My view is clear enough to my legions of faithful readers, I think The People have spoken and Senator Clinton has been voted in to the veep slot. However the ultimate choice is Senator Obama's to make, and he needs to consider his options and he might not agree with me about the political imperatives of the situation. The process of choosing a vice-presidential running mate involves an enormous number of variables. It is critical for the campaign but the candidate also must be able to assume the presidency. Today we're seeing the preliminary discussions of "the list" in the media, so I'll join in with my discussion/ranking, but you know I'm going to end up with Clinton in the #1 rank as best choice; today's discussion is about everybody else.
First there's a group I think of as the Usual Democratic Party Suspects, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Tom Daschle. None of these look like strong prospects to me. The only one who I'll include on the list is Bayh, but aside from a steady moderate-liberal political profile, his best asset is he's a very midwestern, white-bread character, a Clinton supporter and the scion of a Democratic dynasty in the Upper Midwest, which is indeed crucial territory for Obama. Biden is too old, too loud, and too Old Washington, if he had a conservative cachet he might bring "balance," but he doesn't. Obama will need his help as chairman of the Judiciary Committee when John Paul Stevens retires. Dodd and Daschle are much too mild and soft-spoken for the gladiatorial aspects of the Veep role in the national campaign. In Daschle's case, it's true, there's a bit of "Minnesota nice" sidewinder under the mildness, but he has the onus of having been ignominiously ousted from his Senate seat by a Republican challenger. Only Bayh makes the cut from the old Democratic bench.
Mike Bloomberg likes to be a chronic mentionee, and he certainly has exceeded all expectations as Republican mayor of New York (although the second crane incident might count as a substantial failure). He would supposedly help with the Jewish vote, where Obama supposedly has problems. The two problems with that argument are a) Leibermenschen notwithstanding, the Jewish vote continues to be largely Democratic in any event, and the conservative minority may have crested with the conservative movement in general, and b) Obama's problems with white working class, rural, and union voters is a bigger problem, and those folks are mostly Protestant and unimpressed with fancy New Yorkers. But really the decisive argument here is the same one that applies to the rebellious Republican Chuck Hagel: a campaign that needs to unify a fractious Democratic Party isn't going to go with a Republican. (Not that Hagel would bolt on the GOP anyway, he's not that kind of guy.) I think we can safely rule both Bloomberg and Hagel out.
You have the military men, Wesley Clark and Jim Webb. On the one hand, national security voters are going to go with McCain, that's his main identity, so you don't want to throw too much good money after bad chasing voters you're not going to get anyway. On the other hand, the McCain campaign will keep national security in the air, mentioning it every day from now until November, so it might be a good thing to have someone who can handle all the counterpunching that will have to be done over that issue. Clark, though, is not seen as a leader (anymore) in military circles, after his close association with the Clinton administration and his subsequent runs for the Democratic nomination. Liberal generals are wonderful creatures but somewhat exotic to the voters, and they are seen negatively by the "support the troops" crowd. By all reports Clark is also a bit too much the star of his own movie for the veep slot (like Bloomberg, he'll make sure he's on the list if you don't). Cross him off. Webb does get on the list. He's a New Democrat, a war hero in Vietnam, a political champion who won a Senate seat for the Democrats in Virginia, now a bellwether state. Personally I don't care for his aggrieved soldier routine (he can't admit to his homeboys that Vietnam was a mistake), but he would be a help to Obama going up against McCain.
There are the political warhorses Ed Rendell and John Edwards. I like Edwards a lot more now than I did in 2004, I like the militant populist Edwards who's going to take the fight to the corporatists. However, he was the veep candidate on the losing ticket last time and that makes it hard to justify choosing him again. That's also a hard choice to justify because he came in a lagging third this time around: why pick him if you're not going to pick Clinton? And then there was that reporting about the troubles that the Kerry campaign had with him. He certainly could help with the downscale white demographic, but I think we can cross him off. Rendell is a little better of a prospect, but he gets you Pennsylvania and that's all that he gets you. National voters won't remember that he was a loyal Clintonista, but they will hear his strong East Coast urban accent. Obama can do better, even if he wants a Clinton supporter.
Can Obama choose a woman other than Clinton? Maybe yes. I think it's hard to gauge whether a woman veep is more asset or liability, but the demographics of the Democratic Party suggest that it might be a good idea. I'm gratified to see Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who I've been touting on this blog since last year, emerging as the most-mentioned Woman Who's Not Clinton. After her comes Claire McCaskill of Missouri. A sleeper is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, although I admit that I don't know if she'd be available (guy in my pajamas that I am). Some women are going to be on the list for sure, and at the moment the buzz seems to put Sebelius above McCaskill, although it's true that Missouri turns out to be an important battleground. On the other hand if the Dems could put Kansas into play that would be an unexpected headache for the GOP. Both are midwesterners which is good, both are young which is good.
My #2 on The List, though, has to be Bill Richardson. His assets are extensive: forget about the problem with the Hispanic voters (a major issue); no more problem about lack of foreign policy expertise; New Mexico is yours; he is someone who is seen as both a veteran Clintonista and someone who stood up to the Clinton machine for Obama, as well as a candidate in his own right, the only other one who rose up out of Seven Dwarfs status in the primaries. If he's not the veep, he'll be at the top of the list for Secretary of State.
So, my ranking: #5, Claire McCaskill; #4, tie between Evan Bayh and Jim Webb; #3, Kathleen Sebelius; #2, Bill Richardson, and the #1 prospect for Veep is Hillary Clinton. You heard it here millionth.