Sunday, May 18, 2008

Building the Best Winning Ticket

Photo: Is Obama-Webb Possible?

Who’s the
VP Choice?

[Register your choice in our poll, right column]

By Tom Hayden

Progressives should weigh in now on the vice-presidential choices facing Barack Obama. If all progressives are united for or against a particular candidate, we can be a factor in the mix ahead.
The choice needs to be someone who [a] wins a state or two that Obama might not win on his own, [b] wins over the Clinton voter constituency, and [c] can placate traditional party leaders.

But from a progressive perspective, the choice also should be someone with Obama’s instinct for organizing a majority progressive movement, not someone who revives the fading pro-business, pro-war DLC. The ticket should excite even more people around Obama’s vision of a reclaimed democracy from below, not someone who will dampen the enthusiasm. Here are my thoughts:

1. BILL RICHARDSON could help win New Mexico and Colorado, and increase overall Obama turnout among Latinos. Good credentials. Good on issues. Able to ensure that the Obama Administration pays attention to Latin America. Needs to be vetted further. Conventional wisdom is that a "two-fer" [black and brown] won’t work. Go for it unless the vetting turns up problems, otherwise give him a Cabinet post.

2 JAMES WEBB. Good credentials: military, former Republican, Navy Secretary under Reagan. Relatively good on issues like war, economy, outsider and independent. Might mean losing Virginia Senate seat in future. But if he guarantees Virginia for Obama and helps in Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, take the chance.

JOHN EDWARDS. Attorney General, not VP.

HILLARY CLINTON. While she has to be on the short list, and while weird bedfellows are not unusual, this is to be avoided if at all possible. The incompatibilities are too great, and the turnoff factor would be a problem. It is not clear that she would bring a state that Obama couldn’t capture on his own, assuming that many Hillary voters turn to McCain. She might prefer her independence in the Senate.

[Proposed Clinton surrogates include TED STRICKLAND, EVAN BAYH, and WESLEY CLARK, shadows of the DLC. WEBB might do as well as Strickland in Ohio. Bayh not likely to carry Indiana. Clark brings military credentials and has close relationship with Obama’s former advisor Samantha Power, but will he carry Arkansas or any other state?]


t.a. said...

Tim Kaine brings the South, he has a great sense of humor, and it appears he speaks fluent & easy Spanish. being a white male does that "balance" thing.

Kathleen Sibelius?

i don't know how progressive either one is. but they do bring strong campaign-related assets. but as VP? i'd need to learn a lot more.

Robert Naiman said...

I like Richardson or Edwards.

Both would bring regional balance. Both have run for President and have a national profile.

I don't think the black-brown thing should be a disqualification for Richardson, conventional wisdom notwithstanding. Let's see some polling on this before accepting the CW. Richardson's personal story would complement Obama's. "Diversity is diverse." Like Obama, he is "half-white." He has an Anglo name. He would increase Latino turnout. He should be able to carry New Mexico. He would be a good spokesman on immigration issues.

His background would also complement Obama on diplomacy. He has experience "working with the bad guys." He has spoken out for engagement with Iran. He could be Vice President for Diplomacy. During the primary campaign, his plan for Iraq was "Two Words: Get Out!"

He hasn't been "good on trade." But if he adopted the line that NAFTA needs to be thoroughly reformed, he could be an asset. He could help convince people that what we're talking about is not isolationism, but adding an economic development and human rights component to economic integration, like the EU (not that we have to repeat the EU's mistakes, like a reactionary monetary policy.) He would be an asset trying to negotiate a new trade and development agenda with Latin America. He might be an asset facing down the reactionary agenda of the corporate lobby on trade - intellectual property protections, dumping US agricultural goods.

If not VP, then Secretary of State.

Edwards would make a fine AG. But given that he has tried to make ending poverty in America his issue, that might be a waste. Make him Vice-President for Ending Poverty. Or give him a Cabinet post that allows him to focus on that.

Webb would be good. But if we could get the same positive effects with Edwards or someone else, it would be better not to lose the Senate seat. One seat in the new Senate could make a lot of difference, even under a Democratic Administration. Even if the Dems can't get to 60, if you're trying to break a filibuster on the Employee Free Choice Act or health care reform, it makes a big difference if you're starting with 57 or 58.

ethan young said...

This kind of speculation is either a fun game or it assumes we have the pull to make a difference in this matter, which we don't.

In fact, even if BHO chose the worst of the worst (Lieberman), we'd still support him against McCain, wouldn't we?

Tom, what do you think we should do if he wins? Or if he loses? That's the $64 question.

Aaron said...

I think and hope it will be John Edwards. I think that it will help bring in the south, while maintaining a left leaning mainstream administration that is solid on labor and poverty issues. It will also help work against Obama's "lack of experience" in government politics. I think a Obama/Edwards ticket will reel in a solid win.

Anonymous said...

Jim Edwards and Jim Webb have already said no.

What about Al Gore, if he would take it, that would also keep the lunatics for hurting Barack, they wouldn't want Gore.

What about Biden?

Karl said...

You call any of those progressives?

Webb? The guy who sold us out on FISA and who has a very conservative voting record both in the Senate and in the voting box where he voted for Bush.

Richardson? The House whip for NAFTA and DLCer?

Edwards? Not going to happen.

Clinton? A DLC leader.

All of those choices would be very bad. Why not go beyond the big names and put some real progressives on there. Like Kathleen Sebelius. She has a real progressive record. She blocked 2 coal plants in Kansas and just vetoed a bill for the third time that would override her block of the plants. She blocked the merging of two big HMO's. She is firmly pro-choice, anti-death penalty and anti-war but is still the most popular politician in Kansas.

Clearly she is a strong progressive choice. But I would like to challenge some of your other points.

a] wins a state or two that Obama might not win on his own

LBJ was the last one to do that. People don't vote for the VP. They vote for president. What a VP CAN do is reinforce the message of the presidential candidate and make people feel better about them. For example. Clinton/Gore. They didn't have two messages. They had one strong one. They where both young southern moderates.

Obama and Sebelius both share a message of progressive unity and coalition building. They are both very open to listening to progressives and Sebelius would reinforce Obama's message perfectly.

[b] wins over the Clinton voter constituency

Obama has been weakest among old, white, Catholic women. Sebelius is a fairly old, white and Catholic women. If anyone would help in this area it would be Sebelius not Clinton.

[c] can placate traditional party leaders.

I don't think this should be a priority but she was the head of the Democratic Governors Association and despite her progressivism she has been able to make friends with party leaders because party leaders like people who can win and she can win.

Yes I know she didn't have the best SOTU response but that is her worst format. She is very good on the stump and her TV appearances will improve over time. Across the board she is the most progressive choice who has any shot (I'd like Feingold or Wexler or someone like that but it's not happening).

The other candidates are good in some areas and would make good cabinet members though. Edwards as the modern day Sargent Shriver, Richardson as Sec of State and Webb as Sec of Def. Clinton is better suited for the Senate, IMO. I think she could be the next Ted Kennedy.

Carl Davidson said...

The point, Karl, is to come up with the best WINNING ticket for a left-progressive-moderate coalition vs the right, not the best progressive ticket for a progressive bloc with Obama as sole spokeman for the center.

Otherwise, we could pick Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Ehrenreich.

As for Webb and Edwards saying 'No,' I haven't heard any ironclad statements yet.

But if I get enough interest in other names, I'll add some, since we have no idea what Obama's short or long lists include.

Bill Baar said...


That's quite a spread Carl... can Democrats digest that?

Carl Davidson said...

It's the big tent, Bill. Unite everyone but the rightwing diehards, and with the Obamicans at the top, they actually have a shot at it.

Paparune said...

I would like to see Biden if he would take it. I think he would humiliate anyone McCain could field in the debates, but the problem is that he would not bring any upside like delivering a state or a class of voter for Obama. Plus he does not fit into the outsider bringing reform theme.

I am pretty sure that it will be Webb. He fits the outsider role and also is an ex republican so helps move Obama away from the left liberal and more towards the center which would be great to help draw independents from McCain. He helpd deliver voted in the south and also helps in states with large military populations like South Carolina. He is also popular with working class whites.

Paparune said...

I think Edwards could be the Secratary of Labor. I also believe you are going to see Obama froming mcouncils and comitees to help him develop some concrete plans on policy promises he's making. I believe Edwards would be involved in this. I believe you will see bipartisan council setup by the President to help deal with issues such as poverty, universal heathcare, or SSI solvency.

LDFan said...

I promise you two things:

1.) If Hillary wants it there is no way she doesn't get it (read up on the DNC rules and how VP's are chosen.

2.) If he makes her fight for it and doesn't offer it - there is no chance for him to beat McCain.

LDFan said...

The link didn't post fully:

Anonymous said...

I'm considering voting for Obama- it would be the first time I voted for a Democrat since voting for Jesse Jackson. I like the idea of voting for someone who comes from community organizing, and actually understands organizing. But I would definitely not vote for him if he chose someone like Leiberman or Clinton as a VP!! They are anti-organizers, and worse.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I guess I'm a late comer and maybe no one will read my comment, but why does everyone just dismiss Edwards?

For VP, I think there are many good choices, but I think Edwards might be the best one. He has been shown in polling to give Obama the biggest boost in many key states, and he did campaign on a very progressive message.

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