Ben Smith over at Politico offers up some completely irresponsible, incredibly premature, and wildly entertaining speculation on who is in the early running for the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton veepstakes. The short version:
Barack Obama VP picks
Joe Biden – DE senator
Bill Richardson – NM governor
Mike Bloomberg – NYC mayor
Tim Roemer – former IN representative
Sam Nunn – former GA senator
Tim Kaine – VA governor
Janet Napolitano – AZ governor
Colin Powell – retired general
Mark Warner – former VA governor
Jim Webb – VA senator
Tom Daschle – former SD senator
Hillary Clinton – NY senator
Hillary Clinton VP picks
Ted Strickland – OH governor
Tom Vilsack – former IA governor
Evan Bayh – IN senator
Barack Obama – IL senator
Bill Nelson – FL senator
Wes Clark – retired general
My take on Obama’s picks is that Bloomberg or Powell would be enormous mistakes. Bloomberg would make the ticket so socially liberal, it would fall off the map. And Powell, besides being a (albeit somewhat unwilling) key figure in the planning and execution of the Iraq War with close ties to both Bush presidencies, has admitted to not caring much for politics.
As for the concept of Hillary Clinton as Obama’s vice presidential nominee, she is– as Ben Smith points out– as divisive as any figure in American politics, and her track record of slash and burn politics, especially against Republicans, would undercut Obama’s message of national unity. The other problem is that for however long Barack Obama would be president, he would have Bill and Hillary Clinton looking over his shoulder, no doing everything possible behind the scenes to push him out of the way, putting their own interests as always above that of the administration, the party, and the country. Which is about the very last thing a president needs.
Obama’s best bets would be Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Jim Webb. All three would bring tremendous foreign policy experience to the ticket– Richardson as a former UN ambassador, Biden as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Webb as a former Secretary of the Navy under Reagan.
Richardson, as the first ever Latino on a presidential ticket, could energize that rapidly growing community and swing traditionally red Western and Mountain states toward the Democrats, not to mention what would be a highly contested state of Texas and the always important Florida. He would also be the only choice of the three to contribute substantial executive experience, with his two terms as governor.
Biden, with his 35 years in the Senate, would somewhat offset the experience in Washington edge of John McCain and would help Obama with older voters who have thus far been reluctant to support him. He is also a great campaigner– his foot-in-mouth-tendencies notwithstanding– as he showed during his 2008 campaign when he threw some of the hardest, most effective punches against the Republican candidates.
Webb, with his experience as a highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran, his service in the Navy, and a son in Iraq, would bring instant military credentials to the ticket, offsetting John McCain’s ability to run solely on his military service and biography. And as a former Republican and Southern white male, Webb and Obama would embody the united, reconciled America of Obama’s campaign message.
My guess is that Obama goes with Richardson or Webb. An Obama-Richardson ticket would completely destroy the traditional electoral map and could potentially sweep the entire Western half of the United States (along with the usual Democratic East Coast strongholds). An Obama-Webb ticket would be more convential, but would be stronger in the mid-Atlantic and Southern states. From a purely who-gives-the-best-chance-to-win standpoint, I think the pick is Richardson.
My take on Hillary Clinton’s picks is that she would be foolish to pick anyone but Barack Obama. Evan Bayh and Ted Strickland would bring much-needed executive experience (and in Bayh’s case, youth) to her ticket, but neither has the political support, the money, or the popular appeal of Obama. Besides, the only way Clinton can get to the nomination at this point is to run over and through not just Obama and his supporters but the certified will of a clear majority of Democratic primary voters. The only possible way for her to mend those fences in time for the general election in November would be to offer Obama a promotion in the form of a spot at the bottom of her ticket. In that scenario, the bad blood between them would probably never go away– no matter how well Obama campaigned for Clinton or served in a Hillary Clinton administration, no matter how good a face he put on, he and a lot of other people would never be able to shake the feeling that he rightfully deserves to be the one at the controls.
Could a Clinton-Obama ticket win? Yes, and it almost certainly would. But it would win in the same way that Clintons and Bushes have won for two decades– by just enough to carry the electorate but not enough to get anything meaningful done afterwards.