8/21/2008

Obama Veepstakes: Predictions

The major political buzz this week has centered around Obama's vice presidential selection. One of the main parlor games among pundits and the Washington crowd every four years is to guess the nominee and convey that they have more wisdom than the next guy in terms of identifying and disqualifying possible picks.

This wait is almost over now as Obama has announced that he has made his selection. This selection will be revealed either Friday or Saturday by text message. So in true political fashion, The 7-10 will join in the fun by offering my own take on the Obama veepstakes and why some of the more popular names being circulated won't pan out.

1. Obama has made great pains to avoid stepping on his own message by hitting John McCain below the belt. Even though his supporters may want him to go nuclear against his Republican rivals, Obama's message of "new politics" and "change" are preventing him from doing so. As I recently argued, he can't tarnish that message. Likewise, he is running as an outsider who represents fresh ideas. That's another message. Thus, even though there are some strong picks he could make who are currently serving in Washington, Obama's commitment to not diluting his brand may prevent him from taking them on board.

This eliminates Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and any other active congressman or senator. Biden and Bayh in particular have received a lot of buzz and would be strong choices (especially Biden). But if Obama doesn't want to go against his message, he may have to grudgingly pass over both of them.

2. One of the responsibilities of the vice president is to cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate. Even though the Democrats are still poised to gain several seats, there are several influential senators who do not vote the party line, such as Senators Jim Webb of Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. So on some votes, Democrats' possible 55-seat majority could really be a mere 51-seat majority. Thus, it makes little sense for Obama to have his vice president, who doubles as the president of the Senate, be a Republican.

This eliminates Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and any other Republican whose name has surfaced as the bottom half of a unity ticket. Interestingly, Obama could actually make the Senate math more favorable for Democrats by tapping a few Republican senators to serve in his cabinet if he wins the election. These senators would then be replaced by their states' governors. If the Republican senator hails from a state with a Democratic governor, that could be a way for the Democrats to pilfer a few seats while allowing Obama to appear bipartisan at the same time.

3. Obama cannot risk looking weak or bullied. He's already having to deal with the image that he is not a strong and decisive leader, especially when compared to the Navy veteran and former POW John McCain. Any gesture that is perceived as acquiescence or caving in to a particular interest group would likely only exacerbate the image of him as weak. Of course, politicians have to respond to voters and retool their messages every day, but his selection of a vice president should be his decision, and his only.

This eliminates Hillary Clinton. She also contradicts his message, which he is loathe to do. Many people say it's up to Barack Obama to heal the party by accommodating Hillary Clinton. But if Hillary Clinton wishes to advance her chances of being President someday, it's incumbent on her to do her part to ensure that her supporters rally behind Obama. All eyes will be on her at next week's convention, so she will have as much responsibility for achieving unity as Obama does.

4. Obama needs someone who knows how to campaign and work a crowd. This person has to be someone who knows how to throw a punch, how to connect with audiences, and how to campaign without overshadowing the presidential nominee himself. Running mates have two main responsibilities: 1) to do no harm to the nominee, and 2) to serve as an attack dog.

This eliminates Bill Richardson and Kathleen Sebelius. Bill Richardson tried to run as the grownup in the room after the Iowa caucuses, but lost badly. Richardson may help deliver a contingency and some Southwestern states, but he is not an energizing figure and is not particularly aggressive on the campaign trail. As for Kathleen Sebelius, she certainly can't be pegged as a Washington insider. However, she may be a little too cool (read noncombative) on the campaign trail and have a hard time putting on the brass knuckles.

This leaves former senators, current and former governors, and former cabinet officials. The gubernatorial ranks seem to be the most fertile grounds from which Obama can choose his running mate. They're not insiders, they have records of accomplishment, they don't threaten the balance of power in the Senate, and they have served in an executive capacity. Of all possible picks, governors probably do the least harm and the most good at the same time.

The 7-10's bold prediction: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

(But don't be surprised if news breaks that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was asked first.)

What are your predictions?

8 comment(s):

Khaki Elephant said...

Kaine would be an excellent choice for Obama, though I still see Biden getting the call. McCain's attacks on Obama's celebrity and lack of experience could be mitagated by a Veep who is neither, and Biden fits the bill.

Brett said...

Kaine would be an interesting choice, and practical for a whole number of reasons: Kaine is good with speaking and working on the message, he's a governor, and he's been a supporter of Obama from early on. Hopefully that also means that he works well with Obama, which is another important factor which tends to not be emphasized enough in the news - an arrogant, incompetent, and/or prideful VP can hurt a campaign.

You'd still have the same vulnerability at the end of the day though on foreign affairs with Kaine, though, as Obama had before the VP pick.

It would be telling if he picked Kaine, though, about what kind of role Obama wants his VP to play. Assuming he does pick Kaine, I predict that (if he wins office), Kaine will become a kind of "cheerleader-in-chief", rather than a Cheney-type servitor.

Anthony Palmer said...

Khaki,

I would personally recommend that Obama choose Biden instead of Kaine. (David Brooks of the NYT agrees.) I've met Biden personally several times and found him to be a very honest, sincere, hard working man. I probably would have joined his campaign if he had won the nomination. I know I said Obama would pick Kaine in my post, but I really hope he picks Biden instead.

-----

Brett,

I heard Karl Rove discredit Tim Kaine a few days ago. He said "he was the mayor of the 135th largest city and is a first term governor." I guess that means Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin aren't going to be tapped by McCain for the very same reasons.

The foreign policy and inexperience issues would be underscored by Kaine though. That's the risk.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

he needs to carry va

so take that as u may
have a great weekend folk

Thomas said...

Ed Rendall is an interesting character. Buzz Bissinger wrote a book about his time as mayor of Philadelphia called "A Prayer for the City." He is a very smart guy.

Reginald Harrison Williams said...

I think it will be Mr. Biden.

I respect this man so much.

I cannot think of anyone else (other than Bill Richardson) who I would have complete confidence as Obama's #2.

Great post, Anthony:)

JC said...

You're way off-base, 7-10.
Even the stars have chosen. It's gonna be Gov. Bill Richardson.

Thomas said...

I have an insider inside the Barack Obama campaign who just gave me a big scoop. This person informed me that Mr. Obama will announce his vice-president tomorrow (Wednesday, August 20th) via text-message to all his supporters and that this person will be Michael Phelps, merely the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

Mr. Obama, like all of us, was impressed with Mr. Phelps' stunning achievement at the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, China. By performing brilliantly in an authoritarian country such as China, Mr. Phelps showed that he knows his foreign policy, an area Mr. Obama can be seen as lacking. Mr. Phelps will help with the critical swing state of Maryland, where he was born. Mr. Phelps will also ensure that Mr. Obama will dominate among younger voters as Mr. Phelps is only 23 years old. Since not much is known about Mr. Phelps other than his swimming abilities, he cannot be accused of flip-flopping on the important issues of our day. In an instance of foreshadowing, Mr. Phelps was seen doing a terrorist fist jab after winning his seventh gold medal.

Btw, note to Michael Phelps, you need to update your official website. It stills says you have won only six Olympic gold medals. That was so eight gold medals ago.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.