Washington Matters


An Obama-Clinton Ticket? Continued...


A most peculiar paradox has to be gnawing at the top political minds in the Barack Obama camp: Their hands-down best choice for vice-presidential running mate is also their absolute worst choice for vice president, to wit, Hillary Clinton. I'm not saying Obama will shock the political world and select his rival, who has cajoled, bullied, and begged him for the veep slot. He'd likely be inviting turmoil, second-guessing, and anonymous leaks into the White House should he win in November (as well as Bill Clinton, a former president who remains vitally interested in protecting his own legacy.) But consider the enormous strength Hillary would bring to the Democratic ticket.

Let's look at the electoral map: If the election were held today. Obama would likely hold a narrow lead over Republican John McCain, but with 13 swing states worth 179 electoral votes still very much in play. Among the names bantered about as possible Obama running mates: Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who could give him an edge in winning the Buckeye State's 20 electoral votes (but who says he won't accept the job), New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (5 votes in another swing state), or Delaware Senator Joe Biden (3 votes? And it's leaning Democratic anyway!). Retired generals James Jones or Wesley Clark? No electoral help there. The Washington, D.C. area is agog with speculation that Obama might tap Virginia Senator Jim Webb or Governor Tim Kaine, but come on. You read it here first: Obama will win Virginia in November, a state that has been trending Democratic for several years now, with or without either of these guys on the ticket. 

Now consider Hillary. She would instantly give Obama the edge in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, where she was quite popular in the primaries among blue-collar voters, and in New Mexico, where Clinton is popular with Hispanic voters. There's also Nevada, with its strong pro-labor bloc highly supportive of Clinton. And her presence on the Democratic ticket would make Florida and Michigan true tossups in November, more so than now. That's four states worth 51 electoral votes moving into the "lean Democratic" category, and two states worth 44 electoral votes becoming highly competitive. Pundits would be talking "landslide" in the fall.

Again, I'm not saying this would be the wisest course of action for Obama. It's what would happen should he win with Hillary as vice president that would be most consequential. But for those on Obama's vice-presidential selection committee, it has to be a conundrum.

 



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