The Democratic Veepstakes Winners

The Inlander | June 11, 2008
More often than not, vice presidential picks are remembered when they blow up in a candidate's face. Dwight Eisenhower almost had to dump Richard Nixon, George McGovern never recovered from the poor vetting of Thomas Eagleton and Al Gore's centrist pick of pseudo-Democrat Joe Lieberman turned out ... well, let's not talk about that.

Picking a running mate can be a real headache -- even more so when somebody is lobbying for the job. That's the situation Barack Obama faces, as many of Hillary Clinton's supporters want Obama to form the "Dream Ticket."

So here's a quick look at some of the prospects for the job, listed from worst to first.

OH, SO VERY WRONG: The funk that has descended upon the GOP is because they didn't get their preferred opponent. With a government put in shambles on their watch, they were hoping they wouldn't have to run on their record. Instead, their dream ticket was to make the 2008 election all-Hillary-hating, all-the-time. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure who doesn't appeal to independents (that's most of the nation and the group of voters that will pick the winner in the fall).

The Democrats just barely avoided falling into the trap Karl Rove had cleverly set, so for Obama to backpedal now to form a "Nightmare Ticket" would be to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

YESTERDAY'S NEWS: There is talk of picking former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn. You can kind of see where this is going -- add some age (he's 69) and gravitas to the youthful Obama. Plus he's from the South. Trouble is, like so many Washington insiders, he's a bit stale. All these guys who had their heyday in the '80s and '90s just aren't the answer for a turn-the-page candidate like Obama. (Joe Biden also falls into this category.)

SOLID CHOICES: If the key lesson in picking a running mate is not to screw it up, Obama may keep to this category. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson backed Obama relatively early, and he has not only executive experience but D.C. clout as a Clinton cabinet member. He's also Hispanic -- another exciting first to add to the ticket. And this race may be decided in his backyard states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

John Edwards has said he doesn't want the job, which really means he wanted to get his name into the media mix while he could. Seriously, what else does he have going on? He would be a good choice: Not only is he from North Carolina -- a Southern state that could be winnable in the fall -- but it appears that the national economy has finally caught up to his message of borderline-angry populism. He could be a powerful force in depressed states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

POTENTIALLY SPECTACULAR: The chic pick seems to be Jim Webb, the former Republican who can seem like he might punch somebody at any moment. That may be a liability to some, but it would negate some of the GOP's tough-guy bluster. And Webb does that other thing the Republicans have been so good at -- he attacks his opponent's biggest strength. John McCain is a war hero -- but so is fellow Vietnam vet Webb. Picking Webb would help dull McCain’s sharpest credentials.

Gen. Wesley Clark outranks both Webb and McCain, and he has the smarts as a Rhodes Scholar. So what if we found out he liked Journey during the 2004 presidential race? So did Tony Soprano. Clark also has impeccable national security bona fides, and he has the added bonus of being one of Clinton's biggest supporters. He could act as a bridge, allowing Obama to reach out to her people without going too far out on that limb.

SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer would make a great vice presidential pick. He's a populist, he's from the newly contested West and he -- like fellow Montanan Jon Tester -- is a part of the new breed of Democrats. These common sense (and pro-gun), stick-up-for-the-little-guy politicians prove you can beat the GOP at their own game. He may not bring a lot of electoral votes, but the media will fall in love with this guy. He has the kind of homespun toughness and values that hearken back to Harry Truman.

My final pick who is so crazy he just might work is Colin Powell. If Obama is truly serious about turning the page and bringing the nation together -- oft-repeated clichés that are quickly forgotten once elections end -- choosing a Republican would send a message about how serious he really is. The conventional wisdom is that Powell is damaged goods for repeating the bogus CIA reports about Iraq on the world's stage. Very true, but that also makes him the perfect person to say, to the world, "I am/we are sorry." Powell knows better than anyone that we, Americans, broke it, and now we own it.

After Powell puts that sad chapter behind him as best he can, he would be a most formidable vice presidential candidate. He appeals to independents (and disaffected Republicans), he has a singular blend of foreign policy and military experience -- in fact, he even has a military doctrine named after him. (If only his old boss would have looked up "The Powell Doctrine" on the internets.)

Powell would be a formidable vice president, too. But to make it work, Obama would have to pledge to work in close partnership with him -- this can't be window-dressing. That way, big decisions would be taken with input from both sides of the American political divide.

It's a seismic change, to have an almost parliamentarian coalition ticket, and it would be a tough sell to many voters. But in the end, it would help make America stronger and more united at home and, hopefully, respected again in the world. But it's definitely not the safe pick.

The Inlander

Founded in 1993, The Inlander has quickly become the most trusted source of news and entertainment information for the sprawling Inland Northwest. While the majority of our readership lives in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area -- a fast-growing part of the...
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