Obama and McCain are both on the search for a running mate. There are articles and blogs all over the place on the subject, but who would I be if I didn’t weigh in?
Both campaigns have committees searching, vetting, and trying to figure out who’s least likely to be swift-boated and most likely to help wrangle swing-state voters. The Vice-Presidency isn’t a terribly demanding job, other than the possibility of having to take over for the Prez at a moment’s notice, so the main job of a running mate is to “balance the ticket,” providing something that the main nominee doesn’t have, even though as NPR’s political junkie pointed out, there’s no evidence that that actually works.
So let’s discuss this the fun way–by the negatives that these two supposedly have to balance out!
Barack Obama is young, hip, an inspiring speaker, multiracial, and a legitimate opponent of the war in Iraq. The negative part (in some people’s eyes!) is that he’s young, multiracial, and inexperienced, and in some cases where sexism is blamed for Hillary Clinton’s loss, his being male is also a negative. So who can combat all of those things at once?
Well, some say that Hillary Clinton would. She ran on her experience, after all, and there have been much-exaggerated rumors that women by the droves are swearing they’ll vote for McCain unless Clinton is on the ticket.
Of course, there are the negatives of Clinton–the largest one being her own arguments against Obama and her comments that implied at times that McCain was a better choice. And though a few vocal people might have sworn not to vote for Obama unless Clinton was on the ticket, they hardly speak for all women. Not to mention there are other women out there who are also qualified.
My personal favorite is Janet Napolitano, governor of McCain’s home state of Arizona. She’s on her second term, which means she’ll be term-limited out of office soon anyway, and she’s popular and personable. She’s single, though, and so there are the inevitable rumors that she’s a lesbian. She does bring executive experience, but no foreign policy cred. It’s not terribly likely that Obama will beat McCain in his home state, but it wouldn’t be the first time–Al Gore lost his home state back in 2000, and according to the Frank Rich article linked above, the McCain camp no longer counts Arizona as safe. The West may be Obama’s ticket to the White House this year, leaving Florida out of the equation entirely and sweeping New Mexico, Colorado, and maybe some others.
The other women being name-dropped are also early Obama supporters, Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Claire McCaskill. McCaskill is from Missouri, a swing state, but she’s a first-term senator who does little for the other Obama negatives of youth and inexperience. Sebelius, though, is more interesting–she’s the governor of a state so red that it was the subject of a book, What’s The Matter With Kansas, about the Republican voters there. She also gave the (lackluster) response to the State of the Union this year. Kansas is unlikely to swing Democratic, but Sebelius also has Ohio connections that might help with that state. She is married, unlike Napolitano, so probably fewer lesbian-rumors in her case, but with any woman we’re going to hear more sexist drivel. At least Michelle Obama wouldn’t be getting all of it.
And there are the men. Jim Webb of Virginia is the darling of some parts of the blogosphere, but since he was a former Republican with an atrocious record of saying not-nice things about women, I don’t see him as a unifier in this case. Plus, he’s also a first-term senator and he’s doing quite well as the Senate’s lead voice against the war. (google Webb G.I. bill. Note that John McCain did not vote on it.)
Mother Jones has a more exhaustive list of choices, so I’ll wind this up with a couple interesting options. Bill Richardson was the only other candidate who tempted me in the primaries. He’s got experience in spades–Governor, Representative, Ambassador, 5 Nobel Peace Prize nominations–but he was a lackluster campaigner and foundered in the debates. But his endorsement of Obama, at one of the lowest points in the campaign, was a big boost, and he certainly fights most of the negatives. Richardson is Latino, which might scare some who think that Obama needs a running mate who’s whitey mcwhiterson, but let’s face it: anyone who’s not already scared off by Obama’s race isn’t likely to be sent running by Richardson. But I like him for a more hands-on job. Secretary of State, anyone?
Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio, is another choice that I like. He’s new to the Senate but spent 14 years in the House, is a committed progressive and opponent of the war, and is young and popular. He doesn’t bring much foreign policy cred either, but instead reinforces Obama’s strengths and plays up the economic policy side, which is usually seen as a Democratic strong point.
As far as McCain is concerned, there’s been plenty of time to consider. He doesn’t appear to be any closer to a decision, although the popular wisdom has narrowed his choices down to three: everyone’s favorite slick Mormon governor, Mitt Romney, everyone’s favorite posssibly-gay Florida governor, Charlie Crist, and the young, sexy, demon-banishing Bobby Jindal, new governor of Louisiana.
McCain’s negatives, of course, are that he’s a Republican running in a bad year for Republicans, and his age. He’ll be 72 on Election Day, and that would make him the oldest man elected President if it happens. So his VP choice is seen as more important than most. He’s also disliked by much of the conservative base, who considers him a maverick. This is often seen as balanced by his popularity with independents, but Obama is also popular with independents so this may not be as big a draw for McCain this year.
So the question for McCain is whether he chooses a VP candidate who brings in the wayward base of Bush-loving God-fearing gay-hating conservatives, or who appeals more to the independents who are understandably wary of the Bush legacy and who might be giving Obama a long look.
Jindal is my favorite because, quite frankly, I think he has all of Obama’s negatives and few of the positives. He’s Indian, but a devoted Christian–not that that works for Obama–young, a new governor in a state that only went Republican after a large chunk of its population was forced out by that nasty hurricane Katrina. (I hope my readers know me well enough to know that I don’t think many of these things are negatives, but that they are commonly assumed to be negatives by the Political Insider types.)
Personally, I like the idea of two major party tickets with non-white candidates on them. And I admit to partly liking that idea because for once racists will have nowhere to turn but lesser parties.
Charlie Crist has one big negative–everyone thinks he’s gay. He’s enormously popular in Florida, which popular wisdom has McCain winning with a Florida candidate, but I just can’t see the conservative base warming to a guy who, well, everyone thinks is gay. Again, it’s a positive for me, but a negative for the base and probably a neutral at best with independents.
Finally, there’s Mittens. Mitt Romney was McCain’s main competition at one time, but he never seemed to have a base other than people who thought McCain wasn’t conservative enough. He flip-flopped so often that he made John Kerry look constant, and since McCain’s reversed himself a few times this election season anyway, having someone who’s made a career out of it seems like a bad thing. Plus, he’s still Mormon.
There were a couple of fun rumors out there, including Mike Huckabee, Condoleezza Rice (black AND a woman? Oooh, can we please? But she’s a solid Bushie, and thus a bad idea even if she wouldn’t freak out the sexists and the racists.) and Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, and there’s always the possibility of some other Republican governor or senator or even (gasp!) Joe Lieberman, who makes McCain look cheerful and energetic by comparison. The only thing that seems sure in this race is the unexpected, so I could be entirely off base here, and so I’m not making any further predictions.
I’m just going to repeat what I want to see happen: Obama/Napolitano and McCain/Jindal 08!
Reader mail can go to sarah.jaffe-at-gmail.com. Please include “Political Buzz” in the subject line or it may go to junk mail!