19 August 2008

The Veepstakes, Part VI: The Changemaker's 11th-hour top 10

It's been widely speculated that Sen. Obama will name his #2 by the weekend (additionally, as an aside, Politico reported today that Sen. McCain will celebrate his 72nd birthday on August 29th by announcing his running mate at a 10,000-person gathering in Ohio -- the morning after Obama's convention speech). A final ranking of the frontrunners:

1. Evan Bayh: The Indiana senator is probably Obama's best choice -- a mid-50s senator from a red state with executive experience (Bayh was the Hoosier State's governor before running for Senate) and a deep resume. However, he still does not address Obama's foreign-policy weakness and is extraordinarily boring.

2. Tim Kaine: The Virginia governor is wildly popular in his home state, reinforces the "change" message and may well tip the Commonwealth to the blue column, but the choice of Kaine would double down on Obama's inexperience -- Kaine is into just his third year as governor, which followed a single term as lieutenant governor and one term as a mayor.

3. Joe Biden: He was number one until just hours ago, when reports surfaced that he told press members staked outside his house, "I'm not the guy." The Delaware senator makes a ton of sense as, effectively, the Dems' version of McCain -- the party's most respected foreign-policy voice and a veteran legislator prone to irreverent and sometimes inappropriate comments. Biden shores up Obama's biggest weakness, but voted to authorize the Iraq War, can be rather off-putting (probably why I happen to like him) and fits the bill of a Washington "insider."

4. Jack Reed: He hasn't garnered much buzz recently, but Reed is effectively a clone of Jim Webb, who clearly would have been Obama's best choice: A former military man who is much closer to the political center than the Changemaker himself. Bill Kristol went so far recently as to pick Reed as Obama's running mate. It certainly wouldn't be a bad choice, as Reed so clearly shores up several of The Pope of Hope's most glaring weaknesses.

5. Hillary Clinton: By all accounts, an Obama/Clinton ticket won't happen. And it's clear that HRC wouldn't deliver a state (like Kaine or Bayh could) or bring foreign-policy expertise to the ticket (as Biden would). But the party would be unified and the Changemaker could mollify the substantial female contingent that believes one of their own was treated unfairly during the primary.

6. Kathleen Sebelius: The Kansas governor is apparently on the short list, but is virtually unknown outside of her home state and can't possibly be expected to provide much regional help. And really -- how off-putting would it be to HRC backers to see a woman other than their candidate get the VP nod?

7. Sam Nunn: On one hand, Nunn is Biden without the crass remarks. On the other, he doesn't at all fit with Obama's "change" message, he's been out of politics for more than a decade and likely wouldn't deliver his home state of Georgia.

8. Bill Richardson: The highly popular New Mexico governor would almost assuredly deliver his tiny state to Obama's column -- not to be dismissed in what will undoubtedly be a close election -- and would give His Hopeness enormous cred within the Hispanic community. A devout HRC backer, Richardson made a late switch to Team Hope, to the disdain of the Clintons. It's not clear that the choice of Richardson -- who James Carville likened to Judas -- would provide much party unity. And it has to be asked: In places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, would it really be beneficial to have two minority candidates on the same ticket?

9. John Kerry: I'm still holding out hope, but the windsurfing legend recently denied his interest in the post. Still, Kerry (for some reason) represents a "safe" pick -- apparently, his foreign-policy resume is substantial enough to offset his egregious liberalism and checkered past of flip-flopping on virtually every issue of import.

10. Al Gore: Apparently considered an elder statesman type on the left, the climate-change globetrotter is still considered a darkhorse candidate. The Howard Dean wing of the party would shriek with joy, but Gore clearly gives Obama no regional advantage (he couldn't even deliver his home state of Tennessee in 2000 against Bush) and has jumped so far into the deep end that his former moderate political credibility has been shot.

Finally, hopefully still in the mix is the junior senator from my home state of Missouri, the Hon. Claire McCaskill. The first-termer has been in Obama's corner since day one, much to the chagrin of many HRC supporters, who see her as a traitor. Believe it or not, I actually have seen her name on a few short lists here and there. An Obama/McCaskill ticket -- I can't believe I just wrote that -- would without a doubt deliver a McCain presidency and be one of the most laughably inexperienced pairings in history. Still, if the Changemaker is at all like the Senior Senator in valuing loyalty (for some reason, I highly doubt it), he will give consideration to one of his staunchest attack dogs.

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