Saturday, August 2, 2008


MANHATTAN (July 2008) politix ©2008 by M. Dubay

The first decision of paramount impact for presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama is the choice of Vice Presidential running mate. There are three integrated aspects to measure: Electability advantages, assistance in governance if/when elected, and the personality mesh. The Vetting ZOO chart [excel] includes those presently mentioned as under consideration and in the process of vetting scrutiny.

For baby boomers, the George McGovern candidacy really sank and doomed many down-ticket Democrats due to the Eagleton VP withdrawal – a fiasco of the first magnitude. More recently, most political readers recall the personality clashes and tactical differences between nominated Senators Kerry and Edwards in 2004. Was it “help or hope is on the way!” that got in the way? The response to “swiftboating” demanded naval razing rather than time-consuming navel gazing. How could “they” not have been aware that the flank attack was going to launch? No doubt, a certain stubbornness set in as turmoil inside the campaign churned.

Marc Ambinder's [[“It's Vetting Time”]] in the National Journal provides a behind-the-curtain view of the psychological nuances and potential traps for presumptive nominees of both major parties. He quotes John Kerry as revealing, “You inevitably come upon things that have never been made public.”

2000 gave us Sen. Joe Lieberman (Likud – CT) and a body of opinion exists that Gore's fatal campaign error was his choice of running mate. Senator Diane Feinstein (CA), Sen. Bob Graham (FL), Sen. Evan Bayh (IN) and Sen. John Edwards (NC) were all better choices. My own strategic recommendation at the time was to launch the Riverboat Express with Bill Clinton (as skipper and M.C.) to plow the waters of our great interior rivers. Lights, music and BBQ’d dancing girl hoopla (with prizes and free food at every stop) would have broadcast from Cincinnati to Chattanooga and on down to N'Orleans. I was serious. Blame Nader as much as you like for as long as you want but recognize that even the Revolutionary Workers Party had enough voters to tip the result. Nuff said on that.

The personality mesh affects both campaign dynamics and the sought after reins of governance. Among the top-tier possibilities, Sen. Clinton is realistically unlikely on that count alone. The naming of the ousted Patty Solis Doyle as Chief of Staff to the selected running mate is a huge sign – blinking and blaring if not blinding and deafening. Obama is most likely not comfortable with Sen. Clinton and her inner corps of cadres. One disqualifier is the linkage to Mark Penn since the “change and reform” message is a direct clash with his ilk and their expedience.

Assistance in governance is two-fold in that the voting electorate sees and hears sufficient slices of the VP candidate to judge not only a level of executive competence and gravitas but also what the Presidential candidate perceives as their need (to govern and to project through media a help to getting elected). The executive experience is why Governors have had a better chance than Senators historically.

Electability assistance includes demographic appeal, electoral weight, Party unity and media presentation of the primary candidate and their message. Certain factors are obvious as generalizations. For example, older white working-class Catholic men living in the Deep South are not amongst Obama’s strongest demographic clusters. Balance on the ticket can be helpful.

Electoral weight (as in large states get more electoral votes) balances with certain prospects that appeal to entire regions or demographics rather than their own one state. Gov. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas (EV=5) is unlikely to deliver her own very red state but is very much in the style of Obama and could assist greatly in the bordering and attached swing states of Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and the E.V.D. of Omaha. She might be a winning complement. Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana (EV=3) is probably fairly well recognized and respected in Denver and Phoenix but not so inside the “Beltway bubble” or in the corridors of Wall Street.

The demographic appeal of Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (EV=13) or Fmr. N.C. Sen. John Edwards (EV=15) to working-class folks is well known. The Vietnam War hero and the son of the mill worker have their supporters that are not naturally (or even in some cases comfortably) Obama's constituency.

Party unity enthusiasts and realists are pointing to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (EV=21) and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (EV=11). One is stronger on executive experience and the other has Senatorial foreign policy tenure. Gov. Rendell is an ardent Clintonite from the “old school” world of machine politics.

Finally, consider who looks the best on the poster with Obama. Which prospect visually emanates “CHANGE that works for you”? The [[Vetting Zoo VP Prospectus chart]] has more information on the following individuals.

Regionally, there are seven prospects from the West: Gov. Jane Napolitano of Arizona (EV=9), Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana (EV=3), Gov. (and former Clinton cabinet officer) Bill Richardson of New Mexico (EV=5), Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado (EV=9), Gov. Sebelius of Kansas (EV=6), and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (EV=5). Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri (EV=11) was another early and capable Obama supporter. Sebelius’s father was governor of Ohio but whether that can be parlayed into actual votes is another matter.

The “Sons of the South” include Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas (EV=5), Tennessee's Fmr. VP Al Gore (EV=11), Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (EV=13), Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (EV=27) and Fmr. N.C. Sen. John Edwards (EV=15). Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia (EV=15) was chairman of the Military Affairs Committee and is an expert on non-proliferation. A look at the electoral map shows the six-state arc between North Carolina north and west to Michigan-Indiana as the region that can tip the balance strongly and unassailably towards a substantial Democratic majority.

Obama's Great Lakes neighbor Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana (EV=11) was also on the “short list” in 2000. From the East are New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (EV=31), Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (EV=12), Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Dodd (EV=7), Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware (EV=3), and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania (EV=21). Pennsylvania’s Representative John Murtha is also mentioned but unlikely. Obama’s difficult balance that I am observing is the necessity to evolve to a Smart Trade policy (precluding Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio (EV=20) and perhaps Edwards) while closing off the issue against McCain expressing support for “free trade.”

The military is well represented by Gen. Tony McPeak (Air Force), Admiral Anthony Zinni, Former Secretary of Navy Richard Danzig, and General James Jones as well as Ret. Gen. Wesley Clarke, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (EV=5), and former Army Ranger and now Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island (EV=4), plus Webb and Kerry. Sun Tze’s classic “Art of War” is clear that the decision to commit war is the most serious ever made by a head of state.

The selection scenario will tighten to the very short list of Virginia's Sen. Webb and Gov. Kaine, Gov. Sebelius of Kansas, the foreign affairs expert Sen. Biden, the unobtrusive Sen. Bayh (fresh face for decades, right?) and Fmr. Sen. Edwards waiting in the wings. Obama is hoping for all Pros and no “Cons.” At August 1, my short list is Biden, Bayh and Kaine; dark horses are Gov. Schweitzer and Wesley Clark. ///

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