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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama Picks Biden

It turns out Joe Biden threw the final VP curveball, telling reporters on Tuesday that he wasn't "the guy," when it turns out he is. Today, the Obama campaign announced the Obama/Biden '08 ticket. As any choice, there are strengths and weaknesses.

The strengths are obvious: Experience. Biden, with Republican senator John Warner, is the Senate's foremost expert on national security, foreign policy, and military matters. Biden has the capability to go on the offense in a campaign. Biden is guaranteed to know more about foreign and domestic policy than his VP counterpart. Biden is great on TV. Biden is a consistent liberal, someone Obama can hand the baton to in 8 years (when Biden is a ripe 74 years of age), if all goes well for the Democrats.

The weaknesses, however, are nearly as pronounced. Barack Obama, after running the "politics of change" and the Washington outsider platform, has chosen the ultimate insider. Biden has been in the Senate for over 35 years. He's the sixth longest tenured Senator in the chamber. Moreover, Biden, while running in the Democratic Primary, publicly questioned Obama's readiness for the presidency, and in separate comments, Biden hailed John McCain as a strong choice for the office.
Another problem with this selection has been highlighted by this blog on numerous occasions when the idea of Biden or Wesley Clark was put forth. This selection, while at face value seemingly shores up the lack of a foreign policy heavyweight, also implies that Obama himself is not quite ready for the job on his own. Biden looks like the chaperone on the ticket. His selection might not compliment Obama's weakness, it might underscore it. This is crucial and it shows Obama's mindset. Rather than moving forward with someone who accentuates his strengths of the candidate of change, Obama hedged his bets and brought along the establishment. We'll see how it plays out.

Overall, I think, it's a solid selection for the Democrats. Biden should make a lot of people more comfortable with the inexperienced Democrat on top of the ticket. Obama will get some undecided voters over the next few days, and combined with the Democratic Convention, Obama will get get a 5-7 point bump by the end of the week.

Of course, shortly after, the GOP will counter with their own VP selection and convention, which will bring the two campaigns close to even again, though Obama should see himself regain about a 3 point lead rather than the virtual ties seen in most polls. Simply, the Republicans don't have a pick that can excite their base like Biden can excite the Democratic base. It still comes down to Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney, both unsexy picks.

While the GOP has the advantage of going second in selecting a VP and having their convention, they have the disadvantage of no one talking about their VP process in the upcoming week while the Democratic Convention is held from Monday to Thursday this week. I'll be sure to look at both.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Parsing Obama's VP Statement

Yesterday, Barack Obama announced that he had decided on his VP nominee, but he wasn't quite ready to reveal who he had chosen. Last night, he called the runners up on the short list to break the news, but did not tell us who he called. One such runner up, apparently, was the recent dark horse pick Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, who is said to be a finalist, though I can't imagine Obama will so blatantly ignore the lack of a foreign policy heavyweight on his ticket.

Obama gave some vague clues about who he had chosen. Here are his words:

"Obviously, the most important question is: Is this person ready to be president?" Obama told "The Early Show" on CBS. Second, he said, was: "Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally?"
And, he added: "I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a 'yes person' when it comes to policymaking.

So, does these criteria reveal who the selection is? Yes.

Tim Kaine is not ready to be president. He's in his first term as Virginia Governor. A Kaine selection would reek of politics and electoral math, rather than the well-being of the country. If it was Kaine, Obama would not have made this statement. Same with the Chet Edwards selection.

Joe Biden has never been vocal about disagreeing with Obama. Biden has been as vehement as anyone for Iraqi withdrawal, and he endorsed Obama shortly after his dropout after the Iowa Caucus. Same with Richardson, though he waited a bit longer on his Obama endorsement.

That leaves three contenders: Evan Bayh, Wesley Clark, and Hillary Clinton.

Of the three, Clark and Clinton are probably most ready to lead the country.
Of the three, Bayh and Clinton have the most experience handling domestic issues and could help Obama govern.
Of the three, all three were supportive of Clinton in the Democratic Primary until the bitter end.

These clues, believe it or not, point to Hillary Clinton as the most likely VP nominee. However, based one everything else we know, it seems unlikely that he'll turn to her.

Which leaves Bayh and Clark, which was exactly where we were two days ago. And considering there has been minimal contact between Obama and Clark, and no one in the media has been perceptive of any leak that Clark could be the guy, all signs still point to Evan Bayh, as stated earlier this week on PPFA.

We're in the last hours of not knowing... Check back after the announcement.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Wesley Clark Would Win It

It's been Democratic VP week here at Presidential Politics for America. Monday was used to narrow down the field to four. Tuesday was used to examine the four. Wednesday was used to narrow down the four to two. Wednesday was also used to predict the eventual Democratic VP nominee: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.

The general media's consensus is that the VP choice will be Bayh, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, or New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. However, though Bayh is a safe choice, I think there's still a realistic Democrat out there that no one in the mainstream media seems to consider a finalist, despite being perfect for the job: former General Wesley Clark.

Where do we begin with the strengths Clark brings to a campaign? Considering that Obama's biggest weakness is a lack of experience dealing with foreign and military matters, here is a list of credentials that Clark brings to the table to offset those perceived weaknesses:

He was a four-star general.
He was the Supreme Commander of the NATO Allied Forces from 1997-2000.
That rank is the highest ranking of any living, retired military officer in the country.
That position required that he used not only military skills, but diplomatic skills, both of which he exercised successfully.

These types of experiences are even more crucial after the recent events in Georgia propelled McCain's recent pop in the polls. Recent polled voters have favored McCain at about 2 to 1 over Obama when asked which candidate was better suited to deal with Russia's aggression. Such a supermajority of voters is one of the scariest statistics the Obama campaign can see right now. If this election becomes about national security and foreign policy, Obama will lose. The Iraq War won't matter. Afghanistan won't matter. Iran won't matter. Republicans win national security elections, especially when the Republican is a John McCain. It's that simple.

That is, unless, Obama has someone with the military bonafides of a Wesley Clark. This guy makes John Kerry look like a Private First Class. With these experiences, Clark would be the perfect attack dog on Senator McCain. Obama cannot come with a "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to the military. On many points, he must defer to McCain.

Clark will do no such deferring.

What else does Clark bring to the table? Clinton supporters love him, so he strengthens the unity of the party after the acrimonious primary. He is well respected by both parties, though the GOP will undoubtedly find reasons to dislike and discredit him if he does become the VP nominee. His ideology has fit neatly into the Democratic Party after he joined it, albeit recently (2003). His academic experience has been nothing less than stellar. He graduated first in his class from West Point. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University, and graduated with a Masters in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

So I'd say the resume is there, as is the desire. Unlike Bayh, who has hemmed and hawed at the possibility of running for president, Clark made a late bid for the 2004 presidential nomination, too late to make a real run. Many believe he could have won the nomination had he announced a few months earlier.

If you're a Democrat, Wesley Clark should be a guy you want on the top of a ticket. Since this is clearly Barack Obama's turn, Democrats should be happy to have Clark on the ticket at all, and could look forward for a run from him as an incumbent vice-president in 8 years (when he'll be 72... the exact age McCain is now).

Tomorrow, I believe, is the day we find out who the Democratic Party has chosen. I'll be sure to make a short post when I can with my thoughts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Final Democratic VP Speculations

Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are 48-72 hours away from finally revealing their choice for the bottom half of their 2008 ticket. Yesterday it was announced that Obama and the VP nominee will appear together in Springfield, Illinois, this Saturday.

Yesterday's developments also included one of my Veepstakes Finalists stating that he was not chosen as VP nominee. Delaware Senator Joe Biden curtly told a group of reporters that, "I'm not the guy."

This is similar to Tim Kaine's comments last week that he was awarded the silver medal of the Veepstakes, though the Washington Post's claim that Kaine was scheduled to speak on Tuesday was incorrect. It appears that Kaine does not have a speaking slot yet, which means he still might be the guy. Still, after it was revealed that Mark Warner was awarded the keynote address for Tuesday, it seemed quite unlikely that Wednesday's vice-presidential nomination speech come from a fellow Virginian. Moreover, seeing as Wednesday's theme will be foreign policy, Governor Kaine is an unlikely selection to top off the night, though he deserved to be a Finalist yesterday.

Which left my Final Four, until Biden's revelation that it's not him, which leaves three.

Two of them, with Kaine and Biden, have been speculated to be the final four accorinding to the media. They are Senator Evan Bayh (Indiana) and Governor Bill Richardson (New Mexico), each of whom are slated to speak on Wednesday, fueling speculation that one of them is probably the nominee. Fair enough.

But it's not who I would choose.

Barack Obama, with all his rhetoric and speeches, has had a campaign that is, at its core, about two issues. There are two reasons he won the primary. He was vociferously against the Iraq War from the beginning and he's attacked the insider politics of the last few decades (change).

Furthermore, moving forward in the election, his major weakness is lack of foreign policy and military experience. So, the question for VP comes down to who fits the strengths while complimenting the weakness?

Let's take a look:

The last two to be eliminated after hearing their comments, Tim Kaine and Joe Biden, did not fit the mold. Tim Kaine has no foreign policy experience while Joe Biden has been in Washington for 30 years.

Evan Bayh has foreign policy experience, serving on the Armed Services Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence. However, he originally supported President Bush in the Iraq invasion, and was slower than most Democratic Senators to become critical. Moreover, he was a huge supporter of another politician many Democrats think was too slow to recognize the 2003 mistake, Hillary Clinton, in her quest against Obama's campaign of "change." Furthermore, Bayh, in his 9th year in the Senate, cannot be considered a Washington outsider.

Bill Richardson fits. He's a Washington outsider with foreign policy experience and whose primary platform included an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Yet, does anyone realistically think the Democrats will run two minorities on the same ticket? It just won't happen, right?

And that's the Big Four that the media dubs as finalists. Kaine, Biden, Bayh, and Richardson, each with an Achilles Heal. Holistically, evidence points to Evan Bayh as having the least undesirable characteristics of the four candidates, so Evan Bayh will probably be the vice-presidential nominee.

Yet there's one other name which, though it's not getting any media attention, makes a lot of sense.

Short blog on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Democrats' VP Possibilities: The Final Four

On Monday, I used the Democratic Convention speaker schedule to eliminate all but three scheduled speakers (Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson) from VP contention. I then added one unscheduled speaker (Wesley Clark) to the list to come up with the final four VP candidates for the Democratic ticket.

So which of the Final Four will it be? As the speculation continues with the convention a week away, here's a quick look at the pros and cons of each:

Senator Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Pros: Centrist enough for moderate Republicans; Is popular among remaining disenfranchised Clinton supporters; Is a Democrat in a largely Republican state; Serves on Armed Services Committee;
Cons: Too centrist for Democrats?; The least gravitas of the Final Four; Would be spun as a great pick by the pundits, but otherwise won't cause a buzz among the average voter like the others.

Senator Joe Biden (Delaware)
Pros: The expert of the party on foreign policy and international; One of the biggest critics of an unpopular President; Compliments Obama's inexperience; Would perform very well in the VP debate; Has proven presidential aspirations.
Cons: Is vocal enough to turn off a lot of voters; Useless geographically; His selection could be perceived as Obama being too inexperienced, making Biden look like the chaperone of the ticket.

Former General Wesley Clark
Pros: Supreme Commander NATO Allied Forces from 1997-2000; Gravitas like Biden, but much more respected amongst Republicans; Highly decorated officer; Perfect attack dog on McCain for all things military; Assuages fears that Obama is too green.
Cons: No political experience; A beginning Democrat; Like Biden, his VP nomination might imply that Obama is inexperienced.

Governor Bill Richardson (New Mexico)
Pros: Wins over Latino's, crucial in New Mexico and Florida; Executive experience as governor; Helpful knowledge as former Secretary of Energy; Foreign policy experience as U.S. ambassador to the U.N; Congressional experience as former House member.
Cons: Had a stagnant presidential campaign; Lacks a presence in public forums; Unexpected support of Obama over former ally Clinton would look fishy if Richardson is appointed #2; Two minorities on the ticket is playing with fire.

Tomorrow I will reveal who I would pick and who I think it will be. Until then...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Clues to the Democratic VP Nominee

As the Democratic National Convention (August 25-28) draws near, now only one week out, we must finally admit that the Democrats know exactly who their Vice-Presidential nominee will be, they just haven't told us yet. Simply put, two months of vetting will not be coming down to a last minute decision. Barack Obama and campaign insiders know who will be raising Obama's hand in Denver on the fourth and final night of the convention.

Who will it be? Admittedly, my prognostication skills in this matter have been lacking. Dating back to December, my leading predictions for Obama's VP partner has rotated from Wesley Clark and Joe Biden (December 20), to Sherrod Brown and Jim Webb (June 12), and most recently to John Edwards and Tim Kaine (July 29).

Well, the final clues are rolling in and I'm about to go full circle on the predictions. With the steady crystallization of the convention speaker schedule, not only can we eliminate many VP candidates, we can synthesize the new information with previous knowledge to make an informed prediction.

First, let's eliminate some names. The Vice-Presidential nominee will give his or her speech on Wednesday night. Therefore, everyone scheduled to give speeches on Monday or Tuesday will not be speaking Wednesday. This is a standard conclusion, consistent with every national convention in modern history. These Monday and Tuesday speakers are:

Monday - Michelle Obama (probably not a VP candidate) and her older brother Craig Robinson (ditto) will speak, as the theme of the night will be to discuss Senator Obama's life story. Also speaking will be Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, what with it being his city and all. The heavyweight politicians of the night are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. While Pelosi was never a contender for the #2 spot, she has been the leader of the party since the Democrats took back the House in the 2006 midterm elections. Senator McCaskill, as a charismatic fresh face who could hold onto women voters, was considered by many to be on Obama's long list for the VP nod, but her appearance on Monday excludes her from consideration.

Tuesday - This is the day that eliminates nearly the entire speculated list. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey will all speak on Tuesday. Tuesday night's theme will be the economy and the environment.

The two most notable speakers of the night are enormous heavyweights, one modern and one future. Former Virginia Governor and current Senate hopeful Mark Warner has been given the honor of the Democratic Convention keynote address, which, in long-term presidential politics, means we have our first contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination (don't forget Obama making his leap at the 2004 convention). The other speaker Tuesday evening will be someone who needs no introduction - Hillary Clinton. Lately, she has drawn some attention away from her party's nominee, but her insistence and Obama's acceptance on a convention roll-call doesn't signal anything other than Obama placating his vanquished foe in return for the support of her and her primary voters. Translation: She has not been offered the VP spot.

Wednesday - Here's where it gets interesting. The night's theme will be foreign policy and international affairs. Among the speakers are many who are not being considered for the Veep spot (West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth).

Four other names remain on the queue, possibly five. Also speaking Wednesday night is former President Bill Clinton, but he's constitutionally ineligible (22nd Amendment) to be on the ticket. The remaining three (possibly four) are:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh
Delaware Senator Joe Biden
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
(no one else scheduled except for "VP nominee").

If the Obama campaign is thinking clearly, meaning it has no plans on bringing back a Monday/Tuesday speaker, then the VP candidate is one of those three men, OR it's someone whose name isn't even on the convention docket, and since the theme of Wednesday night will be foreign policy, Wesley Clark definitely fits into the possible myster slot.

So, Bayh, Biden, Clark, Richardson. Who will the VP nominee be? I'll address this with my next post this week.

Thursday - Barack Obama will speak to the largest crowd in convention history. It is not as impressive as it sounds, and it might not even be sound strategy. More on this at the end of the week! See you soon.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Day

See you tomorrow.
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