Why The Obama-Clinton Ticket Is Nuts

The sun may be setting on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. But it is only just rising on what promises to be months of obsessive speculation, cheerleading and naysaying in a media and political circles on the next question: Clinton for vice president?

Absurd, say some operatives and commentators. Don’t be so sure, say others, working hard to get the Obama-Clinton ticket aloft.

The Clinton veepstakes is an ideal subject for pontificating because so few people have any hard information to know what they are talking about. That makes it easy to bluster on both sides of the question with equal conviction.

That is exactly what Politico has done. Below are five reasons the speculation about her running for vice president is nuts. Here’s a link to five other reasons it may not be.

1. Obama is too cool. Clinton, hauling carts of baggage from three decades in public life, would undercut the most fundamental appeal of Barack Obama’s candidacy: freshness, change, transformation. At the personal level, Obama’s signature trait is a kind of sublime self-confidence. He does not like her, and he’s not going to be bullied into taking her because the press or party activists say he has no choice.

2. Clinton is too proud. Clinton rightly thinks of herself as an independent political force with an international reputation. Future possibilities for her include trying to be Senate Majority Leader, and governor of New York, along with possible 2012 or even 2016 presidential candidacies. What’s more, she does not respect Obama or his readiness to be president. Why would she diminish herself by taking a position that is, by constitutional design and practical reality, all about subordination and taking hits for the team?


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3. They would lose. In 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore — two young Southerners with moderate reputations — reinforced each other’s strengths. Clinton-Obama, by contrast, would combine two polarizing figures who reinforce each other’s vulnerabilities. Republicans would get a head-start in November by adding all the people who have for years said they would never vote for Clinton to those who since the Rev. Jeremiah Wright episode and others have more recently said they would never vote for Obama.

4. They would win. It’s looking like a Democratic year, and Obama is not thinking about the next six months but the next eight years, and what it would be like with the Clintons roaming around his presidency. Lyndon Johnson supposedly said of anyone who worked for him, “I want his pecker in my pocket.” Hillary’s independent power base means that Obama would never have hers in his pocket, for reasons that go beyond human anatomy. And, to put it mildly, he would not have Bill Clinton’s in his pocket, either.

5. Too much rainbow. In some ways, the coverage of the Democratic race and the way Obama and Clinton both quickly raced to the front of the pack have dulled people to just how much both the candidacies of a black man and white woman will challenge old prejudices among many voters. Obama, knowing the burden he carries, will be looking to reassure people who can accept some change but not too much. He’ll be looking for a white man who has served as a governor or who has unquestioned national security credentials, such as former Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni.

 

Our colleague David Paul Kuhn helped us survey a variety of political sources, many of whom believe an Obama-Clinton ticket is nuts. See a sample below. Of course, they could be wrong. Give us your own views in the comment section.

Republican pollster John McLaughlin:

An Obama-Clinton ticket “would actually be helpful [to the GOP]. Not that Republicans are in very good shape. President Bush's huge disapproval and net negative job ratings on the war and the economy give most Democratic ticets a shot to win.

However, at this time both Sens. Obama and Clinton have huge negatives themselves. So the race remains competitive. Sen. Clinton is a catalyst for Republican turnout — whether she's on the top or bottom. Sen. Obama has a glass jaw in the general election. The more exposure he gets, the more he seems to be more of the same as a run-of-the-mill politician rather than [a catalyst for] change.

It reminds me of [John F.] Kerry picking [John] Edwards. All it did was make the insiders feel good. Edwards couldn't even carry his own state of North Carolina.

The Marist poll in New York recently tested an Obama-Clinton ticket vs. [John] McCain, and it was a dead heat. Arkansas? Fugeddaboudit. Obama-Clinton?

McCain wins. Obama picks Gen. Zinni. Hillary then tries to undermine their campaign. That's even more interesting.”

Phil Musser, Republican strategist and former top aide at RGA:

“No serious Republican takes the concept of Obama-Clinton lightly. They've reshaped the game in a lot of ways (turnout, registration, money) that are favorable for Democrats in a change environment. But in doing so, they also exposed a lot of fault lines on how to beat them, and Hillary has succeeded in unmasking a lot of Obama's more liberal streaks that may make Americans gulp in the fall.

My assessment is that it’s unlikely that a fusion ticket materializes. Obama probably would like to introduce a new face — or a more seasoned one — as opposed to instantly galvanizing 45 percent of America against his candidacy with Hillary Clinton as his veep.”

Republican strategist and former McCain aide Reed Galen:

“It’s up to Democrats to decide but they’re both equally out of the mainstream on critical issues. Policy-wise, taxes, national security, small businesses, gun ownership — their combined platform would be a target-rich environment for Republicans.”

A Democratic superdelegate who has endorsed Obama:

“If change is the mantra of this campaign, and change reflects the fundamental competitive advantage that Barack Obama brings to the race, then your vice president candidate should bring that to the race. There are also statements Hillary Clinton has made on his readiness in terms of foreign policy, and those would be thrown in our face constantly. And so I think, from a messaging standpoint, there are a lot of concerns in that kind of contest.”

A veteran Democratic strategist:

“You motivate the racists and the sexists to oppose you. It’s a horrible thing. I don’t think that problem outweighs that she is a reasonable choice at the end of the day. But I wouldn’t pick her, because you are not going to get the benefit of her favorables and you are going to get the harm of her negatives.”

 
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