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Recruiting the Right Running Mate
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 6/12/08

After months of “inching” toward the nomination, Sen. Barrack Obama finally travelled the requisite number of inches to ensure that he will be his party’s nominee to oppose presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. It was indeed a campaign of inches with Sen. Hillary Clinton scoring impressive primary victories to finish a very close second, leaving the Democrats, Republicans say, a deeply divided party. A breathless media now eagerly awaits Mr. Obama’s choice of a running mate and, perhaps somewhat more patiently, Mr. McCain’s.

There is more interest, obviously in Obama’s choice because it is widely recognized that he needs help from his erstwhile opponent for the nomination who waged a tough and often bitter campaign and very nearly forced a convention fight. She showed impressive strength among women, Hispanics and white working class voters, whose support Obama will need in November. Many of her supporters felt that she is owed the second spot on the ticket and some feel that Obama cannot win without her as a running mate.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

An Obama-Clinton team would be a dream ticket in the view of many who feel it would unite their respective supporters and combine the strengths of each. But it might, in fact, prove to be a dream ticket for Republicans and a bad dream for the Dems because it would also combine their weaknesses, giving the GOP more ammunition, as former president Jimmy Carter pointed out in a rare moment of political insight. It could also create the impression that Obama was forced to accept her in order to secure her unrestrained support, making him appear weak. Then there is the matter of Bill. But with or without Bill, Hillary is an imposing force with a significant following and she could steal some of the limelight from the younger, less-experienced man who heads the ticket. Recall the Bush critics who frequently suggested that Vice-president Dick Cheney was the real power behind the throne.

If, on the other hand, she is passed over for second prize after expressing interest in it, how hard, do you suppose, would she campaign for Obama? If he losses, after all, her assertion that she would have been the stronger candidate would gain new credence and she would be positioned to be her party’s standard bearer in 2012. And if she is not chosen, it will likely anger many of her numerous and vocal female supporters who apparently feel that gender played a role in her defeat and that the much-younger, less-experienced Obama should have waited his turn, so to speak. It is indeed a quandary for Mr. Obama because Ms. Clinton will be a force to be considered, on or off the ticket.

Sen. McCain’s choice of a running mate, while important of course, is of less interest because he doesn’t have a polarizing figure like Ms. Clinton to deal with. Popular wisdom holds that the candidate should look first to those rivals for the nomination who bowed out gracefully, pledging their full support to the frontrunner. By that logic, Obama should chose John Edwards but that seems unlikely. Nor, I think, is Mr. McCain likely to choose Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani each of whom has some political negatives, at least in the minds of sizeable segments of the voters. Look for him to attempt to balance age and modest oratory skills with youth and eloquence to spice up his plain talk message. Florida’s Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jimdal come to mind.

Jimdal, in particular, has captured the attention of GOP leaders. He is young (36), eloquent and a minority. Born of Indian immigrants, he converted to Catholicism from Hinduism while in college. Like Obama, he is an Ivy League intellectual. He graduated from Brown with a double major in biology and public policy and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. He is very popular in Louisiana and draws large crowds when he speaks because of his youthfulness and oratory skills. The similarities end there, however. Jimdal is a conservative who believes that his party has lost its way and should return to its conservative principles.

Popular wisdom also holds that the VP nomination is a distant second prize and that people vote for president regardless of who else is on the ticket. I disagree. Being a heartbeat away is reason enough to consider carefully the qualifications of the vice-presidential nominee. Moreover, the VP should play a key role in the administration. Experience as vice-president, if he or she is properly utilized, provides ideal preparation for the presidency-- more so, I should think, than service as presidential spouse. And well it should since the vice-president could at any moment be forced to assume the awesome burdens of the most powerful office in the world. If George W. Bush had selected a viable successor as running mate instead of Dick Cheney who had no interest in running for president in 2008 and who would have been better suited to serve as White House Chief of Staff or special advisor to the president, the GOP might have had an even more qualified candidate today than Sen. McCain. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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