Starting Gate: Dream On

(AP / CBS)
Could we get a Clinton-Obama/Obama-Clinton dream ticket for November? Nice idea, most pundits and pros say, but it won't happen for a variety of reasons. Those include the belief that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be interested in the number two slot and that Barack Obama would never put himself in a position where he may be third fiddle once Bill Clinton is thrown into the mix. Besides, having a woman or an African American on the ticket is pushing the envelope enough, having both might be taking too big a chance.

When Hillary Clinton told CBS' Harry Smith yesterday morning that such a pairing may be "where this is headed," it was the first time either candidate openly acknowledged the possibility. Such talk is generally seen as an admission of weakness in a presidential race. Even Mike Huckabee resisted the "veep" question in the final weeks of his campaign when it was obvious he could not prevail.

After a long and tense night Tuesday, Clinton may have been a little tired when she acknowledged something many have been talking about nearly since the beginning of the campaign. More likely, she was sending a signal to those super delegates who remain uncommitted, letting them know she would be open to such an arrangement. Neither is likely to win the nomination without the support of a sizable chunk of these free agent delegates and the fight over their support is every bit as important as any state contest.

Whether raising the issue was tactical or not, the prevailing wisdom is that is simply won't happen at the end of the day. But that might come as something of a shock for the millions of Democratic primary voters who came out in record numbers this year to support one of these two candidates.

Imagine the scene, perhaps several months from now, when either Clinton or Obama unveil their running mate – Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio (for example). Imagine the collective reaction among those party regulars who have spent hours manning polling locations, volunteering their time and donating record-smashing amounts of money. The giant sucking sound you hear might sound something like this: "Huh!? Who!?"

The longer this campaign goes on, the more connected supporters will become to their candidate and the more invested they become in their choice. What began as a contest to pick one candidate out of a field of likeable choices will turn into the more recognizable division between "my" candidate and "your" candidate. The love fest is in danger of turning bitter.

This primary campaign has generated more excitement and interest than any presidential contest in 40 years. Would it really end with a thud or perceived dud? Political insiders can come up with a litany of reasons why the so-called dream ticket will never happen. But you have to wonder what the voters who the eventual nominee will depend upon to win in November will think if either candidate is left on the sidelines for the main event.

Passing The Buck? It seems like pretty much everyone agrees that something has to be done with the delegates from Michigan and Florida who are currently stuck in limbo. But who's going to do it?

Governors Charlie Crist of Florida and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan yesterday issued a joint statement calling on both national parties to resolve the issue, which they created by stripping delegates from the states as punishment for holding early primaries. "Today, we each will call upon our respective state and national party chairs to resolve this matter and to ensure that the voters of Michigan and Florida are full participants in the formal selection of their parties' nominees," the statement read.

Of course it's only a major issue for Democrats and DNC chair Howard Dean said it's up to the state parties themselves to decide how they would like to resolve it. Dean insists there are two options, according to part rules: Either submit a plan to re-run the contests that have already been held once or wait until the convention and petition the credentials committee to be seated. "We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time," said Dean in a statement.

Florida's Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman responded with a statement of her own, contending that a re-run is doubtful. "At this time, no suggested alternative process has been able to meet three specific and important requirements: the full participation from both candidates, a guaranteed commitment of the millions of dollars it will cost to conduct the event and a detailed election plan that would enfranchise all Florida Democrats, including our military service members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Florida Democratic Party cannot consider any alternative that does not meet these requirements. Indeed, it is very possible that no satisfactory alternative plan will emerge, in which case Florida Democrats will remain committed to seating the delegates allocated by the January 29th primary."

Michigan Democrats are reportedly considering holding caucuses. Unlike Florida where all the candidates were on the January 29th primary ballot, Hillary Clinton was the only major candidate to appear on Michigan's ballots.

Obama Comes Out Swinging: "What exactly is this foreign experience that she's claiming?" asked Obama on his plane trip back to Chicago yesterday. The candidate spoke to reporters after losing three out of four contests Tuesday despite having outspent Clinton heavily. And most of his talk was directed against Clinton's "experience" argument. "One of the things that I hope people start asking is what exactly is this foreign experience that she's claiming? I know she talks about visiting 80 countries," Obama said. "It's not clear, was she negotiating treaties or agreements or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is the answer is no." The Obama campaign also called on Clinton to release her tax returns and hinted that they hoped their urging the press to further vet Clinton would work as well as it did when she tried the tactitc.

Around The Track:

  • It may be a couple of days yet before we know the results of the second step of the Texas nominating system. Party officials are still compiling results but the latest count, with 36 percent of the precincts in, has Obama with a 52 percent to 48 percent lead over Clinton.
  • Karl Rove gives his take on the state of the race and explains why a protracted Democratic fight is not all good news for John McCain.
  • "It's a once-in-a-generation type of opportunity for Wyoming to have a say in this presidential race," says Wyoming Democratic Party spokesman Bill Luckett about this weekend's caucuses. According to the AP, the state has 59,000 registered Democrats.
  • The New York Post's Charles Hurt says Al Gore is "the only person with the experience to answer the red phone and force a peaceful end to this civil war" within the Democratic Party.