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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Barack Obama has announced his three-person vice-presidential search committee: Caroline Kennedy, Jim Johnson (the man responsible for Edwards in '04 and Geraldine Ferraro in '84), and Eric Holder. With that in mind, it seems like a good time for another edition of veepstakes.

I'm throwing out Edwards, despite how well he polls, because (1) I think that's 90% an artifact of name recognition and (2) I don't think he'd actually take it. And I'm throwing out Clinton because I think we all recognize what a disaster that would be.

I'm not even going to mention my secret hope that Al Gore will take the job.

So with that in mind, the people I see right now as The Big Five Strategies:

* Wes Clark (The Foreign Policy Ploy)
* Kathleen Sebelius (The Female Gambit)
* Tim Kaine Jim Webb or Mark Warner (The Virginia Strategem)
* Brian Schweitzer (The Western Experiment)
* Chuck Hagel or Sam Nunn (Wild Card)

The Foreign Policy Ploy
As I've mentioned in the past, Wes Clark is in some ways the obvious, even default choice. He's not a particularly great campaigner, but he's definitely got the Foreign Policy Gravitas and he's a loyal Clintonite (a huge plus). He fills a gap in Obama's resume and is an answer to the charge of inexperience, though as I've spoken about with my wise friend Shankar lately there's also a percentage in Obama refusing the expected fills-a-gap frame by pointedly picking someone who's got nothing to do with foreign policy. Wes Clark also doesn't especially look like the future, which means a visual disconnect with the expected campaign message.
Runner-up: Bill Richardson, who offers literally everything you could want in a VP except for a crippling case of Costanza-itis.
Honorable mention: Joe Biden.

The Female Gambit
I think there's a lot to be said for the idea that Obama needs to pick a woman to balance the ticket with regard to gender, and right now Kathleen Sebelius probably leads that list. She's a popular governor, albeit from a state that most likely isn't in play, and it's well-known that she and Barack are friendly. But she's not perfect: I don't think she's especially good on TV (peep her State of the Union response) and she'll be 68 in 2016, probably too old to run and win.
Runner-up: Arizona's Janet Napolitano. I hope she isn't picked simply because I don't want to hear six months of "She let in all the Mexicans!" from the right-wing.
Honorable mention: Claire McCaskill. If only she wasn't a Senator...
Crazy longshot that would make Jaimee crazy happy: Barbara Boxer.

The Virginia Strategem
Virginia is so close to tipping our way that putting Tim Kaine on the ticket would almost certainly push it over the top, which by itself is probably enough to guarantee McCain can't win. Assuming Obama's people conclude they don't need to play either the foreign policy ploy or the female gambit, the only real strike against Kaine that I can see is the likelihood that Virginia will turn blue regardless. [WEEKS-LATER UPDATE: Given that the Lt. Governor of Virginia is a Republican, Kaine is much more of a longshot than I originally thought. Webb or Warner are still very likely picks.]
Runner-up: Sen. Jim Webb. I just don't think we'll see a double-Senator ticket.
Seemingly ruled out: Mark Warner, already running for Senate.

The Western Experiment
If Obama's team decides not to pick any of the other candidates, it's because they've decided to go West and try and pick up some of the on-the-bubble states out there: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona-if-McCain-weren't-running. If this is their strategy I'm really coming around to the idea of Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana being the candidate: what's been going on in the Montana Democratic Party seems pretty exportable to other states in the Western U.S. It'd sure be nice if Montana had more people, though.
Runner-up: Bill Richardson again. Seriously, has there ever been someone with such a good resume and so little gravitas?

Wild Card
Both Hagel and Sam Nunn offer credibility to Obama's claim that he can reach across the ideological aisle. Sam Nunn in particular is attractive insofar as the recent announcement that Bob Barr is running as the Libertarian Candidate potentially puts Georgia in play. (Shankar remarked to me just the other day that he was favoring Nunn at that particular moment, though in a separate email from a few days before he'd bet the ranch on Kaine.) Honestly the Wild Card strategy rubs me the wrong way. Compromise? In our moment of triumph? Not only are we likely to win this time, we're likely to win big—we should be looking forward to 2016, and if we are we shouldn't lock in a Blue Dog or a liberal Republican, we should get as progressive as we can.
Runner-up: Ed Rendell. He didn't comport himself especially well as a Clinton supporter during the PA primary, and though Pennsylvania is a key state if we're losing there we're probably getting blown out anyway. Still, he's a prominent Clinton supporter with "working class" bonafides, and I could see the Obama camp deciding they need to go in that direction, though I hope they don't.
Runner-up runner-up: Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. (Thanks to demosthenes2007 from the Daily Kos cross-posting for the reminder.)

THE FINAL WORD: It all comes down to strategy. If I were placing my bet at 3:45 PM on June 4, 2008, I'd probably place the bulk of it on Tim Kaine, the rest on Kathleen Sebelius, and just a little bit on Brian Schweitzer. But what do I know? Rest assured the campaign's eggheads are working on this, and when they've crunched the numbers and made their pick we'll be able to tell which campaign they've decided to run.