Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Veepstakes: rankings and predictions

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With the exception of posts on Hillary Clinton and, earlier today, Bobby Jindal, I haven't really waded into the Veepstakes game. I don't see much point to it unless you have access to insider campaign information, or are a conduit for leaks, but that's not to say that I haven't been paying close attention to it. The choice of running mate, after all, may not make or break a presidential bid -- Bush I didn't lose in '88 because of Quayle; Clinton didn't win in '92 because of Gore; Kerry didn't lose in '04 because of Edwards -- but a) it can make a difference; b) it is one of a candidate's key pre-election decisions and hence a major campaign milestone; c) it is reflective of the candidate's values and priorities; and d) it is exciting, at least to us political junkies.

(On that last point, just imagine a Clinton-Giuliani vice presidential debate. If that doesn't excite you, you might want to rethink your own values and priorities.)

Over at WaPo's The Fix, Chris Cillizza offers up the top 5 veep candidates on both sides. They are as follows:


1) Evan Bayh
2) Tim Kaine
3) Jack Reed
4) Joe Biden
5) Hillary Clinton


1) Mitt Romney
2) Tim Pawlenty
3) Rob Portman
4) John Thune
5) Sarah Palin

On the Republican side, note that Jindal isn't on the list. Neither is Giuliani (although I don't think he ever had a serious shot at it) or Huckabee (who seems to have disappeared). I just can't see Romney getting it -- McCain doesn't much care for him personally. Thune makes sense, but, without delving into identity politics, there is the question of how voters will respond to yet another white guy ticket at a time when history has been made on the other side with Obama and Hillary. Jindal would be, as Cillizza puts it, a "Hail Mary" choice, but perhaps less of one than Palin, about whom I know very little but who would be, to put it mildly, an inspired choice -- maybe not a great one, I'm not sure, but certainly a high-risk-high-reward one.

On the Democratic side, I understand Bayh's appeal (statehouse and Senate, loads of experience), but I've never much liked him. He would certainly offset Obama's history-making persona with an equal measure of blandness, but he could turn Indiana blue and win over some of Hillary's former supporters (as one of her more prominent supporters himself). Note that Sam Nunn isn't on the list. Despite his impressive background and expertise, he's rather dull. Reed has a long military background and is on the rise in the Veepstakes game. I'll ask here the same question I asked in the post linked above: It could be Hillary, right? Sure, why not? Because of Bill? Because of her outsized celebrity status? Because she could outshine Obama? Because of all the questions that would come up about the Clintons' past (and present)? Well, okay. So then why not Biden? He may be too conservative for some Democrats -- and the Netroots wouldn't like him -- but there's no denying his formidable credentials as a Washington insider with outside appeal and one of the leading Democrats on foreign policy and national security. He's a bit too outspoken for his own good from time to time, but he would, I think, be a solid pick. (Otherwise, I still think Edwards would be great, if not, given the fact that he's been there before, terribly exciting.)


-- Thune for McCain (good friends, economy a priority)

-- Reed for Obama (trip to Iraq, military background)

I reserve the right to change those predictions at any moment, however. And my doubts have already deepened. Perhaps Jindal for McCain and Hillary for Obama? Or...

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  • Reed's probably the unknown frontrunner. I do think that McCain has one of two options in his VP selection:

    Pick a candidate that will really strengthen his hand in a swing state. A name you didn't mention, and I know it has been pooh-poohed elsewhere, is Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. I think he's as likely as Thune, who I can't see significantly adding to the '08 ticket, but perhaps giving the Republicans something to think about in the future.

    But I see it more likely that McCain will go identity politics and select a woman candidate. He's practically at the point that he needs a runningmate that will bring MORE excitement to the ticket than he does (a threshold getting lower by the day).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:32 AM  

  • I can't tell if your comment about a Clinton/Giuliani debate was serious or not. There was a time when that might have been exciting, but after Giuliani's absurdly unsuccessful primary (and the various character issues), I don't think he's all that interesting.

    To me, economists are technocrats, people you appoint, not people you vote for as Vice-President. Maybe some people do this, but I can't really imagine voting for a ticket because I think the VP "knows something about economics." More generally, I think McCain is here, as in some many other areas, pretty well screwed. I think a younger, more charismatic candidate will make him look old, while someone lacking youth and energy will make the two of them look like they're running a funeral home. I'm not sure there's a good choice for him.

    By Blogger ., at 10:12 AM  

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