The Veep Stakes

During a presidential term, the Vice-President’s most important role is to cast the deciding vote in a deadlocked senate.  Dick Cheney  found himself in such a situation during the first Bush Term when the senate was divided 50-50 amongst Democrats and Republicans.  Apart from that, Vice-Presidents attend a lot of foreign state funerals and, as one wag put it, inquire daily as to the President’s health.

During a presidential campaign, however, that role is elevated to an importance beyond its actual theoretical function.  A running mate can complement the candidate’s strengths, or make up for her perceived weaknesses. (In order to be politically correct, I will alternate the sex of the candidate and running mate and the masculine should be read to include the feminine and vice versa.) He can appeal to a demographic that the candidate just cannot reach, or provide experience that the candidate does not have.  So  John F. Kennedy, a senator from the north-east chose Texan Lyndon Johnson to appeal to the Dixiecrats, a choice that demonstrably affected the outcome. Sometimes the choice is uplifting, as was the case of Al Gore for Bill Clinton, or George Bush Senior for Ronald Reagan.  As for the George Bush Junior, Dick Cheney, definitely added experience to the ticket, although as subsequent events have shown, experience isn’t everything.

Which leads us to Election 2008. Although the Democratic Party race is theoretically undecided, barring a complete disaster, Barack Obama and John McCain will be the nominees in November. Who is likely to be their running mate?

Lets start with John McCain, who has several strikes against him.  He is too old, he is not conservative enough, he is a maverick who doesn’t toe the party line, he is weak on economic policy.  Given the intense interested generated by the Democratic contest, and the ill will it seems to be generating as it drags on, McCain could be looking at a (younger) woman, or a person of color to join the ticket.  Condoleeza Rice fits the bill on both counts, but her ties to the Bush administration would make her a poison pill for much of the electorate.  Other female candidates who would be more attractive to the ticket are Kay Bailey Hutchison, or Sarah Palin, the very young and popular governor of Alaska.  As for adding color, Bobby Jindal, the newly elected Indian-American governor of Louisiana has generated some interest, although he denies that he is seeking the position (as all potential candidates must, to preserve their pride in case they are not asked). McCain is viewed as maverick and not a true Republican, so he may choose a running mate who will burnish his conservative credentials – possibly one of his opponents in the primary, like Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.  The thought of the evangelical Mike Huckabee one heartbeat away from the presidency is to ghastly to contemplate, so I won’t.  McCain cannot stand Romney, but animosity didn’t stop Reagan from reaching out to Bush Sr, or JFK to Johnson.  McCain’s perceived weakness in economic policy may even lead to a really bold choice – Mike Bloomberg, who in addition to adding instant credibility to his administration at a time when the economy is the number one concern of the electorate, also brings a $10 billion war chest to the table.  Other possible candidates are Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida, a key swing state, and Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, another key swing state.

Hillary supporters, who aren’t completely turned off by her imminent demise are pushing for Obama to name her to the Democratic ticket, if only to prevent chaos at the nominating convention. The ticket would be a dream for some, but a nightmare for Obama. Billary in the White House would be a major distraction and would destroy the Obama message of change.  He is more likely to go for someone with strong military experience who is against the war in Iraq, like Jim Webb -a Vietnam vet, former Republican, secretary of the navy under Reagan.  He has the military record to match well with McCain, plus he is from Virginia and is pro-gun.  To address his experience, or lack thereof, he might go with Bill Richardson or Joe Biden, who impressed in the New Hampshire debate.  Long shots are Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona and Wesley Clark, four star general and former presidential candidate.  Really long shots – Joe Lieberman and Mike Bloomberg who share the distinction as vice presidential possibilities on both tickets.

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4 Responses

  1. Here’s an important piece of advice: If it looks like it’s going to be McCain/Palin anyway (and that should be a “no brainer” for Team McCain), McCain should announce NOW or VERY SOON, rather than later towards the convention. There’s currently a growing chorus for Obama/Hillary (as VP) ticket (in fact the Dems are likely aware of the Palin phenomenon). If the GOP waits while movement for Hillary as VP grows — even worse until after it is solidified that Hillary will/could be VP pick — selecting Palin will be portrayed by Dems/liberal media more as a reaction by GOP selecting its own female (overshawdoing Palin’s own remarkable assets), rather than McCain taking the lead on this. Selecting Palin now or early (contrary to the punditocracy) will mean McCain will be seen as driving the course of this campaign overwhelmingly, and the DEMS will be seen as merely reacting. And, there’s absoultely no down-side to this because even if Hillary is a no-go as VP for Obama, the GOP gains by acting early. McCain the maverick. Palin the maverick. Do it now!

    There’s no reason, and actually substantial negative, in McCain waiting to see what the Dems do first insofar as his picking Palin as VP, because, no matter who Obama picks, Palin is by far (and I mean far) the best pick for McCain and the GOP, especially in this time of GOP woes. The GOP can be seen as the party of real ‘change’ (albeit I hate that mantra, change, change, bla bla), while not really having to change from GOP core conservative values, which Palin more than represents.

    In light of the current oil/energy situation, as well as the disaffected female Hillary voters situation, and growing focus on McCain’s age and health, Palin is more than perfect — now.

    (Perhaps Team McCain is already on to this.)

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  2. There’s been noted buzz of late on rising GOP star Louisiana Gov Bobby Jindal as a McCain prospective Veep. Certainly Jindal is more than very good, However, I believe there’s some “strategerie” going on here. The “real” beneficiary of the Jindal talk is the other rising GOP star, Alaska Gov Sarah Palin. Palin’s got everything that Jindal has (new/exciting, wildly popular, ethics and spending reformer, core conservative etc.) and more — mother of 5 w/remarkable bio, she’s 8 yrs older than Jindal, Alaska energy issue, and set to garner the disenfranchised female Hillary voter (I don’t believe Dem leaders can dump Obama).

    Getting Jindal’s name out first — at Team McCain’s BBQ for instance — sets the stage for the obvious choice, Palin. For example, albeit Rush Limbaugh introduced Palin’s name, and later Jindal’s as good Veep choices, of late Rush has been praising the name of Jindal while on his very same shows discussing at great length the frustrated female Hillary voter and the global warming hysteria/need for energy development, without mentioning Palin’s name as the obvious beneficiary of those two issues. Rush walks a fine line, introducing Palin, yet can’t, at least yet, reiterate much, knowing that his praises may be counter-productive to many a swing, moderate and/or formerly Dem voter (who’s against Obama and switching to McCain). Moreover, while I feel that Palin has more real accomplishment, experience and qualification than Obama (and Hillary combined, albeit w/Obama the bar is pretty low), the only potential argument against Palin is she’s a newbie to the national scene. By having Jindal out there first as a VP prospect “passing” the “experience” and “new to the national scene” test, implicitly passes Palin as well. (For that matter Palin’s got as much if not more experience and accomplishment than Florida Gov Crist who’s only been Gov for 2 yrs — and the media has been touting Crist as a VP prospect.)

    That’s my thinking at least.

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  3. Sarah Palin is a pro-NRA gun fanatic who likes to kill things with guns, and call it a “sport.” (Well, with any luck, she has a better aim than Dick Cheney.)

    She is vehemently anti-gay.

    She denies global warming.
    (Well, maybe that makes sense in Alaska.)

    My question: How can she call herself Christian?

    I thought Christian meant that you follow the teachings of Christ. No?!
    Killing things for “sport” when the commandment is Thou Shalt Not Kill

    Hating two people because they love each other when the commandment is
    to love one another!

    Putting corporate profits above protecting the planet when the commandment
    is that we be stewards of the earth

    Being pro-war, when the commandment is to
    hammer your swords into plowshares

    Look, if you’re a biased, intolerant war-dog who likes to shoot things,
    FINE, but don’t go around telling people that Jesus is your hero.

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  4. McCain understands how to present a target marketing strategy. He chose Palin as packaging and he succeeded in creating a lot of buzz. Now where is Biden these days? I want to see Obama creating a marketing strategy to get more press and attention. I want to see him and Biden together. Obama must continue creating momentum, he cannot do it alone; Biden needs to be with him to “package” or “brand” the Obama-Biden message.

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