Saturday, June 07, 2008

The VP Guessing Game

Now that the presidential nomination process is all over but the dropping of the balloons, all arm-chair prognosticators are turning their attention to the "veepstakes." Who will Obama and McCain pick as running mates?

Before we begin, I want to make one thing clear: I don't believe that this is "the most important choice" either of them will ever make. The VP nomination may make the difference for a handful of voters, but you have to go back to 1960, and LBJ helping JFK carry Texas, to find an election where the choice of VP put a candidate over the top. And even Dan Quayle couldn't sink Bush I's presidential bid. But let's play veepstakes anyway...

Of the rumored leading contenders for the Democratic ticket, I'll venture a guess that Jim Webb, the junior Senator from Virginia, is a strong possibility, and would make a good VP choice. He has what Obama is accused of lacking, military experience. He's a Vietnam vet and former Assistant Secretary of Defense. And, of course, he'd help in Virginia, where Obama will almost certainly lose otherwise. He'd be a reassuring presence on the ticket for those Democratic voters who are concerned about "too much change."

Okay, it wouldn't right to address this topic without saying something about Hillary. I don't think she'd be a good VP choice, but she wouldn't sink the ticket. The amount of extra votes she'd bring to the ticket are probably balanced by the number of votes she'd scare away from the ticket. And, as VP, her husband presents some problems. The Second Spouse should not be the most visible person in any administration. But you've heard all this before...

So, on to the Republican ticket. Here's where I break from the crowd. My suggestion for McCain is one that I'm surprised to not find anybody else suggesting: Christine Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New Jersey who went on to be Bush II's head of the EPA. She quit that job "to spend more time with her family" (translation: she thought the administration, and VP Cheney in particular, were pushing too hard to reduce regulations on air pollution emissions). While she's remained active in Republican politics, she's also been vocal about criticizing the current administration's divisive political tactics.

As a more moderate Republican (and woman, obviously), she could help pull in some of the Hillary supporters who are unsure of Obama, and show that McCain hasn't become a total tool of the right. Also, New Jersey is a state that often threatens to go Republican, but usually ends up Democratic; Whitman could make the difference there.

Okay, you heard it hear first. If Whitman gets the VP nod, I want credit for suggesting it. On Jim Webb, I'm just one of the pack, I know.

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