The other political blogs are abuzz with speculation about the "veepstakes." Here at "Get Political," we can't get too excited about the Number Two slot -- because we're still not sure who's going to come out on top in either party. Sorry, but "presumptive" does not a nominee make. And given recent developments on both sides of the political divide, the chances of an eleventh-hour switcheroo seem to be increasing day by day.
Take John McCain. His current bout with "mole-like skin" (to quote an awkward phrase used by his press people) raises anew long-standing concerns about his overall health and fitness to serve in arguably the most stressful job on the planet.
If McCain's latest mole turns out to be a cancerous recurrence of his melanoma, he could come under pressure to withdraw as a candidate (he'd also be in something of a "kingmaker" position, a nice place to be for a courageous hero forced by illness to retreat from the front lines). If it turns out that he's had other health scares that were kept under wraps, McCain may have no other choice but to exit gracefully.
There's already talk that former Bush budget director Rob Portman would be a worthy substitute -- a narrative that no doubt pleases the current occupants of the White House and sends shivers up the spines of Obama campaign strategists. Maybe it's not enough that Barack is sounding these days like the Chamber of Commerce candidate; the Bushies could hold onto their dynastic power in the event of a Portman ascension. And the articulate and handsome Portman probably would be a worthy enough candidate to deflect the "Bush Third Term" label.
On the Dem side, the lunch-bucket Reagan Democrats still view Obama as something of a stranger in their midst. The mainstream media swooned over his recent foreign trip; while he showed that he can play on the world stage, he did little to reassure Dem voters that they're not being asked to confer a coronation upon Obama, rather than a voter mandate. His Berlin speech impressed the Euros, but I doubt many among the domestic barstool brigade were so taken. I can hear them now: "Barak Obama. Didn't he forget something? Like, THE ELECTION?"
Yes, Obama won over an effusive Sarkozy; but the man the GOP is now derisively calling "The One" also displayed a breathtaking hubris. He should have come home after Afghanistan and Iraq; instead, he had to play "Mr. President" on a couple of tour stops too many.
So it's no great surprise that the Gallup tracking poll has a sputtering, doddering McCain four points out in front of the presumptive (or should we say, presumptuous?) Democratic nominee. Should Obama fail to assuage the uneasiness among the electorate over his lack of experience and his outsized ego, the door would be open to a Hillary convention coup attempt. And it just might succeed, if superdelegates who could change the dynamic decide that they are being asked to nominate a candidate who cannot win.
So before you entertain the following veepstakes musings, note for the record that "Get Political" is keeping its eye on the shifting sands under the feet of both presumptive nominees. But, just for the sake of playing their game, here's where I stand on who should be Number Two:
GOP: DO THE "HUCK-A-BUCK"
McCain should go with the Huckster. Mike Huckabee will solidify McCain's wavering conservative base. He's something of a Libertarian on privacy and constitutional issues, thus having some appeal to independents and to lunch-bucket Dems who think Obama lacks the experience to be POTUS.
Huck brings in both the South and the West (as I've noted, he plays bass and probably knows some Bob Wills Texas Swing along with his cache of '60s garageband rock).
Don't forget his executive experience as the governor of Arkansas. And he's likable, a proven commodity as a campaigner. His "aw, shucks!" persona could even charm some disillusioned Obamanauts, something few of the other possibilities could do.
As for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his Mormonism works against him with the GOP base, and his reputation as a job-slashing businessman might no set well with the lunch-bucket crowd, many of whom fear being laid off in a bad economy.
The other GOP veep possibilities? Just not well enough known by the electorate to add much to the ticket's appeal.
DEMS: CHRIS DODD AND THE NEED FOR SAGACITY
On the Dem side: Novice Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is not able for Obama. He's not widely known; he's only been a governor for a short time; he has zero foreign policy chops. He's got the same problems as Obama in the resume department.
Kaine might help bring in Virginia, but Obama's primary victory shows that the candidate might be able to deliver the state if he chooses a running mate with a record of experience and accomplishment on the national scene (the very qualities that Obama lacks). Fellow Virginian Sen. Jim Webb would work; but he might be too head-strong to suit Obama's "it's about me" nature.
Obama will not choose a candidate with loose lips. Nor will he pick someone who would be second-guessing his every move, someone who might prompt the hiring of a food taster. Barack won't go to the Hill.
Michigan Gov. Kathleen Sibelius isn't nationally known and has no foreign policy chops. If Obama goes with a woman, he must go with Hillary; he won't, for the reasons alluded to above.
That leaves the obvious perfect choice: Chris Dodd. The silver-maned statesman is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee at a time of economic turmoil. He's a devoted adherent to civil liberties, an area in which Obama needs some shoring up with his disillusioned base. He's got foreign policy know-how, and he's got the maturity and the gravitas to serve as a trusted adviser, upon whom Obama can count for unvarnished, sage advice.
And Dodd knows the workings of Washington. It is naive to think that an Obama administration won't need someone at his side who knows how to pull the levers of power.
Of course, Dodd's Washington bona fides might be the reason why the "change" candidate might take a pass on Dodd. That would be a mistake. Obama needs a "wise man." And did I forget to mention that Dodd is a devout, reformist Catholic, at a time when the party needs to attract that key segment of the electorate.
Now, a Dodd selection might cost Connecticut his Senate seat, since the governor there is a Republican. But that would have happened had Dodd's own presidential campaign succeeded. Obama badly needs someone like Dodd; it may be the only way he can win back the passionate support of those whom he has disappointed with his issue vacillations and flip-flops.
Of course, all this assumes that Hillary's probable convention putsch won't succeed.
Bottom line: Beware presumptions, and presumptive candidates. This year, the real "change" may happen at the party conventions.
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