Sanity Injection

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Archive for August 21st, 2008

The “Veepstakes”

Posted by sanityinjection on August 21, 2008

By now even non-political junkies should recognize this term. Speculation is running fast and furious over who the major party candidates for President will pick as their running mates. (To the point that Senator Obama’s press secretary sent out an e-mail to the press titled, “Vice President…” and with a message body that simply read, “Just kidding.” Note to the Obama campaign: The press tends to lack a sense of humor when the joke’s on them.)

At this point I think it’s easier to get a read on McCain’s likely choice. The first rule of picking a running mate is, “Do no harm.” In other words, don’t pick someone who might lose votes for you by embracing controversial positions, turning up a scandal in their background or saying something idiotic. What is interesting on the GOP side is that for some of the individuals that have been mentioned as being under consideration, segments of the party are so concerned that the person fails the “do no harm” test that they have actually mounted campaigns to prevent their nomination. For example, there is an evangelical “Stop Romney” group (he’s too Mormon), a supply-side “Stop Huck” group (he’s a tax-raiser), a pro-life “Stop Ridge” group (he’s pro-choice), a conservative “Stop Lieberman” group (he’s a Democrat.) But interestingly, there’s no “Stop Pawlenty”, “Stop Cantor”, or “Stop Portman” group. Cantor may be too little known, but this suggests that Pawlenty and Portman meet the “do no harm” criterion for McCain. Both are from key states – Minnesota and Ohio, respectively – though recent history suggests running mates don’t necessarily deliver their states (Edwards in 2000). Portman brings the economic pedigree that McCain lacks, but he’s also tied to the Bush Administration, and if I were McCain I wouldn’t want that albatross around my neck. I still think Pawlenty is the likely pick – as a Governor he has the executive experience McCain lacks.

I’m having a harder time reading the tea leaves on the Democratic side. The buzz this week has been around Senator Joe Biden, which probably means he’s not the guy. He fails the “do no harm” test, with a plagiarism scandal in his past and a verifiable habit of putting his foot in his mouth (during the primary he said Obama wasn’t ready to be President.) Hillary Clinton also fails the “do no harm” test becuase she is a polarizing figure for many independent voters. Plus she could outshine the nominee, which is always a no-no. So would Al Gore, another longshot. The remaining shortlist for Obama supposedly includes Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Tim Kaine, and Senator Evan Bayh, and possibly former Senator Sam Nunn. At this moment, my guess would be Sebelius. The only knock on her seems to be that picking a woman other than Hillary will tick off Hillary’s 18 million voters. However, picking a *man* over Hillary will tick them off just as much, it seems to me. Sebelius has demonstrated appeal beyond the Democratic base, has executive experience, and as far as I know is clean as a whistle. She fits in with the “outsider/reformer” role Obama is trying to embody. Her state, Kansas, is not in play, but Obama claims that’s not a consideration for him. I can’t see the Netroots getting excited (at least not in a positive way) over Nunn or Bayh, so I’d say it’s between Sebelius and Kaine at this point.

The best reason for choosing Sebelius over Kaine? If you say “Obama/Kaine” too quickly, it sounds like “Oba-McCain”. I can see the GOP ads now, “Why Settle for ObaMaKaine When You Can Have The REAL McCain?”

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