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Friday, June 06, 2008

Barack Obama Veepstakes (Part 2)

With Barack Obama now officially the presumptive Democratic nominee, it's time to continue the Barack Obama Veepstakes, despite Obama's specific request for no one to ask him about it. Part 1 from a few weeks ago can be found here.

5. Bill Richardson (Governor, New Mexico)
In any typical year (read: white, male nominee from the northeast), Bill Richardson would have been the perfect running mate.

Obviously, with New Mexico and Florida as key swing states, a Latino VP nominee probably gives the Democrats their best chance to bring those states to the blue column. He also makes the Dems competitive in the Southwest, where Colorado and Nevada then become poachable. Richardson, however, was on every Democrat's short list for many more reasons than geography.

Richardson brings diverse experience and a myriad of political and governing skills. Richardson is a second term governor. He has been ambassador to the U.N., Energy Secretary (how important is that, these days?), and served in Congress. Perhaps most importantly, Richardson's wealth of experience and skills, but relatively lackluster personality in public, is perfect for a vice-presidential nominee who should make people at ease about voting for the pair, but will not steal the spotlight from the top of the ticket. This also gives Richardson time to grow a personality before he takes another stab at the presidency in eight years.

However, the elephant in the room is a killer. There will undoubtedly be a lot of Americans who will come out to vote against a Black/Latino ticket. Polls that say 5% of the country isn't ready for an African-American President and 12% isn't ready for a Latino President are representatives of the bare minimum number. I can't imagine the gall it takes for someone to tell a stranger on the phone or with a clipboard that they are allowing race to negatively play a role in their vote. Those numbers - that 5 and 12 percent - is higher. The argument that "these are people who wouldn't vote for Democrats anyway," falls apart when one considers the amount of people who wouldn't have bothered to vote until this ticket was nominated. Five percent of a presidential election is six million voters. How many of those would be voting anyway, and how many are coming to the polls because an African-American and Latino are running for positions that whites have cornered in the last 54 elections?

The unfortunate truth is that it would be too much change for too many Americans, despite change being the theme of Campaign 2008. The Democrats feel they are in the driver's seat and will not play with fire.

4. Brian Schweitzer (Governor, Montana)
Obama has publicly stated that he is looking to be competitive in many states usually punted by Democrats. It's these low-electoral "fly-over" states (Midwest, Mountain West) that campaigns often ignore in favor of coast-hopping and big-city-stumping. Obama specifically asserts that he will target those states.

The reason? Obama will have a lot more cash than McCain. Obama has smashed all fund-raising records in political history, having more cash on hand than any political figure who isn't a part of a monarchy. Meanwhile, McCain is still having trouble uniting the Republican base, which means there are some typical GOP donors that might not be contributing. If Obama, who has shown crossover appeal throughout the primary cycle, forces John McCain to spend money in places McCain would otherwise not have to, that increases Obama's chances in swinging some 2004 red states, most notably Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Governor Schweitzer would go a long way in competing in these fly-over states. He brings many positive factors that Obama will be looking for in a vice-presidential nominee. He's a popular governor, meaning he has executive experience and has the qualities to siphon off McCain votes in the Mountain West and Midwest. Schweitzer, a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, would give Republicans who like Obama but are looking for a tangible reason to vote for a pair that could potentially be in power for sixteen years. Another quality held by Schweitzer is that he has the classic plain spoken, folksy, down to Earth charm, which contrasts strongly with Obama's elitist, fill the stadium, blow off the doors charm.

Indeed, many of these qualities make him an excellent compliment to Obama. While they agree on the huge issues facing this country - withdrawal from Iraq and energy independence - Schweitzer offers enough geographical, ethnic, and political differences that an Obama-Schweitzer ticket could be appealing to the entire country.


That leaves three to go. Check in this weekend for the Final Three and the conclusion of the Barack Obama Veepstakes!

3 comments:

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Reed said...

3. Janet Napolitano
2. Lincoln Chafee
1. Joe Manchin

Anonymous said...

There is only one thing that you're forgeting about Bill Richardson. He is only half Hispanic; his father was from Massachusetts. It's not like his name is Julio Martinez or some other heavily Hispanic name. He has a very Anglo name which doesn't scare off many white people. On the contrary, many white working class people in New Mexico and around the country liked his folksy, down-to-earth style of stumping while he was running for president earlier this year. Yes, there are some bigots out there, but in the final analysis, people pay more attention to style and substance than ethnicity.

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