Thursday, August 21, 2008

VP picks

I'm still on vacation for a few more days and I'm looking forward to writing about what, on the surface at least, seems like an eerily close general election contest. But before I return from my summer hiatus, and before that text message comes in from the Obama campaign, I wanted to throw out my top hopes for a Veep pick.

After spending the whole Spring trashing her, you'll be surprised to hear that I'm very much hoping that Obama will pick Hillary as his choice for the second slot.

By the time she pulled out in June, I pretty strongly felt Hillary would be a terrible choice. I agreed with Jimmy Carter's assessment that " would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates." I also worried, and continue to worry, about Bill Clinton being a third wheel in an Obama/Clinton administration. While Hillary has become a constructive part of the team, Bill has only made more of an asshole of himself with his deep resentment of Obama's victory over Hillary (Examples here and here).

But, with recent polls showing that Obama has yet to consolidate the level of support among Democrats that McCain has attained with his party's base, choosing Hillary can only help Obama close the deal with older women and working class Democrats and allow him to more quickly move on to persuading independent voters that he's got what it takes to be an effective leader on both economic and foreign policy issues. And, Hillary will help with that task too as no one ever seemed to doubt her national security acumen or her ability to be a champion for working class voters.

Two other reasons why Hillary is the best choice at this point in time in this campaign - Obama needs to come out the Democratic convention and carry through the Republican convention, the big Mo(mentum). The media can't seem to look at this campaign as anything but a horse race. Bringing Hillary onto the ticket will be hugely popular with Democratic delegates, electrifying the convention hall in Denver with a buzz that will carry forward beyond the acceptance speech and into the big bus tour that will inevitably happen the following week, during the Republican convention.

Finally, choosing Hillary will bring a proven fighter onto the team. Since he's come back from vacation, Obama has been much more aggressive at taking on McCain, but for the remainder of the campaign he'll still be faced with the conundrum of needing to fight back against McCain but succumbing to his own message that by rising above politics as usual, he will more effectively solve people's everyday problems. Hillary never bought into that message so she can take McCain on even more aggressively than she took on Obama while the person at the top of the ticket stays above the fray telling Americans why he's the best choice to lead the nation for the next 4+ years. And, after the race for the Democratic nomination, does anyone doubt that Hillary will be an effective attack dog on the ticket's behalf?

Oh, and all that talk about PUMAs and open rebellion in the convention? Gone- if Hillary's the VP pick.

Are there downsides to picking Hillary? Sure. In some respects (e.g., the experience question) she could overshadow him (or, more likely, the McCain campaign could make sure she overshadows him). And, there are still lots of Hillary haters out there. But, I'm pretty sure most of the Hillary haters are also now Obama haters. And the experience question is going to dog Obama no matter what. I think the excitement a Hillary pick will have in Denver, the momentum in the media that follows, the consolidation of support among Democrats, the effectiveness of Hillary as tough as nails attack dog and the reality that she has been vetted and very likely brings no surprises more than outweighs any of the negatives.

Hillary for VP!

Next best choices?
One of my favorites was Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. A win in Ohio pretty much guarantees victory and before Strickland was governor and a congressman, he was a preacher (a progressive-populist preacher) from the Appalachian part of the state. This guy can connect with working class voters like no one else. In helping Hillary win Ohio, Strickland also demonstrated that he has the kind of machine that can win that key state for Obama in November. However, Strickland long ago pulled himself out of contention (Was it just talk? I don't know).

I've also always liked Wesley Clark. Former NATO commander, so he has serious national security cred, and he opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning. Also, we know he has no problem attacking McCain, but those attacks on McCain are probably the reason he's been out of contention for a while.

Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader would be a great choice. Daschle was pretty much the first Democratic politician with national name recognition to jump on the Obama bandwagon and he's been national campaign co-chair and a key adviser since the beginning. Of course, he may be too much of an insider, and too low-key in style to be the right person, politically, for the job.

I worry about Joe Biden because of his habit of putting his foot in his mouth. But, I've always been a fan of his - one of the smartest and most plain spoken politicians in DC. Obviously, his credibility on foreign policy (currently chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) would be a boon to the ticket. And, as Eli Sanders points out, the fact that Biden went directly from being a county council member to a successful Senate career -at the age of 30- provides Obama with a helpful illustration of how little political experience at the federal level can matter in the development of a smart, effective leader. On the downside, Biden is kind of boring and may not be the most effective attack dog that the ticket so desperately needs.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would also be a great choice, but for a lack of national security experience. I think Obama needs that on his ticket to win in November.

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