So, over the past week, national polls have tightened, along with the alimentary canals of Obama supporters, who find themselves full of worry with McCain's recent uptick, and lack an explanation for it. Not to cut myself with Occam's Razor, but it seems academic to me: this is what happens when one candidate jets off for a week's vacation in the middle of a campaign, ceding the field and the news cycle to his rival. But, anyway: PANIC TIME has set in, and so have the calls for Obama to do something "game-changing" and amazing, like capturing Osama bin Laden and slaking his hunger by eating his still-warm viscera.
Now, I'm of the mind that no one's done anything in this campaign to either win or lose this election yet, but since the Democratic National Convention is next week, and The Most Important Text Message Of Modern History is imminent(ish), we aren't going to have much time to contemplate these spectral inanities, anyway, so why not indulge? And, displaying some good timing, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen has helpfully supplied us with three scenarios to chew over. Let's take them on out of order.
THREE: The "Building Team Obama" Scenario
In this case, Gergen says that Obama might change the game by making a big public show of revealing his various Cabinet members and key advisors, going so far as getting various luminaries to sign a pledge to support the Obama White House.
The argument for this is that Obama will run on the strength of a defined and celebrated team of Great Men And Women, each one inspiring a round of celebratory hagiography, which in turn plays up Obama's fantastic judgement. The argument against this is that it feeds two distinct negatives. First, it would feed the "presumptuous" meme: "Obama already thinks he has a cabinet!" Second, it would underscore public uneasiness with Obama's level of experience. There are Veep picks that cause the same problem, but there's only going to be one of them, not one hundred. This kind of roll-out would be met with a constant battery of GOP oppo media advisories, and the press would rattle away at the pro-and-con game. Pretty soon, this would be a team of people who define various shortfalls in Obama, instead of enhancements.
And the "public pledge" thing just sounds sort of grade-school, anyway.
TWO: The Al Gore Becomes Vice-President Scenario
In this case, uhm...Al Gore becomes Vice-President? And, according to Gergen, this "galvanizes Democrats" and "sends a clear message to the country that an experienced, fresh team was coming to Washington."
I don't think Al Gore is as potentially costly as rolling out a hundred-person line-up of vague notables would be, but with Al Gore, I just don't see what you gain. Sure, it would galvanize certain Democrats. But I've met these Democrats. They are already pretty galvanized! Some are galvanized about Obama, others are concerned but nonetheless galvanized about winning. Also, I'm not seeing the "fresh" in Al Gore returning to the Vice-Presidency. Gore's pretty much demonstrated that he's a far more effective leader outside of Washington. Signing up for another noxious Karl Rove-style street fight can only serve to damage and diminish his brand, and the quotidian details and duties of the VP job would only take away from the environmental work that has been his passion. By this point, he's also pretty much maxed out his persuadability: I don't see how this scenario provides a context in which a voter snaps to, realizing: "Oh! Now I get Al Gore!"
Besides, he doesn't want the job. I know they all say that, like busted-up robots, but really: AL GORE. DOES NOT WANT. THE JOB.
ONE: The Hillary Clinton Becomes Vice-President Scenario
Yeah, baby. Now we're just getting CRAZY. You know the problems with this scenario already. Hillary Clinton can't stand Barack Obama. Bill Clinton can't stand Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton will never truly be able to subordinate herself in the White House. Ditto for Bill, who knows where all the danishes are buried. Mark Penn and Lanny Davis would probably find a way to make every child in America cry. Terry McAuliffe is blessedly encased in a Cone of Silence. She's an underminer. She's calculating. Maybe she's the final Cylon. Nobody knows.
BUT WHAT THE EFF. It's August, I'm about to take a day off, and what this idea lacks in seeming good sense it more than makes up for in sheer audacity. So let's consider this, like we were sad drunks staring at the sunset at The End Of Days.
Clinton as Veep is not just a Game Changing Scenario. It's the Shoot The Hostage scenario. It's a recognition that Obama cannot possibly fight a two front battle for the win in November, so instead he's going to try the most awkward team-up in the history of the comic books. They say that HRC brings the GOP voters to the polls. It also brings her supporters, though. They say that she provides fodder for GOP attack ads. That's okay: Obama should recognize that he's not getting an elevated discourse from his opponent, so why not have someone to draw the flak away from Obama. They say, "Seriously, Jason, these two HATE each other." I say, "If Obama wants to be the reconciliation candidate, he may as well shoot the moon."
Gergen says that HRC is the "come home" choice, and that she's cross between Sonny Liston and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Over at FiveThirtyEight, they cite a pair of more practical advantages. A reader notes:
Clinton's presence may be able to gin up Republican fundraising...except, because they are taking public financing, the McCain campaign will have precisely one week to both collect AND spend that money. In short, absent some increase in RNC money and possibly 527 money, for the most part McCain's advantage here would be completely neutralized by the clock. If Hillary had been the VP nominee all summer long the Republicans would be dining out on this--but now they simply would not have enough time to do it.
And 538's Nate Silver says:
I think that if Obama picks Clinton, the Republicans are likely to overplay their hand. One thing that Obama has not really been able to do is to generate some organic level of backlash when he is attacked. This is separate and distinct from the notion of "fighting back"; it is voters stepping in and refereeing the match themselves. Voters recognize that McCain has gone negative but they aren't really punishing him for it -- his favorables haven't moved at all. Why not? I think it has to do with the nature of Obama: he is new, he is confident to the point of being arrogant, and up until recently, he has been leading. To the extent there is any genius in the "celebrity" line of attack, it's that nobody feels much sympathy when celebrities are made fun of...it is a sort of sport to try and pierce their bubble.
With Clinton, on the other hand, voters naturally want to come to her defense -- and overzealous attempts to whip the Republican base into a frenzy will be counteracted with outrage from significant numbers of older and working-class women.
So there you have it! Vice President Clinton is officially the "So Crazy It Just Might Work Feelgood Hit Of The Summer." The news will shock the media and rock the convention. The Game Will be Changed. The Conventional Wisdom will be Overturned. The Revolution Will Be Text Messaged. And Ed Rendell will have a million billion orgasms. Everything you think you know about politics could be about to change!
But seriously, it'll probably be Bayh. Le sigh.