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Column: Obama Should Choose A Woman For VP

This story was written by Kris DeRego, Ka Leo O Hawaii

Women have played a pivotal role in deciding this year's presidential primaries. Partly attributable to the emergence of Hillary Clinton as the most viable female candidate for the Oval Office in United States history, women, who make up nearly 60 percent of primary voters and caucus goers in some states, have turned out in record numbers to ensure that their gender's concerns are taken seriously by anyone aspiring to become the next commander in chief.

While it would be erroneous to assert that women's political allegiances are driven solely by gender, it would be equally unwise to maintain that women, the majority of whom vote for liberal candidates, would not be galvanized by the appearance of a female nominee in November.

According to a memo released at the beginning of the primary process by Mark Penn, Clinton's former chief political strategist, the campaign's internal polling showed that 94 percent of women under the age of 35 said they would be more willing to vote in November if the first female nominee is on the ballot.

For Barack Obama, that can't be good news. After having his nomination all but sealed by the 30-member Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee, which awarded half a vote to each member of Florida's and Michigan's Democratic National Convention delegations, Obama must now consider the impact upon disaffected voters of the rupture created by the ruling, particularly with regard to the more than 55 percent of general election participants who will likely hail from the fairer sex.

In order to mitigate impending political disaster and foster the unity of which he so eloquently speaks, Obama should choose a female running mate. Though it may not fully assuage the most devoted of Clinton's disciples, the appearance of a female vice-presidential nominee underneath Obama's name on the Democratic ticket would go a long way toward closing the intraparty gender gap that's surfaced during recent elections.

Ideally, Obama's running mate would be Clinton herself. During the most vitriolic exchanges between the candidates, especially those occurring during the Texas primary (including Clinton's infamous "3 a.m." campaign spot), any hope for reconciliation seemed quixotic.

Recently, though, Clinton's stance has begun to soften. Many political pundits believe that her statements about doing "whatever is asked" for the good the party are an indication that she would accept an offer to become Obama's campaign companion, if asked.

Even if Obama and Clinton fail to make amends, however, the possibility of placing a woman on the ballot remains. Like any vice presidential candidate, the qualities that comprise a practicable female running mate are strong leadership credentials, success at bridging factional divides and a commitment to core liberal principles. Clearly, the number of women that embody these qualities is expansive. But one woman stands out amongst her peers: Nancy Pelosi.

As the first woman to wield the gavel as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Pelosi has criticized the deployment of additional forces to Iraq, worked to increase health care funding and spearheaded congressional efforts to mitigate the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis. Furthermore, Rep. George Miller's (D-Calif.) endorsement of Obama in January was largely viewed as a de facto endorsement from Pelosi, since the two representatives are politically inseparable.

"This is perhaps as close to a Nancy Pelosi endorsement as you can come without actually getting it," said NBC Political Director Chuck Todd. "Miller is incredibly close (to Pelosi) politically. He wouldn't be doing this without her consent."

Without question, a vice-presidential bid would levate Pelosi's national stature, thereby impaling Clinton's future presidential prospects. But the same could be said for any of Obama's potential running mates, provided he wins a stay in the White House.

If Obama wishes to avoid exacerbating the tension that has developed between Clinton's camp and his own, he could offer Clinton a high-profile cabinet post, such as Secretary of State, while selecting a less distinguished congresswoman for the bottom half of the ticket (like Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose work on ethics and campaign finance reform is unimpeachable). Unfortunately, this proposal may be a tough sell to the Clinton machine, whose sense of loyalty is second only to that of the Godfather.

No matter whom Obama chooses as his electoral counterpart, his general election strategy must target the women's vote, without which the Democrats will be doomed to failure. And it would be foolhardy to take the female demographic for granted, despite decades of unfailing support. After all, George Bush garnered 48 percent of the women's vote in 2004, up 5 percent from his total in 2000.

If Obama is really about unity, and the Democratic Party is truly about equality, isn't it time that they worked to shatter the glass ceiling, once and for all?

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