list.
"Bowles, 66, is far from an inspirational figure. In fact, he can be as dull as a butter knife in public settings. But he knows budgets, and numbers, and tough choices (he's the man who asked Dick Morris to resign in the Clinton years) and, unlike most, has slapped his name on ideas that upset leaders of both parties but excite deficit hawks on both sides.
"The Bowles pitch would rest on a rarity in modern campaigns: a very specific proposal for the tough budget choices the country should make. He came up with a truly bipartisan plan that took a real whack at America's long-term deficits, only to see the plan abandoned by Obama, who had appointed him to make those choices in the first place.
"The options outlined by Bowles and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson were not the usual nips, tucks and other plastic surgery but, instead, clear and often painful cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. The Simpson-Bowles plan uses a mix of spending cuts ($3 trillion) and tax increases ($1 trillion) to do what many of members of both parties, if given truth serum, would say Washington needs to do: save at least $4 trillion over the next decade."