Who Would Obama's Ideal VP Be?
Who should Barack Obama choose as his running mate? This question might be an example of moving ahead of the discussion a little bit, but I have always found that in order to help frame a discussion it is important to start early. This is why, for example, I pointed out the dilemma of superdelegates deciding the Democratic nomination campaign the day before Super Tuesday, not the day afterward. While bloggers have the ability to create buzz, we have a very difficult time shaping an argument once it has already been brought up in larger, more established outlets of political discussion. I doubt that we would have had the same, decisive impact on the superdelegate argument (see here, here, here, here, and here) had we waited until after Super Tuesday to broach the issue. Media outlets, voters, superdelegates, and even the Clinton campaign all eventually came to take our side on superdelegates because we pushed the issue early.
I think the same thing needs to be done when selecting Obama's vice-president. As I have written in the past (see here and here), the key is that Obama needs to pick a vice-president that reinforces his strengths, not one who balances out his perceived weakness. With this in mind, I believe the following criteria are absolutely necessary for Obama's running mate:
1. Opposed the Iraq war from the start. This has been a centerpiece of his campaign since the beginning, and a constant source of attack on Hillary Clinton. At this point, he can't go and pick someone who supported the war before it began.
2. Has not spent a long-time in the Senate Again, Obama has discussed the need for a change in Washington, D.C., as a centerpiece to his campaign. If he chooses a member of Congress who has spent a decade or more in the Senate, at best he will look like a hypocrite, and at worst he will look like he needs help to do the job. The decision to choose Cheney to balance out perceived inexperience and incompetence has plagued Bush from the start of his presidency, and left an indelible mark of perceived weakness, incompetence, and stupidity on his national image.
3. Did not endorse one of Obama's opponents in the primary. The last thing we need is to have Obama's running mate on record supporting someone else in the campaign besides Obama. That always leads to unpleasant questions and soundbitesSince both will be central to his 2008 campaign, Obama needs to choose a vice-president who reinforces his message of change and judgment on Iraq. These three criteria actually present us with a pretty short list from the get-go, as only the following three current Democratic Senators meet the above criteria: Sherrod Brown (OH), Ben Cardin (MD), and Jim Webb (VA). I don't mean to in anyway diss Cardin, but compared to Brown and Webb, he just is not as strong a choice. Brown is an economic populist from Ohio, while Webb was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy from Virginia. Both would clearly be strong reinforcing picks, at least based on the criteria I presented above. Also, their Democratic Governors could replace them with another Democrat.