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Obama VP "Someone Who's Independent"

Here's a lesson: If you work in politics (a) don't try to take a vacation in August of an even numbered year and (b) if you do, leave your laptop behind. Having made both mistakes, and waiting like everyone else to see who Barack Obama has selected as his running mate, I have a reaction to the one piece of real news we got yesterday about the choice.

In interviews published in the last 24 hours, Barack Obama has implied that his choice leans toward someone who will balance him ideologically. He has decided on "somebody who's independent," he told USA Today, "somebody who can push against my preconceived notions and challenge me so we have got a robust debate in the White House."

The conventional wisdom about vice-presidential choices shifted a bit in 1992 when Bill Clinton picked Al Gore, arguably the most successful vice presidential selection of the last several decades. Gore's selection was widely viewed as reinforcing Clinton's key strengths rather than providing geographic or ideological balance. Clinton, a young, Southern centrist Democrat bucked the conventional wisdom about ticket balancing and picked another young, Southern centrist politician. The combination reinforced the central "change" message of the 1992 campaign and helped provide a huge and sustained boost to the Clinton-Gore ticket.

But if you look back, Clinton had a real need to reinforce his core "change" message. Before the 1992 Democratic convention, Clinton had net negative favorable ratings and was running behind George H.W. Bush and (at on some polls) independent candidate Ross Perot. Voters had been introduced to Clinton during the primaries through news about an alleged affair and efforts to avoid the draft while a student at Oxford and Yale. In his book, Middle Class Dreams , Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg recounts learning from his research that doubts about Clinton focused on the perception that he was a typical politician from a privileged background.

To address the perception of privilege, the Clinton campaign used the convention to emphasize the "Man from Hope" story of Clinton's modest upbringing. My sense is that the Gore selection helped counter the perception of Clinton as a younger, but otherwise typical pol. Rather than making the predictably "political" choice (an grey eminence with years of Washington experience), he picked another young Southerner (albeit one with considerable Washington experience). So in picking Gore, Clinton was, in a sense, shoring up a weakness, making that case that his election really would be a break with politics as usual.

Now consider Obama. He owns "change." Between his age, his race, his name, his unusual background, his limited time in Washington and his campaign's exceptional message discipline, Obama has no need to convince anyone that his presidency will be different or that he "really likes change." What voters doubt most is whether he is prepared to be president, and perhaps whether he is a bit too taken with the "audacity" of his own candidacy. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 22% of voters choose "arrogant and cocky" as the negative characteristic that best describes Obama.

So Obama reaches out to someone of considerable experience with whom he disagreed on the Iraq War, someone with a different political philosophy or someone with proven willingness to challenge him, he can help shore up a weakness with relatively little risk to his core brand. At least that strikes me is the logic behind the kind of pick Obama is telegraphing.



Well, Mark, I thought you were going to name a name or 2?

All the likely suspects are down to speak on Wednesday except Hillary. i'm trying to think if Wes Clark is scheduled.Mike Bloomberg fits the description.

Anyway He has articulated, you have contrasted and then re-articulated but we will not know for a few hours more who the pick is.

Enjoy your vacation.



It's Biden all the way. I thought for months that it would be Bayh, but with the negative focus of the McCain campaign, and the perception that Obama isn't a fighter, it would seem to be a bad choice to pick Bayh. Biden however is a fighter, and he definitely gets a lot of respect, especially from older voters. Biden's 30+ years of experience also helps to diminish the attacks on Obama's preparedness. He's the only one of the top 4 that does this.

It's pretty much written in stone. Biden is the pick, and he's a great pick.



Good analysis of the clues Obama has been dropping. I used to think (like, for three days last week) that Bayh was the man--safe-looking and controlled. But I can see how Obama could make Biden seem like a partner in the administration.

Can Biden control his mouth, though? He has serious diarrhea of the lip.



I guess I don't see why those clues don't apply to Hillary. She's certainly "independent." She's willing to "challenge" him. Like Gore to Clinton, she reinforces his core message of "change."

By contrast, Biden--I love the man, and think he would make a great VP or Pres--is an old white guy who would undermine the message of change. He fits more into the traditional "balance" mold than does Hillary.

Given the clues, and your analysis, I say Hillary fits much better than Biden.


richard pollara:

Jay Cost made a really good point yesterday. Adding a voter who did not cast a ballot in 2004 nets one vote. Having a Kerry voter defect to McCain is a loss of two votes. Rather than trying to pad the executive branch resume or ticket balance Obama should base his pick (politically speaking) on who can best unite the party. If even a small number of Clinton voters move to McCain, it could have a devastating effect in a close race.



It has to be Hillary. Biden would be a great choice--in 1988. But this is 2008.

I keep hearing about Obama's independents and new voters fleeing the ticket if he picks Hillary. Does anyone know of any polls showing how many of Obama's people will supposedly defect if he picks her?



If Hillary had shown an ounce of graciousness when it really counted (even up to a couple of weeks ago), and Bill too, then there might have been a shot of her becoming the pick, but for those that didn't like the way that Hillary campaigned, this would be like McCain picking Bush in 2000 if McCain actually won the primaries.

Hillary just won't happen. Hillary still thinks she's running for president anyway, and I'm fairly convinced that she would not be upset to see Obama lose so that she could win again.


" Now consider Obama. He owns "change." Between his age, his race, his name, his unusual background, his limited time in Washington and his campaign's exceptional message discipline, Obama has no need to convince anyone that his presidency will be different or that he "really likes change." "

Mark, you sound just like Geraldine Ferraro.... or should I say, Mrs. Ferraro sounded like you. But somehow I don't think you need to watch out for the pitchfork wielding mob. My, how times change. ;-)

Obama needs independent white women in Penn, Florida and Ohio to win. The obvious choice is Hillary. It would stop the PUMA defections in their tracks. It would reassure older white women that there'd be a grown-up on duty. It would reassure feminists that women's rights won't be bargaining chip when Obama "reaches across the aisle."

If she's not chosen its because Obama et al are still so bitter from the primary that they can't see straight. That or he's afraid that she'll outperform him.

The thought of Obama choosing Biden is like a bad joke. Biden is the opposite of change. In other words:

Obama + Clinton = " Change!"

Obama + Biden = " Change....not!!! "




I have yet to see evidence that PUMAs are actually comprise a significant number of voters.

Also, not that I don't respect and agree with most of what Hillary does, but you can't really say an Obama/Clinton ticket = change. Hillary does not represent new politics in any way, shape, or form; she's been in politics since at least 1974. Plus, Hillary is not the only candidate that attracts older voters -- yes, Biden, the older guy, attracts older voters too.


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