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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barack Obama Veepstakes (Conclusion)

Finally, we get to the conclusion of the Barack Obama Veepstakes.

Part 1
10. Wesley Clark
9. Russ Feingold
8. Joe Biden
7. Kathleen Sebelius
6. Mike Easley

Part 2
5. Bill Richardson
4. Brian Schweitzer

Part 3
3. Hillary Clinton
2. Jim Webb

And now, onto Barack Obama's best choice for Vice-President.

Ultimately, this was not a complicated decision. Throughout the entire Barack Obama Veepstakes series, I identified candidates' qualities and analyzed which candidates add complimentary assets to Obama's campaign. For example, Joe Biden and Wesley Clark offset Obama's lack of foreign policy experience and Brian Schweitzer and Mike Easley compliment Obama's northern geography. Other candidates offer Obama a chance to target demographics. Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton attract Latinos, while Claire McCaskill and Kathleen Sebelius are appealing to women. With Jim Webb, I made a case that his appeal can stretch across a wide swath of voter demographics.

However, as the list has clearly shown, there is no perfect candidate for Obama. As my buddy Dave (a Clinton supporter) recently wrote to me:

"Obama has now alienated so many demographic groups that he needs to pick some sort of three-headed monster. Hispanics have never supported him. White men turned against him after Jeremiah Wright. White women have now emerged as the most bitterly anti-Obama group of all: only 43% of white women view him favorably now, and it is white women who elect democrats. You can’t win with negatives that high. Also, Jews hate him. In other words, he needs to pick a half-breed, half-white, half-hispanic, hermaphrodite Jew, just to mend fences with all the people that despise him."

Needless to say, this perfect vice-presidential nominee doesn't exist, or at least doesn't have any foreign policy experience.

Therefore, since there is no candidate who meets all the qualities of an endless list, it's time to simplify the situation. What are the 3-4 most important traits that are desirable for Obama's running mate? After much thought, I've settled on the following (you may disagree, of course, which could explain why your VP nominee list looks different):

1. Against the Iraq War from the beginning - It's the issue that kick-started Obama's candidacy and it's the issue that will carry him across the finish line. Yes, the economy is important, as are energy and health care. However, being one of the only politicians in the country with the guts to publicly come out against the war before the vote, and to outline why the war was a bad idea - and to do so presciently - is the main reason Obama was able to become a national phenomenon. He cannot ignore this fact by picking a politician who supported the war at any time.

2. Is not an established Washington Senator - The other theme of the Obama campaign has been change, and that theme does not stick if he takes a long-time Senator as on his ticket. Besides, the last thing he needs is a running mate that looks more like a chaperone than a second-in-command (think Santos/McGarry).

3. Geographically, there's potential to have a direct impact on the Electoral College - Recently, there has been a growing contrarian opinion that discounts the geographical importance of a vice-presidential nominee. They cite the failed attempts of Al Gore and John Edwards to carry their own states in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Of course, they dismiss John Kerry and Joe Lieberman carrying their respective states of Massachusetts and Connecticut because those two states stay Democratic regardless.

However, these contrarians have forgotten that locked up states also work against candidates. Can anyone really expect John Edwards, on the bottom of a ticket, to carry North Carolina when it hasn't gone Democratic since Jimmy Carter - the southern Governor - carried it in 1976, eight elections ago? Of course not. Edwards was taken for reasons other than geography, just like Lieberman (wait, what was the reason for him?) and Dick Cheney.

Make no mistake, though a VP nominee might not be able to affect an entire region, a popular VP nominee can affect his own state if it's winnable. For anyone who's been part of a Congressional or statewide election, you know what a strong infrustructure can do for a candidate. If Obama takes someone from a winnable state, there would already be that infrustructure in place, and that infrastructure would work for Obama/??? for months leading up to the election. That would win the state. Again, this isn't Edwards in a red state. It's a state that can go either way. To take a state-wide official should be enough to push a swing state in that direction.

An undoubtedly geographic situation occurred in 1960, when VP nominee Lyndon Johnson carried the swing-state of Texas for John Kennedy, which was the difference in Kennedy's narrow victory over Vice-President Richard Nixon. Is there a similar scenario coming up in November?

This finally gets us to Obama's number one choice for his running mate.
Who was against the war from the beginning?
Who is a rather fresh face on the national political scene?
And who has a chance to win a sizeable state to swing the election?

With Governor Ted Strickland's recent emphatic reassertion that he had no interest in the vice-presidential nomination, one state-wide elected Democrat in the most important state in the general election remains.

The winner of the Barack Obama Veepstakes is...


1. Sherrod Brown (Senator, Ohio)
A quick defense of Brown coming tomorrow.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Begin italics...

*Who?*

...end italics.

IC said...

Anon, I've already written tomorrow's blog, and that's how I start it. Thanks a lot.

reed said...

I would doubt Obama would pick another senator who is extremely progressive because it is not much of a so called unity ticket.

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