Tuesday, May 20, 2008

While I´m Stuck in Casa Central...

It´s pouring outside, so I´m gonna wait for it to die down a bit before catching a micro home. With nothing better to do, I figure I´ll start the obligatory debate on runningmates. Below are my short lists of the candidates with the most compelling reasons behind them.


Joe Biden - I have no doubt that Obama can challenge McCain on foreign policy and win in the minds of the experts. Obama is smarter than McCain, and virtually everyone else in the Senate for that matter. I also have no doubt that an audience of uncommitted voters would watch Obama reply to McCain´s attacks about talking to Hamas, etc. and come away torn. Sure Obama seems right, but he´s so young and inexperienced. Have Biden make the same arguments, and I´d be shocked to see any but the most militarist voters still in McCain´s camp on the issue. Biden simply takes all foreign policy concerns off of the table for the Republicans. He knows more than anybody else about virtually every subject and he speaks with a convincing earnestness and from obvious experience. Beyond that, he´s an Irish Catholic who easily connects with lower-middle class voters because he speaks their language. When he talks about faith, no one wonders if it´s an act. Indeed, he might be the Democrat most trusted by those who have seen him speak, which is ironic for obvious reasons (seriously though, if it weren´t for that Kinnock thing, I don´t doubt that he would have been our best candidate in 1988). Of course, he did vote for the bankruptcy bill, but so did 17 other Democratic Senators and 73 House Democrats. That doesn´t make it better, but it does make his sin less conspicuous.

Hillary Clinton - Yes, the political costs outweigh the political benefits. Yes, Bill Clinton on the campaign trail and in the White House would be a disastrous distraction. There´s just one reason I can´t dismiss her as an option. How much different would the media perception be between a government run by President Obama and Vice President Clinton compared to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Clinton, by far the most powerful leader in Congress? Do you really think Bill would keep his mouth shut if Obama and Clinton got hung up on the details of implementing his healthcare plan or dealing with Iran? Would it look any less like the primary campaign has continued into Obama´s first 100 days? Would her ambition to run the country and be the face of the party suddenly subside? And if you answer that it might not make a smidge of difference, then where would you rather have Clinton in January 2009? In the prision of the vice presidency? Or running the Senate, where she can provoke petty fight after petty fight with a President who shares her party and her goals?

Janet Napolitano - First the obvious: she´s a woman and she´s might make McCain spend money in his home state. Second, Obama´s admiration for her is well-known and every sign points to them working well as a team. The best reason for choosing her is counter intuitive: she´s probably a lesbian. It will be talked about. It´ll never be polite conversation for Anderson Cooper or Chris Matthews, but Rush or Beck or somebody else will bring it up. And women will recoil and flood to her side like they did for Clinton in NH after they caught a wiff of misogyny from the talk radio crowd. Every woman who grew up in the 60s or later believes that they ought to be able to choose a career over a family, even while most of them don´t make that choice, at least not for their entire life. No woman believes that you ought to be called a dyke for doing so. And besides, America doesn´t hate gay people. Sure they make us uncomfortable. But when we see the right accuse a two-term governor and nominee for Vice President of, gasp!, being gay, we´ll see the Christian right for what they are, peddlers of hate and division. Tell me how that doesn´t work with Obama´s message.

Bill Richardson - I have little good to say about him, but he´s still an Hispanic governor of a southwestern state and McCain is still the best Republican friend a pro-life hispanic voter could have. That merits his inclusion in the list.

Ted Strickland - Don´t get me wrong, I´m not a particularly huge fan of Strickland, not that I have anything against him, either. But picking him would accomplish three important goals. One, it would be read by the media as a concession to the Clintonites. Two, it would obviously be a huge asset in Ohio. Most importantly Strickland, and his Methodist minister background, could dramatically help the ticket´s image among the Reagan Democrats that are voting for Clinton in primaries. Just look are his most recent job approval numbers from SurveyUSA. The top line, 54%-39%, is just like Strickland´s record. Not great, but not too shabby. Look a little deeper, though, and his numbers are astonishing. He wins a net positive rating from Republicans, while a plurality of Independents and 31% of Democrats disapprove. His net positive rating among whites is +20%, while it´s a dismal -14% among blacks. He has a net positive rating with both genders and in all age groups, but his numbers are strongest with the 65+ who give him a net positive of +44%. His numbers are nearly identical among pro-life voters as with pro-choice voters. The same holds true for gun owners versus non-gun owners, and evangelicals versus non-evangelicals. In other words, he has already bridged all of the divisions that Obama rails against. That is more than a symbolic coup. It could be a real asset in states that Obama´s post-partisan message has begun to put in play. It would also be a great help in rural areas of PA, MI, MN, WI, IA, MO (in other words, all of the big swing states not called Florida).

Purposely excluded: Tim Kaine and Jim Webb (McCain might be the best possible GOP nominee to hold VA. Neither has more than two years on the job. Whatever connection Kaine has with Catholics and workers can be got from Biden. Whatever post-partisan appeal Webb has Strickland matches. Plus Webb is a very divisive figure in his home state and his obsession with the Scots-Irish borders on terrifying). Evan Bayh (IN is not in play and he brings little else to the ticket). Tom Daschle (This blast from the past would seem odd next to Obama´s newness and youth. Besides, picking a Clinton-era Democrat that isn´t Clinton herself would be read as a shot at the Clintons.)

Disagree? Wanna add some names to my list? Wanna comment on the names that are on it? Think I´m wrong to exclude everyone I´ve excluded?

I´ll write about McCain´s choices the next time I get stuck somewhere.


Jonathan Cooper said...

Joe Biden won't work. Neither will Hillary Clinton. Obama loses all intellectual purity if he picks an establishment candidate. It undercuts the core rationale of his candidacy and his movement: that the established order of both parties is systemically incapable of bringing change to America, or solving problems.

I like your explanation of J-Nap. I've never thought of her as anything but a negative force on a potential Obama ticket, but you've made me rethink it. I can't decide if I agree or not, but I'm less convinced it's a bad idea. The reality is, most people turned off by her assumed sexual orientation are probably already turned off by Obama's race (or, euphemistically, his "Muslim" faith and "refusal" to salute the American flag). I think the risk with picking a woman who isn't HRC (and he's NOT going to pick HRC) is that it will be seen as a slap in the face to Hillary.

I also can't decide it he'll pick an energetic and eloquent running mate to reinforce his own strengths, or if he'll choose the opposite so as not to steal his thunder and undercut his own strength as a campaigner. I'm inclined to think he can hypothetically benefit from the former, but I can't think of anyone who fits that mold at the moment.

Matt said...

As an early adopter of the JNAP theory, I have to disagree with you at this point in time. Unless you're willing to write off the entire south and many of his potential midwest pickups, I don't think the counter-intuitive lesbian draw will help him. She's still more likely than Tim "forward together" Kaine, or Jim "bitchslap" Webb, but I think a dyke careerist is too much change for America.

I actually hadn't considered what a strong draw Biden could be to the ticket, but I still don't like the fact that he has no executive experience, he's not from the South or a swing state, he has no military service, he's a six-term Washington insider, and he's an off-the-cuff hothead dickwad. I don't know if Obama will roll the dice on this clean, articulate, bright senator. (Keep in mind, his self described strategy at winning the south was the fact that Delaware "was a slave state")

Alton Brooks Parker said...

I agree with JJ on Clinton, but I'm not sure the same problem applies to Biden. Sure, he's a six-term senator and therefore part of the "establishment". But do we really want Obama do pick someone who has even less experience than himself? And Biden doesn't really fit the billing of a run-of-the-mill Democrat. He's more of a non-partisan foreign policy wonk than anything. Hell, the guy's best friend in politics is Dick Lugar. Also, let's not forget that the dude's got a record on crime that middle-class parents will eat up, and which makes him look like anything but a Jesse Jackson liberal. And to address Matt's arguments: 1) He doesn't need executive experience when he's made more foreign policy decisions in the last 30 years than any Democrat not named Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, 2) Why resort to regional draw when you can get a guy with national pull?, 3) Veterans have an awful record in recent presidential elections, 4) Yes, I admit, he will say stupid shit every once in a while, but won't reinforce his image as a straight-shooter? It certainly did for pre-2001 McCain. 5) I can't fault a guy for not being able to win in a region where we're not going to win no matter who is on the ticket (with the exception of VA).

Matt, you're probably right about JNap. She might help Obama make strong gains in states he's already going to win, but she's probably a draw down in rural OH, PA, IA, etc.

So, JNap and Clinton have their obvious flaws and should be taken less seriously than the others on the list. I still think Biden and Strickland are the two top choices, with Richardson in the second tier. I also think I should have included Sebelius in my original list. She deserves a top 5 spot. Who else would you guys include?

Espo said...

Wes Clark is still up there. He's an outsider, would be considered by the media to be a concession to Clinton (though i dont really care about that) and is a 4-Star general who grew up poor. He could also go with the Montana Gov. Though I do like Biden and J-Nap as possibilities.

Alton Brooks Parker said...

I also guess Edwards should still be in the mix. He feels more experienced than he is because he's been in the national consciousness for a while. He'd also be a boon with the racist Appalachian Democrats and would probably have more appeal with that group that either Webb or Kaine. I'm not convinced a VP pick can make up for a black nominee in KY , WV, TN, etc., though. But he would be helpful in OH and PA, where rural voters seem to trust that he stands with them.

By the way, how stupid is it that we have to worry not about who will win votes, but who will win them in the Midwest? Ain't the electoral college great?

Matt said...

I would say Biden and Edwards are the top two contenders. I agree with everything you just said, especially if you look at the polls that give Obama a significant boost with Edwards on the ticket.

Alton Brooks Parker said...

I like Ross Douthat's arguments here:http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/05/the_case_against_webb.php
just enough to say that I shouldn't have excluded Webb from consideration. As for those Edwards polls, I'm not sure how much faith to place in them. Sure they show him giving Obama a couple extra points over what Obama gets himself, but we don't know much some other nominee would help. And testing those other potential nominees, like SurveyUSA does with Sebelius, Rendell, and Hagel, is worthless because most voters don't know who they are. So yes, Edwards would probably help in the Midwest, as we've agreed. Would he help more than any other potential nominee? We can't say that. But I guess no one here did, anyway. Haha.