Veep choices are criticalPosted Wednesday, August 27, 2008, at 9:59 AM
Delaware senator Joe Biden is an interesting choice for Sen. Obama's running mate.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he brings 30 years of key legislative experience in Washington, D.C., to the table, shoring up some of the weaker pillars of Sen. Obama's resume.
He is well respected in the senate and is known for avoiding "spin," speaking his mind without a great deal of sugar coating. My guess is he'll be the attack dog responding to McCain's "Karl Rove Clique" of handlers. Rove, as you will recall, has a reputation for underhanded attacks and when McCain reorganized his campaign to become a little more aggressive in his style, a lot of the Rove group wound up in key positions in the campaign. Biden may balance that a little, but it means, unfortunately, that the campaigns are going to get a lot sharper, fast.
To me, the most interesting part about the Biden selection is how little it does to help Obama in some of the key "swing" states. Sure, Biden will help solidify some of the blue collar vote in the northeast, but he's not really bringing new states into play. Richardson, for example, would have brought New Mexico and Texas into play for Obama and helped solidify the weak but potentially powerful Hispanic vote.
The Biden choice wasn't a short-term selection to help get Obama win a few key states, which is common with vice-presidential selections, regardless of their actual qualifications to become president (remember Dan Quayle?). No, instead, it seemed more of a long-range choice, a man actually selected to be "a heartbeat away" from the presidency and serve as part of the presidential advisory team. And that says a lot about Obama's long-range thinking.
McCain has been keeping his short list of candidates pretty close to the vest, but should announce his selection this coming weekend. That's smart timing, as it will take away some of the news cycle follow-up to the Democratic convention, thus cutting into the usual "bump" in the polls that follows each party's convention.
The question is, who will he choose? Despite being in exceptionally good health for his age, McCain is old and your health can go south on you quickly in old age. So McCain also needs to select someone who would be a qualified successor if something should happen to him, rather than someone expedient to help bring a key state or two over to his side (which is actually pretty important this election, since is looks like it is going to be very close).
Clearly, he needs to select a candidate who is younger (although that wouldn't be too hard, considering).
I think the flirtation with Lieberman was just smoke and mirrors. As unique as it would be in American politics to have a "unity" team representing both parties, Lieberman wouldn't really help McCain's chances, wouldn't really cut into the Democratic vote, and would cause considerable disaffection within his own party. It would hand the election to Obama and McCain know that. So it was really just misdirection and theatre.
Conalezza Rice is an interesting name that has popped up in connection with McCain. She would clearly take the wind out of the sails of Obama's minority appeal and might generate some appeal among female voters. But as one of the architects of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and Guantanamo, she's a little too tainted, too easy a target. And on those subjects, McCain increasingly has gotten himself caught between Iraq and a hard spot. Every time he takes a firm stand on why we should stay to "win" the war, the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration have undercut his basic position.
McCain needs to distance himself from Bush, although he seems to be having a hard time doing so, and my guess is anybody too attached to Bush simply isn't going to be in the running for VP.
Romney is out, I think, because no matter how much he might help in a few key northern states, to much of the Republican religious right sees him as a cultist, it would turn them off, and McCain needs them this fall.
McCain's choice, in many ways, is going to be much more difficult than the choice Obama had to make.
McCain is aiming for the crucial independents and middle-of-the road voters (while praying that the GOP's ultra-conservatives stay on board). If he chooses someone to appease the far right wing of his party, which right now is at best luke-warm in its support of him, he'll turn off the voters in the middle who will probably decide this election. If he chooses someone more moderate, or even liberal, he risks losing the historic GOP base.
It's a very, very tricky choice for McCain. It will be interesting to see what the maverick comes up with.
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