Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Running Mate Problem

File this under armchair punditry.

I've been thinking about the general election tickets for both parties, wondering who the hell will hold the VP spots on both sides. For a long time a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket was the subject of fanciful speculation, but it seems clear now that this idea is far-fetched. Likewise, John Edwards has ruled out another VP run (though the Obama camp has hinted at a possible attorney general spot in an Obama administration).

The running mate problem is a question that addresses the weaknesses of each individual candidate. For instance, either Clinton or Obama might do well to choose a white male to ease the psychological knee-jerk for some voters to the first woman or first black presidential nominee. Clinton might want to look for a centrist Democrat, such as Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana, about whom the media is already beginning to speculate. I was thinking Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio might be a good choice, given the importance of Ohio in 2004 and the governor's high approval ratings among Republicans in that state. In any case, the key for Clinton is to find a running mate who can help her overcome the inherent divisiveness of her candidacy.

Obama's problem is different. He's already plenty centrist, but Clinton has successfully raised the issue of experience with many voters, and Obama will need to bring a strong running mate on board to help bolster the perceived readiness of his administration. On the other hand, Obama will want to be careful to avoid a VP candidate that will overshadow him. No one wants another Bush/Cheney where we're all just wondering who's pulling the strings. I think Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd could be great running mates. They both have tremendous resumes without outshining Obama.

I also think that Gov. Bill Richardson would be a great candidate, but I doubt either Clinton or Obama would choose him. Perhaps a future Secretary of State?

Turning to McCain, now, it is almost impossible to imagine how he'll pick a candidate that helps him win. On the one hand, McCain has trouble with the Republican base, so picking someone more conservative with better ties to the Christian Right seems necessary. However, going to the right and picking another old white male seems like a dangerous strategy when going up against either a young dynamic black man or the potential first woman president. Talk about contrasting the future with the past! So what does McCain do?

McCain could pick Giuliani, who's oddly more popular among the base despite being the party's most prominent liberal. Still, liberal though he is, Giuliani is still an old white guy. He could draft Colin Powell, a moderate Republican who's still fairly respected by most voters in both parties, though it is hard to know whether Powell would go for it. McCain could pick a woman, such as Elizabeth Dole, or if he wanted to get really crazy, he could pick Condoleeza Rice. Rice seems unlikely, however, due to her toxic ties to the Bush administration, and Dole is actually older than McCain by a month!

I won't even bother with Romney, as I honestly don't believe he has a shot in hell.

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