Handicapping the Veepstakes

One of the more fascinating aspects of the running mate searches every four years is the number of reporters who think they know a lot of stuff they really don’t. When will they learn? When is the last time a reporter has predicted the next running mate ahead of time? Check this out:

From The New York Times: Political Memo – Closed Mouths, but Open Tryouts to Make the Team:

For all the lengths Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have gone to in keeping their hunt for a vice president under wraps, their deliberations are in some ways being conducted in plain sight.

There was Mr. McCain appearing yet again with Mitt Romney, his former rival for the Republican nomination and a frequently mentioned possibility for the No. 2 spot, in Detroit on Friday. In Indiana last week, Mr. Obama appeared with two of the more speculated-about names on Democratic lists, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

Mr. McCain walked down the steps of his chartered airplane in Minneapolis the other day to find Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota ready to introduce him to waiting dignitaries in front of a phalanx of cameras.

On his trip to Afghanistan this weekend, Mr. Obama was accompanied by two senators whose foreign policy acumen and similar positions on the war make them intriguing long shots: Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska.

This is not, aides to both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama were quick to say, the kind of vice-presidential Off Broadway run-throughs that some past candidates ā€” think Walter F. Mondale in 1984 ā€” have forced potential running mates to endure.


So, basically, every politician a candidate appears with during the
summer suddenly takes on the veneer of "potential running mate"? How
desperate are these people for some sort of story? Just take it easy;
within a month or so, we’ll find out who the two running mates are, and
they will both be relative surprises.

I would bet against all of the above, by the way. McCain almost has
to choose a right wing running mate from the south, in order to blunt
the Bob Barr effect, which could result in turning a few red states
blue this year, so Pawlenty is out. Mitt Romney wants to be a running
mate bad, but what would be the advantage? McCain isn’t going to win
Massachusetts and he probably won’t lose Utah, and Romney didn’t
exactly win over the hearts and minds of the wingnuts.

As for Obama, Evan Bayh is a very distant possibility, since Obama
wouldn’t gain anything from it. Two candidates from adjacent midwest
states that will probably lean to the Democrats, anyway is not going to
excite too many people. Sam Nunn is too old; he would detract from a ticket that features a young-ish guy who represents change. And Chuck Hagel? Puh-leez!
Obama is NOT going to choose Hagel. For one thing, Hagel is a
Republican, and while his position on the Iraq occupation is admirable
in many ways, the fact of the matter is, this election will not hinge
on the occupation, but the economy, and he was a major cog in the
Republican wheel that deregulated financial markets, moves which led to
the current mortgage mess, as well as the high price of gas. And what
do you think are the odds of him getting through the vetting process
unscathed when the issue of his ownership stake in ES&S is

Some of the suggested possible Obama choices in the article:

If Obama chooses Hillary Clinton, it would be the first major mistake in the best-run campaign of the last 30 years or more. There is no way she would take the necessary submissive role in the campaign, and while he needs her support, to a certain extent, he doesn’t need her help. And who needs an ex-president as the spouse of a vice president interfering, anyway?

Kathleen Sabelius would be an excellent choice in many ways, but again, she’s from an adjacent state, as well as the state his mother came from. I’m not sure he would gain anything from having her on the ticket. I also wonder if choosing a woman to be on a ticket with a black man might be a little too much for the electorate to take. Not that there is much chance of Obama losing this election, but still…

Joe Biden is an even worse choice than Sam Nunn, because he represents a tiny state that Obama will probably win, anyway, and his elevation to VP would create a hole in the Senate that will not be easily filled. Besides, who needs right wingers squealing about "plagiarism" for three months?

Tim Kaine, on the other hand, would be an interesting choice. He would be safe, he might deliver a state the Democrats haven’t won for a while, and his politics aren’t as well-established as others, which means it would be difficult for the wingnuts to attack Obama.

The other possible McCain choice they mentioned, after dismissing the usual suspects, like Condi, Colin and Jeb (PLEASE choose Jeb, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!), include:

Tom Ridge would be another horrible choice, for obvious reasons. The article mentions that McCain might like to win in Pennsylvania, but the fact is, the only chance McCain has would be to distance himself from Bush, and to choose Bush’s former Secretary of Homeland Security would just absolutely kill him. Between his association with Bush, and the dubious distinction of being the first person to head the largest government bureaucracy ever created; the agency in charge when New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, would in turn be devastating to McCain’s candidacy.

Rob Portman would create the same problem. In a year in which Bush is the least popular president in history, AND the economy is the biggest issue, what chance would McCain have, if he chose Bush’s director of the Office of Management and Budget?

Sarah Palin would be an interesting choice, but as the article points out, he doesn’t gain anything by choosing someone from Alaska, and the brownie points with women would be minimal, in any case. Plus, in an election in which his opponent is making history as the first black major-party candidate, it might look like pandering. Plus, as I mentioned, McCain is having a hell of a time attracting his "base" of white, bigoted rednecks; he really has little choice but to choose a puffy white wingnut, just to keep the "base" from either bolting to Bob Barr, or taking the election off.

Charlie Crist would be a decent choice for attracting some moderate conservatives, but that’s not where McCain has a problem, necessarily. People like Charlie Crist, and Bobby Jindal are too new, and have zero wingnut credentials as yet.

Here’s a suggestion to all reporters. Speculation can be fun, but the ones you see publicly are usually the choices the candidates are NOT considering. They’ll parade some in front of you to throw you off, while keeping the top three or four under complete wraps until the time comes to announce their names. They will both be something of a surprise, mainly because the best running mate is never someone the press or voters would consider to be the best.


Handicapping the Veepstakes — 4 Comments

  1. Interesting. I agree that speculation is mostly noise. Also, the VP choice probably doesn’t matter much for the election. The best VP and worst VP choices came in 1988. Dukakis chose Bentson (best) and Bush chose Quayle (worst). But look how the election turned out. For some reason, I’m not ready to rule out McCain – Rice. I wouldn’t mind seeing Obama – Clark or Obama – Richardson. But yeah, it’s just guessing with no real information.

  2. Dude, you are totally high. You may think you can put a persuasive argument together because you type in sentences, but, um, you don’t.

  3. Romney for VP?? Do you remember the attack ads from the primarys that Romney put out against McCain?? Do you remember the video of Romney saying McCain is dishonest? It would be a gift to the DNC to make Romney McCains VP. You can go to
    to see all the attack ads that Romney put out against McCain, You can also see the video of Romney calling McCain dishonest. Romney would be a big mistake. I would rather have t boon pickin then romney. lol. Least he has a plan.
    I suggest you go look at the attack ads Romney put out against mccain at the above site. Before you make up your mind about Romney being a great VP.