Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) had to shoot down the idea that he would be asked by President Barack Obama to be his 2012 running mate, after a laughably sourced New York Post story floated the rumor. Dan Amira summed up the matter perfectly by pointing out that it just didn't make sense. Why would Cuomo, off to a successful start in the New York statehouse, decide to become highly-paid window dressing for the Obama administration? Unless Cuomo is a complete idiot, he wouldn't.
But what "makes sense" to me about the matter is that it's easy to see how the story came about. Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat who did something successful -- steering through and signing the state's marriage equality law. He won a policy battle! And a news cycle! The media concluded: hey, this guy must be great. So out came a raft of generic "Cuomo 2016" stories, topped off by this 'people who don't know anything tell the New York Post about the stuff they don't know' story.
Never underestimate the way political reporters and pundits are uniquely driven to overcomplicate and pointlessly mystify the political process. This is how they all perform for one another, after all. So I'm pretty overjoyed that Politico's Elias Groll has taken up the matter of whether Joe Biden's days are numbered by stating forthrightly that the whole notion is complete bunk:
As much as columnists and pundits might be rubbing their hands at the possibility, if history is any guide, the likelihood of Obama ditching Biden is about the same as the president abandoning his reelection campaign completely and just heading back to Hyde Park.
But still, the talk persists. And nothing that Obama or Cuomo -- who's dismissed the latest float as "political chatter and silliness" -- says will kill it or keep the next rumor from popping up. In presidential politics, empty guessing at who will be the new No. 2 is as reliable as a convention balloon drop.
Boom. Yes. Perfect. And Groll is well versed in the recent history, where -- win or lose, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health -- presidents stick by their veep choices, because absent any compelling reason to pick a new running mate (to my mind, this is 'your current running mate dies or is embroiled in a tawdry scandal'), the bottom line is that ditching your partner is tantamount to "admitting a mistake."
Do you like carpentry? Because Groll just keeps on nailing it:
Plus, there's the possibility of backlash. Sure, naming someone new would generate a frenzy of free press and provide a foothold in new political territory, geographically or demographically. But it also would inevitably generate an endless stream of stories speculating about the reasons for the vice president's departure, feeding doubts about the president and anger from the scorned politician's fans. And a booted vice president who decides to start granting interviews -- or worse, sign a book deal for a tell-all book -- is not something a president would be eager to create.
Exactly. Switch your vice presidential candidate, and you generate two sorts of news stories. The first is about what part of the base the new guy shores up and what state gets "put in play." But then comes what Groll accurately describes as the "backlash" -- the president is desperate and uncertain, he's acknowledging his vulnerability, grasping at straws. I'll give you three guesses as to what variety of story sticks in the news cycle.
But let's examine the specific set of circumstances -- Obama ditching Biden for a running-mate-to-be-determined. If we think back to the 2008 campaign, it's fair to say that when America was hit by economic calamity, Obama cemented his election by projecting a cool and calm demeanor. His opponent, John McCain, behaved erratically -- remember the quasi campaign suspension? -- and ultimately decided to take a huge gamble on his vice presidential pick. So, with the economy still in crisis in 2011, I'm to believe that it's shrewd political move for Obama to ... behave erratically and take a gamble with the vice presidency? Ditch the guy he put in charge of brokering a debt ceiling deal?
I'm sorry, but that dog won't hunt. That dog gets mocked by the ducks that more competent dogs are hunting.
Groll goes on to make a good case for Biden on the merits, so go read the whole thing. And let's hope it's enough to tamp down any more stories promulgating the mystic wisdom of playing 11th-dimensional chess with the VP pick, for at least a week or so.