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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vice-President Sherrod Brown

Yesterday, I completed my Barack Obama Veepstakes. Here's a list:

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

Part 2
5. Bill Richardson
4. Brian Schweitzer

Part 3
3. Hillary Clinton
2. Jim Webb

Part 4
1. Sherrod Brown

Perhaps, for some of you, including the first commenter from yesterday's blog, the revelation of Brown was met with a, "Who?!" Allow me to explain my reasoning. It'd help if you read the entirety of yesterday's blog.

1. Sherrod Brown (Senator, Ohio)
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.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio would be Barack Obama's best pick for his vice-presidential nominee for the following reasons, in reasons of increasing importance.

1. Brown is an unquestioned progressive politically, socially, and fiscally. This fits in with the Obama message.
2. Brown, as an economic populist, could attract a lot of votes in an election where economy will play a huge role.
3. Brown's popularity with Ohio voters (only a 15% disapproval in Ohio), specifically the white, working middle class, can extend to other Clintonian states.
4. Brown was against the War in Iraq from the beginning. Obama and Brown could ride that message all the way home.
5. Detailed in the conclusion:

It's important for the Democrats to not get too close to the trees and lose sight of the forest. This is their election to lose. John McCain is embracing many issues of an unpopular President, inheriting the failed economic message in the process, and has been a proponent of one of the most unpopular issues in the country - the war in Iraq. Once the Democratic Party heals, Obama's numbers will climb as McCain's numbers will plateau. The Democrats are in the driver's seat.

There is simply no chance that, without a major blunder, any blue state from the 2004 election map will flip to the GOP side. No blue state has been convinced red is the way to go. Obama only needs to hold those states (a mortal lock) and pick up 18 electoral votes. Ohio is 20.

So Obama shouldn't mess with Webb and his potential to upset women. He shouldn't mess with Clinton and her ability to make Republicans go nuts. He shouldn't try the first Black/Latino ticket with Richardson. He shouldn't go with Schweitzer and Montana's three electoral votes.

Barack Obama should go with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, take the state, and become the next President.


I'm off until next week.

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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Barack Obama Veepstakes (Part 3)

Time for Part 3 of the Barack Obama Veepstakes.

Part 1, which ranked the candidates 10-6, can be found here.
10. Wesley Clark
9. Russ Feingold
8. Joe Biden
7. Kathleen Sebelius
6. Michael Easley

Part 2, which ranked the candidates 5-4, can be found here.
5. Bill Richardson
4. Brian Schweitzer

And now, onto the Final Three. Have your predictions ready?

Here we go...

3. Hillary Clinton (Senator, New York/Democratic rival)
Clinton's chances of being the Vice-Presidential nominee to Obama nomination has gone from 1 in 50 in February to about 1 in 4 now. Obviously, no one gives Obama a better chance to win back Clinton supporters than Hillary Clinton. Moreover, if the top qualification for Vice-President is the ability to assume the office of President upon the drop of a hat, Hillary Clinton has shown that she is the Democrat that most Democrats want in that seat.

However, despite the conclusion that Clinton gives him the best chance to win back Clinton supports, that is not saying he cannot win back those Clinton supporters without her. It's likely that, in time, the bitter divisiveness from the Democratic Primary will be healed, especially when Obama's platform is compared with John McCain's. Wounded Clinton supporters, if they consider themselves good Democrats, cannot possibly prefer a McCain presidency to Obama's. They can wine and cry and talk about Michigan, but the fact remains that the final decision to pick a President still remains and there are sides to choose.

There's also the classic VP nominee issues. Northeast liberals have never been helpful on a ticket. Her region is not in danger of flipping. Most importantly, even only as a VP nominee, she still attracts otherwise apathetic Republicans out to the polls to grit their teeth as they pull the McCain lever.

Onto number 2 in the Barack Obama Veepstakes...


2. Jim Webb (Senator, Virginia)
Senator Webb is close to tailor-made as Obama's running mate.

Webb's geography: Webb, the junior-soon-to-be-senior Senator from Virginia gives the Democrats a great chance to swing the state. Moreover, as a borderline southern state, attempting to win Virginia could double as making a run at the entire South. While some states might be untouchable, a successful Virginian Senator could do a lot to either turn out Democratic votes down south or at least temper the already tepid excitement for John McCain.

Webb's military background: With John McCain's Vietnam experience serving as a stark contrast to Obama's life of civility, the issue of serving ones country could be a major one in the general election, as it was recently with the GI Bill. It will be more difficult, however, to take swipes at Obama's lack of military service if Jim Webb is stumping for Obama across the country. Webb graduated from the Naval Academy, became a decorated combat veteran during Vietnam, served in a sub-cabinet defense position in the Reagan Administration before serving President Reagan as Secretary of the Navy. Simply, Jim Webb knows the military, and gives credibility to Obama.

Webb's ideology: Webb is sees eye to eye on Obama with his most important issues - a responsible withdrawal from Iraq and repealing the tax cuts of the Bush Administration - but Webb finds common ground with the Deep South and Midwest on one of the most important issues to those regions: Gun control.

Webb's appeal: In 2006, Jim Webb defeated incumbent George Allen for his senate seat in a huge upset. Allen was the future of the GOP and Webb took him down.

It is perhaps Webb's broad based appeal that makes him the ideal vice-presidential candidate for Obama. Much has been made of Obama's impending difficulty to win back Clinton's core supporters, like women and the elderly. However, rather than pigeon-holing these demographics, rather than narrowing the scope on specific targets, Obama would do well to widen and blend those target demos.

Webb is very popular among the white, middle class mainstream voter that Clinton seemed to be dominating down the stretch of the Democratic Primary, especially in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Dakota. An Obama/Webb ticket has the potential to attract the working middle class and every demographic into which it splits.

There are only two strikes against Webb's probability, the former of which is nearly negligible and the latter of which is significant. First, Webb has even less experience in the Senate than Obama with 1.5 years to Obama's 3.5. As a team, they have about one-fifth of the federal lawmaking experience of John McCain. Moreover, both Democratic Senators, if their ticket was victorious in November, would leave their seat vacant for a chunk of their first 100 days in the executive office, which could hurt when it comes time to whip some votes to pass early legislation.

Second, with potentially disastrous results, is Webb's disposition, which is often said to be tempestuous and, at times, misogynistic. With winning back Clinton's female and elderly supporters a priority, a short-tempered sexist might not be the way to go. The thing is, it's likely that most of the rumors concerning Jim Webb are untrue, or, at the very least, archaic, but rumors could be enough to sink the Democratic chances in the fall.



Which brings us to the #1 Vice-Presidential nominee for Barack Obama...



And for that, you'll have to check back in tomorrow.
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