Obama Needs Biden; Will Pick Bayh

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[Elections 2008]


Obama has a limited range of pain or gain in his choice of a vice president. With his highly personal and charismatic candidacy, there is little he stands to gain or lose in choosing a vice president.

Unless he chooses Hillary, which would be a total disaster. It would suddenly make him accountable for all of her and Bill’s scandals past, present and future and would bring an uncontrollable element into the equation: Bill.

But since current indications are that Obama has not taken leave of his senses, he will likely not turn to Hillary.

The top three choices seem to be Kaine of Virginia, Bayh of Indiana, or Biden of Delaware. My vote would go to Biden. He is a seasoned politician with tremendous national security credentials. He would bring a touch of reassurance to the ticket in the same way that Cheney did to the novitiate George W. Bush in 2000. He is a fierce speaker, a formidable debater, and could lead the attack on McCain.

Kaine would simply add another inexperienced ingénue to the ticket. Obama’s got inexperience covered already. Why would he need Kaine? His selection could put Virginia in play, but it would probably still go Republican.

I think Obama will choose Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and now, succeeding his father Birch Bayh, the Senator from the Hoosier state. He seems like a safe choice, but he is a cream puff. I worked hard to get him the keynote speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention but he wouldn’t use the occasion, as every other keynote speaker has, to attack the Republicans in general or Dole in particular. Instead he gave a forgettable and self-serving series of bromides that did him and Clinton very little good.

He can’t be counted on to bring the fight to the other side. He dislikes “getting down in the gutter” and that’s a phobia a vice presidential candidate can’t afford to nurture.

Obama could choose Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius or some other woman. He certainly needs to attract woman voters, especially those over 40. But if he names a woman – other than Hillary – he will have hell to pay with the Clintons. They will see him as deliberately slapping Hillary in the face and will note that he is promoting a rival to the New York Senator. It would be a declaration of war that Obama would hesitate to make.

If Obama’s VP choice doesn’t matter that much, McCain’s could be enormously important.

He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.

Its tempting to name a woman and collect all those alienated over 40 women who are not backing Obama. Remember the enthusiasm Geraldine Ferraro generated when Mondale nominated her in 1984? Women who had backed Hillary, will turnout in droves to elect a woman vice president. Even a pro-life one at that. It’s hard to imagine any other VP choice that would produce so many votes.

But…is Kay Bailey up to the job? Would she come across as an old lady to go with an old man? Can she handle the battering of a VP run without making any faux pas? Is she intellectually impressive enough to nominate? I have my doubts.

So I think McCain should choose Joe Lieberman. The first cross-party ticket since Abraham Lincoln named Andrew Johnson in 1864 would send an unmistakable signal of change. It would flag McCain’s determination to transcend the partisan gridlock in Washington and his independence of party orthodoxy. Selecting Lieberman would elevate the national security issue and reassure environmentalists on climate change issues. It would help attract Jewish voters in Florida and Ohio. And Lieberman has proven he can handle the stress of a national campaign. Joe is the way to go.

But McCain will probably choose Mitt Romney who will do him no good at all. Voters are allergic to Romney, perhaps because of his religion. Despite massive spending, topping his rivals by 3:1 in the primaries (largely out of his own pocket) Romney lost Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. The only states he carried were Michigan where his Dad had been governor, Massachusetts where he was, and a bunch of LDS (Mormon) states in the far west. He also carried some Super Tuesday states when his rivals didn’t have the money or time left over after California to fight him.

It is a myth that Romney would stand for economic recovery. He helped the Olympics recover. Big deal.

And Democrats, unlike his primary opponents, will have a field day with the layoffs in the companies Romney “turned around” as a hedge fund guy. They will use class warfare to discredit Romney in a way you couldn’t do in a Republican Primary.

He needs to jump start his candidacy and inject a “wow” factor. Either choosing a woman (likely Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison – Condi’s not interested) or Joe Lieberman would do nicely.

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