COLUMN: Running Mates Should Compensate For Weaknesses

This story was written by Jack Collens, The Daily Reveille
The race for the Democratic nomination is far from over. With wins in Texas and Ohio this past week, Hillary Clinton let voters know she is not quite ready to give up the fight.

Superdelegates, remaining primaries and the possibility of a brokered convention could all determine who gets the nod.

This is political drama.

But let's put all that drama aside for a moment and start asking another interesting question: Who should be the Democratic nominee for vice president?

Of course, answering this question depends on who gets the presidential nomination.

Candidates often choose running mates to fill a need on the ticket. Vice presidential candidates' strengths should compensate for their running mates' weaknesses.

But this is assuming we live in a non-political world. In reality, candidates often pick vice presidents to attract donors and voters of a certain region, race, religion, etc.

Let's start with the assumption that we want to find the best running mate - politically and in terms of complementing the presidential nominee - for both viable Democratic candidates.

To find the best possible running mate, consider all members of the Democratic Party eligible.

First is Hillary Clinton.

Clinton is an interesting case, to say the least. She touts experience and the ability to be ready to perform her duties as president "from day one."

Clinton's greatest strengths, however, are her policies on health care, her ability to attract female voters and - let's be honest - her husband.

Her glaring weakness is her initial support for the Iraq war.

Many Democrats see this as a weakness in foreign policy, but other Democrats strong in this area were initially supportive of the war. Examples include Joe Biden and Wesley Clark. Both have since become strong critics, like Hillary Clinton.

Also, Clinton must be able to energize the male vote. Many see John McCain as a fairly moderate Republican, so perhaps many moderate male Democrats will prefer to vote for McCain - or not at all. It sounds almost sexist to say this, but it's a real possibility.

Clinton's other, bigger political weakness is that she draws the best - or worst - of Republican attacks. I have no doubt the GOP would nail Obama as hard as possible, but Clinton seems to bring out the best in the Karl Rove-type Republican campaign strategists.

This could further drive a wedge between Clinton and the all-too-important independent voters she would need to win in a general election.

So who best complements Clinton's weaknesses?

Well, no one person fits perfectly, but I would be most inclined to go with Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe and 2004 presidential hopeful.

Clark brings military experience to the table, so any moderate Democrat who thinks Clinton would be soft on terrorism would have little reason to vote against a Clinton-Clark ticket.

Also, Clark initially supported the Iraq war, as did Clinton, but he quickly changed that stance when he found our intelligence on the mythical "weapons of mass destruction" to be flawed.

For the men, you can't get a whole lot more masculine than a former four-star general.

I admit he is not a perfect fit, but I don't think anyone would be for Clinton. Other possibilities would include Bill Richardson and Joe Biden.

As for Obama, his greatest weakness is his lack of experience, especially in foreign policy.

Also, while Obama has certainly made up ground in attracting the Hispanic vote, he must attract those voters to win a general election.

The perfect fit, in my mind, would be Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy.

His terms in Congress and as ambassador o the United Nations bolster his foreign policy resume.

His Hispanic background - his mother was Mexican - would give Obama credibility with that group of voters.

Another important factor to consider would be his location. As a senator from Arizona, John McCain is the favorite son of the Southwest. New Mexico is a competitive state, having given its five electoral votes to Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004.

Richardson would help keep Obama competitive in the region.

In my mind, no one better complements Obama's campaign than Richardson.

Besides, the idea of a black president and a Hispanic vice president would send all the sociologists who gripe about black-brown relations into a hissy fit.

And shouldn't that be our ultimate goal?
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