This morning's face-off between the McCain campaign's Carly Fiorina and the Obama campaign's Claire McCaskill on NBC's Meet the Press served up an historic television moment; it was the first time in the show's history, said moderator Tom Brokaw, that two women had appeared together on the show as the surrogates for opposing campaign.
Watching the two women argue on their candidates' behalf, it was hard not to wonder if we weren't seeing the glimmer of another historic moment to come. Will a woman be chosen to fill the veep slot on either ticket?
I have long suspected that if Obama doesn't choose a woman, McCain almost certainly will -- as long as he can find one sufficiently right-wing enough. In order to make a woman vice presidential pick work for him, McCain will need to find an agent of intolerance in heels. (Is Bay Buchanan ready to govern?)
Fiorina was pretty impressive in terms of poise and advocacy for her candidate, but she came off as unsympathetic to the travails of regular people trying to make ends meet by essentially making the argument last advanced by the prospective ambassador to Belarus that we're not really in a recession and people who say they're struggling are just whiners. While Fiorina didn't say that last part, she did seem to be arguing that things aren't as bad as they seem. She also made a tactical error when, confronted with a clip of McCain saying the economy would straighten itself out, she told Brokaw, "You can make a sound bite say anything you want." Brokaw was visibly caught off-guard by this assertion of dishonesty on his part, a reaction that played to his favor, not Fiorina's.
And she's just likely to pass muster with the religious right, whose databases of voters McCain will need to win. See, it's not just about appealing to that movement's masses; it's about winning the cooperation of its leaders. No cooperation, and there's little chance for a massive voter-mobilization effort from those quarters.
McCaskill's poise continues to impress me. She gave a flawless performance, countering every challenge with an appealing blend of facts and spin. There's plenty for a liberal like me not to like about McCaskill -- not least of which her FISA votes, which were more telecom-coddling than Obama's (and I'm none too pleased about his). But it's hard not to see a formidable candidate and teammate for Obama, one who would appeal to women who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
For the record, neither woman denied her interest in the office -- a refreshing change from the usual "happy where I am" chant of vice presidential hopefuls. And McCaskill all but said she was in the running. When asked by Brokaw if she was "being vetted," and whether she had been asked by the Obama campaign to fork over "documents" (presumably tax returns, etc.), McCaskill said the campaign had asked her not to talk about it.
For any presidential candidate, the vice-presidential pick is one of the most important decisions he or she will make. For Barack Obama in this historic year, it's critical. If he fails to pick a woman, and McCain does, McCain will likely win not only that contingent of disgruntled Hillary voters who are holding fast to their grudges, but may also win swing voters from the ranks of America's working women.
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