"Running mate could be checkmate"
There is much focus on the electoral math from the point of view of the GOP, but if you consider it from Barack Obama's perspective it changes a bit. With lackluster national poll numbers and an economy that just won't turn over, the White House must be wondering if it's really worth fighting for all the states they won in 2008.
The classic chessboard of black and white pieces has transformed to an electoral map of red and blue.**
Last week I laid out my reasoning for why it's unlikely Obama will again steal Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Colorado out of the Republican column.
To review, this makes the landscape Obama 310, GOP candidate 228.
As some have suggested, right now Obama is perhaps running more against the economy than the GOP. Nearly every poll since Obama's inauguration has shown that jobs and the economy are the number one issue on the minds of Americans. Our own national poll here at Suffolk University found that 46 percent of likely voters feel that the economy is actually getting worse.
On the state level, when it comes to electoral votes in play, Ohio and Florida will be key states for Obama to win if he's going to hold onto the White House. If both of these states flip Republican it's all over for Obama -- that's 47 electoral votes, making the map Obama 263, GOP candidate 275.
And, in these states, attitudes towards the economy aren't too bright.
Florida's 29 electoral votes are certainly in a great deal of jeopardy right now. A mid April Suffolk U. poll of Florida found 88 percent of registered voters said they did not believe the recession is over in the Sunshine State.
Ohio's 18 electoral votes are no safer. While it's certainly not among the highest in the country, the Buck Eye state's 8.9 percent unemployment rate is nearly on par with the national average.
Worse still, in 2010 both states elected Republican governors, albeit by razor-thin margins. Bottom line, it's going to be a very close race in these states.
What could Obama do to shore up his strength in these states in lieu of an improved economy? It's not out of the question for him to consider a new candidate for Vice President. Not unlike the Republican road to the White House I presented last week, to secure Ohio or Florida, Obama could greatly benefit with help from a VP who could deliver either of those states.
Joe Biden is a team player, and perhaps better than anyone he understands that every piece on the chess board should be in the best position to mate. Should his talks with the Gang of Five (formerly the Gang of Six) fall apart, he could take the political fall for failure and give Obama the license to pick a new running mate.
Unlike his 2008 run against Hillary Clinton, today Obama owns foreign policy success, and a VP with strong domestic credibility could shore up his campaign and balance the ticket.
The GOP move:
1 ) If the GOP nominee picks someone like Marco Rubio, Obama must employ the "Hispanic Defense" (similar to the Sicilian Defense in chess) and concede Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, but protect himself in all important Ohio and win New Hampshire to give him four more years.
2) If the GOP doesn't pick Rubio, Obama would be prudent to employ the "Florida attack" instead. Locking up Florida, and splitting states like New Mexico and Arizona also gives Obama the win.
When it comes to potential VP candidates for the President, by the numbers Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the clear choice. Over the last year Suffolk polls in Florida, Nevada, Ohio and New Hampshire have recorded stratosphere-like favorability -- far beyond Barack Obama's with strength among Independents. She's the combination of the first two strategies above -- popular with Hispanics, strong in Ohio, a generational rock star in Florida. "Rook to the last Republican row." Checkmate.
However, the reality is that it's unlikely Clinton is willing to continue playing second fiddle to Obama. With whispers about tension between the State Department and the White House and rumors about the possibility of Hillary Clinton moving to the World Bank, it's unlikely this scenario would ever happen.
If Obama were to pick a new VP it's tough to say who might be a suitable candidate, but they'd need to be able to help him play out one of the above strategies. Who do you think might be a good candidate for the VP position?
**Sidenote: In 1972, David Paleologos, at age 14, battled international grandmaster (and three-time U.S. Champion) William Lombardy to a draw in a simul chess match in Burlington, Massachusetts.
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