Saturday, June 21, 2008

Andrew the Political Junkie Weighs in on the Democratic Veepstakes

Hi Blog Pals,
Time to weigh in on the Democratic Veepstakes. Rumors are swirling as Senator Barack Obama considers possible running mates. Which ones would strengthen his ticket? Which ones would hurt him? Bloggers from Coast to Coast are voicing thoughts on the matter, so I figure it's time for yours truly to throw in his 2 cents. Without any further delay...

1. Senator Hillary Clinton: For many Democrats, Hillary is the obvious first choice. Clinton and Obama are campaigning together a lot these days, trying to bury the hatchet and put behind them the brutal Democratic primaries. Strengths: Clinton brings so many things to the campaign, as I pointed out in a previous entry. She comes with a large base of support, an army of professional strategists, the respect of many Democrats and Republicans, and the reputation of tough fighter. Weaknesses: Bill "Old Bubba" Clinton hogged the spotlight too often in the primaries. Plus, Senator Clinton is a polarizing figure. Die-hard conservatives will try to marginalize her as a northeastern liberal, which she clearly is not. Her naked (or, at the very least, mostly unclothed) ambitions often get the best of her.

2. The Beltway Boys: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Sam Nunn (not to be confused with Manny, Moe and Jack -- or Moe, Larry and Curly): This trio of Democratic Senators -- Biden (from Delaware), Dodd (from Connecticut) and Nunn (from Georgia) -- are all under consideration as possible veeps. Strengths: These guys know how to get things done in Washington. Biden would bring charisma, Dodd a humble dignity, and Nunn a conservative counterbalance. Weaknesses: Outside of their home states and the nation's capital, none of these SixtySomethings are especially famous. Can we somehow blend the three together? Of course, I'm not sure how a three-headed Veep would go over with the American public.

3. Wesley Clark: This former NATO commander and retired general is a serious contender for the veep spot. Strengths: He brings the presence of a balanced advocate of strong national security to the table. Plus he's bright, articulate, handsome and strikingly progressive for someone with his background. He'd help Obama win over independent and moderate Republican voters. Weaknesses: Ran a pretty half-assed campaign in 2004. Some Veep watchers fear that he might not motivate Democratic Party activists, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing. (For the record: I disagree -- I think Clark would actually motivate the activists...)

4. The Governors (Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ted Strickland of Ohio) : All Democratic governors, all highly regarded in their own states. Strengths: All of them will bring impressive political records. They have strong experience as governors and in their previous political careers. These are governors who are accustomed to working across party lines to get things done. Weaknesses: Same as the Beltway Boys: On the national stage, they are not as well known. Of the five, I think Richardson -- a former UN ambassador and energy secretary -- is the most promising.

5. Jim Webb: Virginia senator, former Secretary of the Navy and author of seven novels, Webb is Democratic superstar. Strengths: A blunt-talking moderate and heavily decorated Vietnam veteran, Webb will win over a lot of support from centrists, moderates, independents and Republican crossovers. He is also a renaissance man: a writer, filmmaker and producer. His credentials are more or less spotless. He is also a populist who worries about the fate of ordinary Americans in the age of globalization. He would win over a lot of the same voters that Clinton would attract. And he is solidly against the Iraq War. Weaknesses: He hasn't been a senator very long -- two years this November. His lack of experience in politics at the national level in recent years leaves the ticket vulnerable. If Webb is chosen as Obama's Veep, expect more Republican charges of "inexperience."

6. Chuck Hagel: The Nebraska Republican senator has indicated that he'll give serious consideration to a request from Obama to come on board as his running mate (in the event that Obama asks...). Strengths: Choosing Hagel -- a moderate, anti-Iraq War Republican from the heartland -- will show that Obama truly is committed to a new form of bipartisan politics. To select a Veep from a different party would be a startling move. Moreover, Obama and Hagel are in complete agreement on the Iraq War. Obama needs Republican support to end the catastrophe that is the war in Iraq. Weaknesses: He's pretty conservative on a lot of issues other than the Iraq War. As Mike Madden noted in Salon: "Hagel may be a more attractive candidate in theory than in reality. The buzz about him seems to overlook the fact that he is, despite how much he may like to criticize his own party, a conservative Republican, especially on issues that don’t involve foreign affairs. Politics, the saying goes, stops at the water’s edge. So might the Obama-Hagel ticket."

My Prediction: If I were a betting man, I'd say Jim Webb will be the next vice president, with Hillary Clinton a close second. Stay tuned, Blog Pals...

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