Saturday, June 7, 2008

VP, VP, VP. Who Will They Choose?

Ah, the question of the hour. Well, I suppose Hillary Clinton's speech today may hold the more pressing questions of the day (Will she talk about the popular vote totals? To what degree will she endorse Obama? etc.), but the VP talk has certainly ramped up since Obama's clinching victories on Tuesday night (I say victories because he won the Montana primary and the superdelegate primary that day.). Anyway, in open season in the running mate selection game, there are no shortages on guesses, lists or any other speculation over who it will be. Paul Gurian sent around a link to CQ's VP Madness yesterday on one of his emailing lists and that includes a robust pool of 32 possibilities ( a bracket layout, no less. It looks like Hillary Clinton is the number one seed, at least in her placement at the top of the bracket. That may not match will the actually likelihood of her being chosen. Though, just like in March Madness, top seeds are always ripe for an upset at some point--excluding 2008 of course.).

Chris Cillizza over at The Fix also had a Friday Line up yesterday devoted to the VP selection. Here are those rankings (as they appear in reverse order):
5. Hillary Clinton
4. John Edwards
3. Kathleen Sebelius
2. Jim Webb
1. Ted Strickland

5. Joe Lieberman
4. Charlie Crist
3. John Thune
2. Mitt Romney
1. Tim Pawlenty

Well, I'll indirectly weigh in, but I'd like to turn the tables a bit. Only Obama, McCain and their inner circles really know who they are targeting, so anyone else is simply guessing. Some of those guesses are more educated than others, but they are still just guesses. Correctly divining who the running mate picks might be is slightly more difficult, so I'll take the far easier route and have a glance at who McCain and Obama won't pick. I'm setting this up similar to the NBA player trade value list that ESPN writer, Bill Simmons, puts together every year (I know, two basketball references in one post. It's a terrible habit that I'm trying unsuccessfully to cut back on.). In this situation we'll move from the least likely VP choice to the most likely. In other words, this will progress from certainty to abject guess work. I'll look at the highlights of the top 500 on both sides.

Let's start with the Illinois senator:
500. Barack Obama: The arrogance of Obama has been a topic of discussion among Clinton supporters and even reared its ugly head the other day in Chicago when Obama speculated that when Chicago holds the 2016 Olympics, he'll be finishing up his second term. Is he arrogant enough to flaunt the Constitution and name himself his own running mate (Actually, is there anything in the Constitution that prevents this? I don't know. It seems like the order of succession would just pick up with the Speaker of House if the same person was both president and vice president.)? FHQ thinks not.
493. Jeremiah Wright: Who else thought we had seen the last of the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ? Well, here's guessing that we have, at least in the context of the vice presidential selection. The big question: If Wright is #493, who the heck are the VPs from #494-#499? I'll leave that up to you.
450. Osama bin Laden: If you're a fan of rhyming tickets, I'd wager you'll be disappointed that Obama-Osama won't happen. Then again, Osama would face the same predicament John McCain has: he wasn't born in the US.
401. James Dobson: The Fix mentioned Ted Strickland helping Obama and the Democrats close the "God gap," but why not go for broke by tapping Dobson. Something tells me this won't be the good reverend's calling.
362. Chelsea Clinton: The first of the former First Family to appear. She's just not old enough. It's that simple. But hey, making it this far will certainly help jump start her own political career.
...if she's so inclined.
327. Mark Penn: Maybe he'll be closer to the Columbian government than the US government should Obama (or McCain for that matter) become president.
295. Fidel Castro: I suppose that if you need preconditions to sit down with them, then you'll need a bit more to actually make one of them your running mate.

294. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: See above.
215. Joe Lieberman: Nah, probably not.
187. Oprah: Hey, there's one way to win back some of those female voters.
133. Dean's scream: No, not Howard Dean himself. The scream brings all the passion necessary for the long haul, without actually being Howard Dean. But that's so Two Americas 2004.
100. Bill Clinton: C'mon, you knew he'd be on the list. You can't have a VP list and not include the Constitution-steeped, former-president-as-VP scenario.
74. Chuck Schumer: Democrat? Check. New York senator? Check. Hillary Clinton? Well, no he's not. But he's a Democratic senator from New York.
48. Dick Durbin: Democrat? Check. Illinois senator? Check. Barack Obama? Well, I don't suppose so. But two outta three ain't bad. And at least Illinois as a Democratic governor. They'd be able to replace those Democratic seats.
33. Jennifer Granholm: Oh wait, she was born in Canada.

32. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin: The South Dakota representative is an up and comer within the Democratic Party. This may not be her year, but like Bobby Jindal on the GOP side, it may not be a bad idea to put her name out there as a possibility just to grant her a bit of recognition.
21. Elliot Spitzer: Oops, that almost made it through.
15. Chris Dodd: Well, Connecticut has been trending toward the red lately (in the last couple of polls out of the state), and the other senator from the Constitution state certainly won't be backing Obama (see #215). Of course, if the Democrats seriously desire that fillibuster-proof Senate, they would probably not want to select for a VP nominee a senator from a state with a Republican governor.
12. Sam Nunn: Secretary of Defense? Maybe. Vice president? Probably not.
10. Hillary Clinton: I'm just not going to touch this one. Do 18 million votes make her a shoo in? Is Obama less an executive decision-maker if he is forced to choose her? There are too many questions to answer in regards to the Dream Ticket, but the New York senator is too much of a presence in this race not to include. But she's this low because I just don't see an Obamary or Hillama ticket.

9. Tim Kaine: Virginia is important and Kaine was an early Obama backer, but the lack of foreign policy credentials will hurt him in this chase.

8. Ed Rendell: Another important state (Pennsylvania). Another Democratic governor. The polls seem to be trending Democratic in the Keystone state to the point that Rendell may not be as vital as a governor from a neighboring state.

7. Bill Richardson: It is interesting to me that the Richardson as VP chatter has quieted down since the New Mexico governor endorsed Obama. Richardson may well be a part of an Obama administration, but as Secretary of State, not vice president.

6. John Edwards: I suspect that the Edwards as VP talk will die down similar to the way it has done for Richardson. Also like Richardson, Edwards may be a part of an Obama administration but as Attorney General and not Vice President.

5. Wes Clark: Obama would cover some foreign policy and Clinton supporter issues by tapping Clark as his running mate. Clark isn't mentioned as often as other possibilities, but he seems a logical choice and in a tight election, may help pull Arkansas' six electoral votes back into play.

4. Jim Webb: Wes Clark without the Clinton connection. He is an elected official from Virginia though, and has the foreign policy experience that Kaine lacks. The article on female servicepersons may not sit well with a majority of those Clinton supporters though.

3. Joe Biden: He may be too big for the office, but I can't imagine why Biden's name isn't mentioned any more than it has in the VP talk. He' experienced, has the foreign policy chops and has assumed the McCain in 2000 straight talker mantle.

2. Ted Strickland
: Ohio governor. Former representative of a relatively conservative Buckeye state district. Methodist minister. Clinton supporter. Sounds good. The question? How well does/would he get along with Obama?

1. Kathleen Sebelius: I think Obama will go the Clinton '92 route and choose someone similar to himself but who is stronger in other areas. She won't necessarily help with the foreign policy question, but I think he is comfortable with her and she has the potential to help bring in those female Clinton voters. The Fix mentioned that that may be seen as an indignity to those voters, but they haven't been introduced to Sebelius yet. I think the Kansas governor gets the nod.

And what about McCain?
500. Barack Obama: Why not end this thing now and form a unity ticket? Eh, probably not.
490. John Hagee: The Jeremiah Wright of the Right? That has a nice ring to it, but won't prove any more likely as Wright as Obama's running mate.
402. Chuck Hagel: There ain't room enough in this town for two Vietnam veterans with differing views on the Iraq war. It could be a coup in a tight election where the districted distribution of electoral votes in Hagel's home of Nebraska could help shore up a couple of those districts that are tight now.
385. Fred Thompson: I joked early on that this could be the "old white guys" ticket. Not really the face you want to present to the nation in the fall though. But there were all those questions about Thompson's desire to be in the Republican race in the first place. Would not he be perfect then in a job that doesn't require too much and "isn't worth a bucket of warm spit?"
342. Hillary Clinton: Well, if you're trying to lure her supporters over to your side, why not go straight to the source. And it would be a civilized ticket according to Bill Clinton.
291. John Cornyn: "F--- you. I know more about this than anyone else in the room." Temper, temper. Something tells me statements like these to Senate colleagues (Cornyn in this case.) may stand in the way of ticket of two Republican senators.

290. Thad Cochran: Or do statements like those and McCain's temper send "chills down [your] spine" Senator Cochran?

289. Chuck Grassley: How about you, Senator Grassley? "'I'm calling you a f------ jerk!' he once retorted" to the Iowa senator. None of these three guys may be the bridge to the legislative branch that a President McCain would want.
213. Jack Abramoff: Here's a unity ticket we may not see. Campaign finance reform vs. the king of the campaign finance loophole/violation.
184. Adam Putnam: The Florida representative has a good last name and is a red head like someone FHQ knows. How bad could he be?
129. Mark Foley: Geez, and you thought Jack Abramoff was too 2006. I'm willing to bet Foley would want to skip this vetting process.
100. Dick Cheney: He never said he wouldn't run for vice president again. Plus, what will the left do without him?
75. Bob Barr: Forget wooing those Hillary voters. Why not go after the Ron Paul, libertarians by wooing Bob Barr back into the Republican fold? McCain didn't move quickly enough on this one. Barr's already installed as the Libertarian Party nominee.
50. Jeb Bush: If ever there was a time and a means of testing the Bush fatigue theory, this marriage would be the way.
25. Sonny Perdue: The Georgia governor is the first Republican governor (not to mention two terms) of the Peach state since Reconstruction. And while he has had his moments and remains relatively popular, he just isn't a "wow you" sort of pick.
17. Rick Santorum: He hails from Pennsylvania and sure, he just lost out to Bob Casey in his 2006 reelection bid, but it was just earlier this year that Grover Norquist was singing the former senator's praises as a future player in the GOP.
13. Kay Bailey Hutchinson: You have to have a Texan on the ticket if you're a Republican (unless you're Bob Dole--See, he lost.), and John Cornyn isn't going to be McCain's pick. Hutchinson may be effective at pulling in some of those disaffected Clinton voters too.
10. Mike Huckabee: The readers at CQ handing him VP Madness honors on the GOP side may be the only thing that Huckabee wins before 2012 or so. The former Arkansas governor acquitted himself well during primary season, but just doesn't seem like a good VP to pair with McCain on a ticket.

9. Bobby Jindal: I mentioned Jindal in my thoughts on South Dakota Rep. Herseth-Sandlin. They are both on the rise within their parties. Jindal was tasked with introducing McCain for his speech on the night Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and got an invitation to McCain's Sedona ranch for a meeting with other prospective vice presidential nominees. It's just too early for Jindal, but this is certainly a "working out the farm team" move.

8. Robert Portman: The only Ohio Republican, it seems who isn't in trouble electorally or with the law or named Ken Blackwell. Ohio will be valuable. Florida seems to be leaning toward the Republicans while Pennsylvania is trending Democratic at the moment. That leaves Ohio as the sole member of the triumvirate of big swing states still swinging. And a native son wouldn't hurt the Republicans. Portman would bolster McCain's economic credentials because of his stint as director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush.

7. Mark Sanford: It is difficult to make a case for someone from a state that is highly likely to go Republican at the presidential level in November. It would take an astronomically high turnout from African Americans to even keep the race close for Obama in the Palmetto state. The utility of selecting South Carolina's governor then seems fairly low. Then again picking a VP simply to make a state competitive or swing it in another direction hasn't worked out that well lately. Edwards didn't do much for Kerry in North or South Carolina. Kemp didn't help Dole in New York. Choosing someone from a safe state might be the way to go then. Sanford fits that bill.

6. Rick Perry: The governor of Texas hasn't been mentioned in the VP chatter I've heard, but hey, Republicans like their Texans (see #13 Kay Bailey Hutchinson). It could be that Perry's endorsement of Giuliani is hampering his chances. But McCain wouldn't hold a grudge, would he Senators Cochran, Cornyn and Grassley?

5. Joe Lieberman: Lieberman is certainly exerting his independence by backing McCain. If he were serving in the Dick Cheney "vetting the VPs" role, I'd call him a sure thing. The one question I haven't heard answered is how his constituents back home in Connecticut are responding to this foray into GOP politics. Well, polls there have taken a turn toward the red lately, so their may be something to this Lieberman as VP talk. Eh, but it's just seven electoral votes. 7 electoral votes is 7 electoral votes when it's close.

4. Charlie Crist: His endorsement of McCain helped in the Florida primary that partly launched McCain to the nomination. Loyalty means something and McCain can't choose the Governator, so he can opt for the next best early endorsement.

3. Tim Pawlenty: The two term Minnesota governor has gotten a lot of mentions in the VP talk, but I'm not convinced that he swings the tide there for McCain. Obama has a solid lead there (almost ten points in my calculations) and it would be tough to change that. Everyone is saying Pawlenty, but when everyone is telling McCain to do something, he strikes me as the type that is apt to go in a different direction. But like the Jindal scenario, this builds the farm team for the future.

2. John Thune: The South Dakota senator took out Tom Daschle when he was majority leader during Bush's first term. Need we say more. Conservatives like the guy. On top of that, he's young, but not too young. And people know him more than the guy who beat sitting Speaker of the House, Tom Foley, in 1994 (It was George Nethercutt.).

1. Mitt Romney: The man who had more paths to the GOP nomination than anyone has a good shot at the Republican VP slot. There was tension between the two men (something I've used against other possibilities), but Romney's willingness to raise funds (and we mean raise funds) and campaign for McCain is a big asset. Plus he has already gotten some scrutiny during his own bid for the nomination. Dare I give Romney the most paths to the VP nod as well. Sounds like a kiss of death to me. Sorry Mitt.

McCain-Romney vs. Obama-Sebelius? Agree or disagree, the comments section awaits. There are no right answers, just a lot of wrong ones (see the above). No one will know until the candidates reveal the best kept secrets in politics in the next month or so. Also, feel free to plug in any holes in the above lists.

Recent Posts:Now It Was the Calendar that Brought Clinton Down?

Change is Gonna Come: How Did Obama's/Clinton's Fortunes Fare During Primary Season?

The Electoral College Maps (6/3/08)


Robert said...

Very interesting analysis. I still think Obama will choose a white male. Ted Strickland appears to be the best bet at this point. You completely overlooked my choice for McCain, the governor of Connecticut -- Jodi Rell. See her standard bio at

It will be interesting to see if Obama or McCain strikes first. I suspect that McCain will wait until Obama has announced his pick. If Obama goes with Sibelius, McCain will not go with Rell.

Anonymous said...

That's a good addition Rob. I hadn't really considered her.

Here's the link to her bio.

You've also brought up an interesting question concerning the timing of these announcements. Both campaigns are well-versed in the rules of the waiting game at this point. McCain has been waiting on an opponent. Obama has been waiting on Clinton to withdraw. I think we may have an interesting game of brinksmanship on our hands here.

The last such incident of both parties choosing VPs in the same year was 2000. Bush blinked first. He chose Cheney on July 25 and Gore tapped Lieberman on August 7. We'll see who goes first this time.

Robert said...

Also, I don't think McCain will go with Romney. If he does, there will be a Mormon-leader, You-tube montage to rival Jeremiah Wright that will knock McCain off message. The ongoing situation in Texas will also be tied to Romney. Obama will denounce the video which will force McCain to denounce the Wright video. McCain just doesn't want to go there. I think a Huckabee nomination will face a similar problem. I wonder if Strickland has any preaching tapes that can be manipulated. Ministers are not used to watching every word like politicians are.

Anonymous said...

You've mentioned this about Romney before and I don't disagree. We'll have to see. It certainly hasn't been the greatest of years for outspoken ministers with connections to political candidates.