Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Veepstakes: further reflections

By Michael J.W. Stickings

An update to yesterday's post.


There are, of course, many factors that go into picking a running mate, and the game for us junkies isn't just about picking a name or ranking names but trying to figure out what factors are most important to a candidate.

Take McCain: It doesn't seem to make all that much sense for him to pick someone like himself, that is, old, with a military background, and experienced in the ways of Washington. So, instead, will he go with someone with whom he has a close personal connection, like Pawlenty or Thune; or with someone who has experience and expertise, of a sort, where he doesn't, namely, with respect to economic matters, like Portman or Romney; or with someone charismatic and even exciting, relatively speaking, like Huckabee or Giuliani; or with someone from a key state, like Crist (Florida) or Portman (Ohio); or with someone who is well-liked by the base, like Jindal or Thune; or with someone relatively young, like Jindal; or with someone who is a big-name celebrity with McCain-like national appeal, like Giuliani; or with someone who is an outsider, like Jindal or Palin; or with someone who is relatively unknown but who would show that McCain is willing to take a chance on a rising star and to try to broaden the party's appeal in a historic year, like Jindal or Palin?

The same goes for Obama: Will he focus on friendship and compatibility (Clinton-Gore) by picking, say, Kaine? Will he focus on making up for his own perceived weaknesses (Dukakis-Bentsen, Bush-Cheney) by picking, say, Biden (Washington experience, foreign policy creds), Reed (military background), Nunn (national security creds), or Bayh (dual experience, possible swing-state, Hillary supporter)? Or will he pick Hillary?

These are personal choices for the candidates, and it is likely that all of these factors and considerations come into play at least to some degree in the selection process. It seems to me you would want someone you get along with (though Reagan and Bush I were rivals who didn't have a close bond), but of course, an election being what it is, it helps to have someone who can win you some votes, if not some key states, and/or who can make up for some of your weaknesses or deficiencies, real or perceived.

And yet it seems to me that there is an overriding factor, namely, the ability to step in and do the job. Which is to say, a candidate's running mate must, these days, be the anti-Quayle -- someone with an impressive background and the capacity to lead, preferably (post-9/11, Iraq War and Occupation ongoing) someone with extensive national security experience (or, if not, extensive economic experience) -- someone with gravitas. This is the overriding factor whether the candidate has been around for a long time (McCain) or not (Obama).

Which should mean, for Obama (focusing on foreign policy and national security): Biden, Bayh, Nunn, Reed, or (of course) Hillary or Edwards or Kerry.

And for McCain (focusing on the economy): Romney, Portman, or, turning to national security, Ridge or Giuliani (even though he actually has next to no experience; for Giuliani, it's all about the mythology of 9/11).

This rules out Kaine for Obama and Jindal, Thune, and Pawlenty for McCain. There are cases to be made for all of them, but, to me, they lack what the others have. And at a time when the Iraq War rages on, terrorism remains a serious global threat, and the economy is weak and possibly getting weaker, the risk of picking the next Quayle is simply too great.


So, upon reflection, new predictions:

-- Romney for McCain

-- Biden for Obama

As always, though, such predictions are in flux.

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