Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hillary for Veep

Last night marked the unofficial end to the primary season. Obama's the man now, and the next big topic is VP. I'm honestly not sure why there's a legitimate debate on this subject, because the choice is so obvious: Hillary Clinton. Here's a quick rundown on the main reasons that there isn't much of a choice:

1. Who is best prepared, in the minds of the VOTERS, to be a heartbeat away? This is not even a close call. Sure, Bill Richardson has a great resume. Sure, Chris Dodd has served a long time in the Senate. But let's get real here. Hillary trounced them in the primaries. One thing that isn't debatable is that Hillary would be "ready on day one" in the minds of the voters. And this is the single most important qualification for the role. If you were a fresh, new face running for President, wouldn't you want your first public decision to reassure voters that you knew what you were doing? Also, if your whole campaign is predicated upon an argument for change and rejecting the politics of the past, shouldn't you use your first big, public decision to show that you will pick the most qualified person?

2. Who brings the most votes to your ticket? This is probably the easiest question to answer. Hillary got nearly 18 million votes in the primaries. Regardless of how you count Michigan, Florida and all the caucuses, Hillary is singularly unique among primary runner ups. No one has EVER come anywhere near the vote totals that Hillary amassed and not been the nominee. I don't have the figures, but I'd be shocked if a runner up ever got half the votes she won. And this year, no one in the party (except for maybe Al Gore) can hold a candle to the voting power she would bring to the ticket.

3. Who moves a swing state into your column? This one also is not a close call. Hillary doesn't help with just one state. She brings votes in probably a dozen swing states, including Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, West Virginia, New Hampshire. Even the biggest Hillary hater wouldn't attempt to argue that she makes Obama stronger in those states. And the Democrats need to carry the vast majority of those states to win.

4. Who best pads the bank account? Again, this is an easy call. Hillary wildly exceeded every historical fundraising benchmark, save for the amazing numbers posted by Obama. She would bring incredible dollars to the ticket, all of which would be incremental to Obama's network of contributors.

5. Who agrees with you the most on the issues? This is a more difficult call. Obama and Clinton didn't have much policy daylight between them, and this would be true for many of the leading contenders for Veep. You'd have to call this one a draw.

6. Who's got skeletons in the closet? Yes, people can worry about what Bill might do, but the reality is that Hillary is the most vetted candidate of our lifetime. No other choice has been scrutinized with anywhere near the tenacity that the Clintons have endured. The risk of something completely new popping up at this point would be much higher for any other candidate. Alright, I'll give you that Al Gore would again be in the conversation here, but all indications are that he's not interested in more years as VP.

6. Who augments the central themes of your campaign? At face value, Hillary is not the best fit here, and this is the most common argument invoked when someone doesn't want her chosen (see: Ted Kennedy). The argument goes something like this: Obama stands for change and a new direction. Hillary represents the politics of the past and the politics of division rather than conciliation and collaboration. Also, picking Hillary would highlight that Obama isn't strong enough to face down Hillary and proves he's not strong enough to lead the country. This point is debatable, but it is genuinely felt among some Obama supporters. I would counter, however, by pointing out that you can't unite the country if you can't unite your own party. If you can't work closely with the second most powerful person in your party, how can you hope to work those across the aisle? Wouldn't a true break from the past be to pick your strongest rival, your fiercest opponent? Wouldn't it show true strength to chose such a strong willed person for your running mate? Also, what better way to brand yourself the change candidate than to pick a woman as your running mate? Who could argue that you represent historic and unprecedented change with Hillary as your running mate?

Lastly, there is one argument invoked for not picking Hillary that needs to be addressed. It has been said that Hillary and her husband would not play ball and would work to undermine the President when it suited them. Well, maybe the people making this argument should look at the two presidents after whom Obama most closely fashions himself: Kennedy and Lincoln. Kennedy picked LBJ, the most Machiavellian politician of any era (who also said "better to have your enemies inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in"). And as for Lincoln, did anyone read "Team of Rivals"? Obama did, and he quoted it on the campaign trail in response to a question about choosing a running mate.

And, at the end of the day, if Obama can't trust her and can't connect with her on a personal level in private then all these other arguments don't amount to anything. I'm betting, however, that both of these individuals are big enough to swallow their past disagreements, look each other in the eye, and see their common destiny.

No comments: