Clinton/Obama 08? Or Obama/Clinton 08?
The argument for the so-called "Dream Ticket" isn't a new one, but for the first time one of the campaigns is actually talking about it. Hillary Clinton, of late, has been hinting that it'd be OK with her if both her name and Barack Obama's are on the ballot this fall. Of course, out of the two possible arrangements of these names, it's probably a safe bet as to which Senator Clinton would prefer to be on top.
Senator Obama, so far, has been keeping the idea at arm's length. He has demurred from commenting on it, except to say that it's way too early to start thinking about. And that he (of course) would also prefer not to be the vice presidential candidate.
But the idea deserves a serious look. I certainly wasn't the first one to come up with the Dream Ticket idea, but I did write about it last month, from the perspective that it would be a good move for Obama to offer the VP slot to Clinton. I wrote at the time that I didn't expect Clinton to be the first one to make such a move, but now that she has it's worth revisiting the issue.
First, a whopping big caveat: there are many reasons why a Dream Ticket may not happen, no matter who becomes the eventual nominee. First and foremost is the candidates themselves may not want to offer the second spot to an opponent who has been campaigning against them for such a long and brutal road to the nomination.
But there's a serious argument to be made for such a ticket. Both Obama and Clinton have built up constituencies within the party that have strongly invested their support toward their candidate. Barack has brought in millions of young voters to the process, as well as his overwhelming support from African-Americans. Hillary has likewise brought in older women, Hispanics, and blue-collar voters in great numbers. The question is -- whichever of them wins the nomination -- will their supporters continue to support the Democratic nominee in such large numbers if their preferred candidate doesn't win the nomination? Will the Obamamaniacs get disillusioned with Clinton if she wins, and just stay home in November? Will the Hillaryphiles likewise turn out to vote for Obama, or will they go to McCain?
Or, with the party pretty evenly divided between the two candidates' camps, will the best winning ticket to field this fall be one with both their names on it? Will that bring in enough of their respective supporters to assure a sweeping electoral victory for Democrats?
Hillary may be forced into such a position (which is probably why she's already talking about it). She may prefer some other VP candidate, but she may have no choice but to offer it to Obama. This is because no matter how you count delegates, Obama will likely be in the lead for pledged delegates at the convention. Hillary's only path to victory may be through gaining enough superdelegate support to counter his lead. Since this would be seen as unfair by many Obama supporters, the only chance she will have to stave off a complete fracturing of the party's base is to offer a Dream Ticket, with her at the top. This might be marginally acceptable to enough of Obama's supporters to work. Then again, it might not.
Barack likely won't get backed into such a corner, because he'll likely have the pledged delegate lead at the convention. But he may take a look at the division within the party (especially if gaining working-class Democrats support is still eluding him), and decide that the strongest hand to play in November is one with Hillary on the ticket as well.
If either version of the Dream Ticket does indeed happen the question becomes: which Dream Team would be better against John McCain? Of course, this will depend in large part on who McCain chooses as his running mate, which is still in the Rumsfeldian category of "known unknowns." But for now, we do know McCain's name will be on the top of the GOP ticket, so let's examine both possibilities for a Democratic Dream Ticket.
We'll take Clinton/Obama first, since she was the first one to bring it up. Hillary as standard-bearer, with Barack as her sidekick. A good argument for this ticket is that Hillary is older, therefore Barack will have plenty of time to be president on his own in 2016 (after Hillary's second term). Unfortunately, it's usually Republicans who make the "It's my turn, dammit!" argument (see: Bob Dole, John McCain) within their party. But the tantalizing thought of sixteen uninterrupted years of Clinton and Obama may be enough to corral his troops into her corner.
On the campaign trail, Clinton has definitely shown herself to be a fighter. And maybe we'll need that knife-wielding toughness against not just John McCain, but the whole right wing attack machine. She certainly does have experience dealing with such on the campaign trail, both on her own and from watching what they did to her husband. So "I'm a better campaigner, and I'm not afraid to hit below the belt" may be what Democrats need to secure victory this November.
Barack would be in the "surrogate" position, and would help to soften the edge of the campaign, continuing to dispense hope by the truckload wherever he speaks. Voters would see the experienced Hillary at the top of the ticket, the idealistic Barack as gaining the knowledge he'll need to run on his own in eight years.
So Clinton/Obama could work, in the general election, if the fractures in the party from such an alliance don't get too deep between now and when the balloons are swept up from the convention floor. It would be the exact opposite of a "conventional wisdom" ticket, but maybe in this topsy-turvy political season it could be a success.
Which leads us to the second possibility -- Obama/Clinton. This would be the smart way to go, if you buy into the conventional wisdom of how to balance personalities on the ticket. If you compare Hillary's campaign style (especially in the past few weeks) to Barack's style, it's almost a textbook example of how to run for vice president and president in a general election.
Because once the ticket's formed, the presidential candidate is supposed to be uplifting, with soaring rhetoric designed to make everybody feel good about voting such an optimist into the Oval Office. The vice presidential candidate, on the other hand, is supposed to be the attack dog. All the negative, scathing comments directed at the other team are supposed to originate from the number two candidate on the ticket. This allows the leader of the ticket to distance himself from the political fracas a bit, but also keeps the pressure on the Republican candidate as much as possible. These are the traditional roles in any presidential campaign. Now, who does each of these roles actually sound like this year? If you were casting this for Broadway, whom would you pick for each role?
Barack has already been running on the hope-and-optimism theme. And Hillary has shown she knows how to throw a punch when necessary. Just going on their campaign personalities alone, this seems to be the Mother Of All Dream Tickets. Barack on a debate stage next to McCain -- a man who exudes youth, vitality, hope, newness, and fresh ideas... versus the crustiest of old white men possible. Waiting in the wings is Hillary, as a junkyard attack dog on a choke chain, ready to be unleashed upon whoever McCain chooses for a running mate.
Now that could be interesting. It's ironic that the ticket that might work best (at least according to conventional wisdom) is the less likely of the two combinations -- since Obama probably won't be backed into the corner of accepting such a Dream Ticket, whereas Clinton may indeed be forced to accept it in order to win the nomination. But conventional wisdom has been so wrong so many times in this campaign already, that it's impossible to count on.
So, for the sake of conversation, if you had to accept either Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton (one or the other, no other choices in this quiz) -- which do you think would be the most effective against McCain in November? Which one is more likely to help Democrats regain the White House?
Quick primary pick for Mississippi
Because we've got another primary tomorrow, I will close with a quick pick here. Mississippi's Democrats vote tomorrow, and I predict Obama will win big here. He'll take the state with a whopping fifteen to twenty point margin. Which will begin the long, long hiatus until Pennsylvania votes on April 22.
That's my pick, what's yours?
Total correct Democratic picks so far: 33 for 49.
Total correct 2008 Republican picks: 37 for 50.
Total overall correct picks: 70 for 99 -- 71%.
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Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com