Tag Archives: vice president

Choices, Choices

Hendrik Hertzberg serves up some McCain VP talk in the New Yorker. Hertzberg blasts the usual short-listers (Pawlenty, Sanford, Crist, Romney) for being the height of banality, a string of unimaginative choices that add very little to the ticket other than the promise that they won’t rock the boat. Hertzberg goes on, however, to pick an equally unimaginative candidate: Condoleezza Rice.

Putting aside the very obvious fact that Rice has already declared she has absolutely no interest in the job, Hertzberg’s choice is fraught with a number of glaring miscalculations. “Her nomination to a constitutional executive office would cost McCain the votes of his party’s hardened racists and incorrigible misogynists,” he writes “[t]hey are surely fewer in number, though, than the people who would like to participate in breaking the glass ceiling of race or gender…..” I find such an assertion difficult to believe given that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism was seen as one of obstacles that denied him the nomination. Are we to accept that issuses of race take a backseat to religious preference? It is certainly a quaint notion, but highly unlikely.

The article goes onto say that by choosing Rice McCain shackles himself to the Iraq War, as if this were a positive thing. President Bush’s approval ratings have been hovering around 30%. If the GOP primary has proved anything it’s that the candidates are trying to run away from the current administration as quickly as possible. Witness the general dodging here (around the 3:30 mark). Voters, for the most part, still psychically associate McCain with the image of a maverick, of someone who was initially opposed Bush in 2000 and still fought pitched battle with him up until 2007. If he ties himself too closely to what is quickly becoming an administration associated with complete and total failure then his own failure in the general election is not far off.

Hertzberg apparently has settled too deeply into this fairyland fantasy world he has come to call home when he postulates that Rice’s feel good story will trump her failures. A splendid idea, but unfortunately one that does not operate in our reality. Thomas Eagleton obviously springs to mind, as does the soon to be former governor of New York Eliot Spitzer. The media, fueled by the Democratic candidate, will sink their teeth into Rice and certainly find things that will make her an unworthy candidate in the eyes of many people. It’s the stuff of politics.

The final point that needs to be made is the obvious one- McCain is old. If he loses the general election he will not be in a position to seek the nomination again in 2012, that responsibility will fall to whomever is given the number 2 position. McCain has to think long and hard about choosing a standard bearer, someone who will shape the party for years to come.I agree with Hertzberg on the point that the list of usual suspects rings of vanilla, but I believe that a truly imaginative choice lies in the future, not in the past.

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Obama’s Gamble

Carrie Budoff Brown via Ben Smith of Politico delivers Obama’s response to the notion of him filling up the bottom half of the ticket — it’s the White House or bust. But is this a truly wise move on Obama’s part? He correctly points out that Clinton is in no position to make such an offer, but Obama is not exactly in the position to turn the offer down either.
In order to lock up the nomination before the candidates arrive on the convention floor Obama needs to win roughly 75% of the delegates still in play. It’s a daunting task, but by no means impossible and is a road take us through March into April and possibly June. By declaring that he is interested in nothing less than the presidency Obama has committed himself, as well as the voters and more importantly the party, to this schedule. His refusal to compromise will allow the Clinton camp to frame him as the one who’s denying the voters what they really want — some variation of an Obama-Clinton ticket.

It is obvious that these two have mobilized the Democrats like few candidates in history. If anyone doubts this all they need to look at is the election results from the Texas primary last week. Obama received 1,358,785 votes. The entire turnout for the GOP primary that night was only 1,320,653.  Democrats have been outvoting Republicans 2:1 this primary season so this should come as no shock. The real story, however, is that the number of Democrats who voted last Tuesday (2,818,599) in Texas is only about 14,000 people fewer than the total number of Democrats who voted for John Kerry in Texas in the 2004 general election. Turnout for the Democratic primary may have only been 22% of registered voters, but it was over a three fold increase from four years earlier. Imagine what kind of turnout a general election could bring.

From a purely mathematical point of view there is no either/or, the best thing for the party would be a ticket that brings together Obama and Clinton regardless of who gets the briefcase with the nuclear codes and who gets the warm bucket of spit. Obama’s refusal to accept anything less than the nomination not only makes such an event unlikely but it allows Clinton to step into the role of unifier, of the one person who was willing to swallow her pride. Obama, on the other hand, sounds like a stubborn child.

Looks like we’ll have to make due with only one ticket that hates each other.