The clamor for an Obama-Clinton dream ticket started virtually the moment they started their head to head slog through the primaries and the caucuses. Some still clamor for that ticket. But top Democrats really want Clinton to do a full court campaign press for Obama. The idea is that Clinton as an Obama campaigner will be able to sway the millions of Democrats wavering, disgruntled, and even hostile Democrats to Obama.
The clamor for her as Obama's VP is absurd. The notion that she can cajole doubting Democrats to change their mind about Obama is shaky at best. First there's the notion of Clinton as VP. Obama effectively killed that when he appointed a Clinton-unfriendly committee to search out a VP pick. And it's just as well he did. A major McCain attack point against Obama is that he's a much too liberal Democrat, and an elitist, who's way out of touch with moderate-to-conservative mainstream America. Putting another liberal Democrat, and a woman at that, on the ticket, especially one with the towering negatives that Clinton has among ultraconservatives and Christian fundamentalists would be the ultimate political gift from heaven to McCain.
McCain's other prime attack point is that he's the toughest, most experienced, and most knowledgeable on national security, the war on terrorism, and defense preparedness. Clinton would do absolutely nothing to help Obama parry that knock against him. His only hope on that score is to pick a VP who's got a solid reputation as a defense hawk, and a staunch record in the anti-terrorist war, and he should hail from the South or the heartland. The names of Senators Sam Nunn, Jim Webb, and Chuck Hagel or incessantly bandied about as fitting that bill. The likelihood is that ultimately one of them will get the nod. Scratch Hillary as VP.
But what about Clinton as a full throttle campaigner who can win over the doubting of Obama Hillary Democrats? They are the blue collar, rural, older, non-college educated whites, and a large swatch of Latino voters. She won't have much value there either. The hard truth is that many did not vote for her because they liked her and her policies, they didn't like Obama, and she was the only other Democrat on the ticket. The reasons they don't like him -- racial fear, distrust, uncertainty, his inexperience, patriotism questions, and a too liberal voting record -- aren't going to instantly vanish just because Clinton tells them they should vote for him.
This is not mere speculation. Starting with Obama's crushing loss to Clinton in the Ohio primary, nearly one out of five white blue collar workers who backed Clinton were adamant that if Obama is the nominee they will back McCain or stay home. In subsequent primaries, the numbers and the percentages of blue collar whites who said that didn't shrink but got bigger. In Clinton's last primary win in South Dakota a shocking near one out of three of these Democrats flatly said that they would not vote for Obama.
That's not the only shocking thing that makes a Clinton trot around the states for Obama mostly fluff. Overall one in seven white Democrats skip the politically correct niceness and openly say that race is a factor in their pick of a candidate. This doesn't count the unknown number of white Democrats who think the same thing about race but are simply to polite to admit it.
There's another thing that renders Clinton's tout of Obama little more than a sideshow for Obama. A CBS poll released immediately after the last primaries found that two-thirds of Americans said that they thought that the country was ready for a black president. The problem with that is that that's a far less percentage of white voters who told pollsters and interviewers a year earlier that color was and should not be an issue in picking a president.
The latest CBS poll finding also seems to fly in the face of other polls that consistently showed that far more voters said that they'd vote for an African-American for president before a woman. This, incidentally, is the other reason that a Clinton shill for Obama either as VP or as his campaign trail sidekick won't do much.
Then there's the relentless Hillary loathe in the press, and among a large number of Democrats who blamed her for and still blame for being a party spoiler. Many of them can't and won't automatically turn that ill feeling toward her off just because she's now stalking for Obama.
Clinton is a team player and while she won't get the VP nod, she'll hit the trail for Obama. Top Democrats will cheer her for it. Just be advised it won't do or mean much to or for him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).