Aaron's Real Opinions:

Obama-Clinton Ticket is a No Go
Why Neither Hillary Nor Barack Will Select the Other for Vice President by Aaron Harber
February 24, 2008 - Print Article

Part 1: Mutual Admiration Versus Winning Factors

Although many hardcore Democrats dream of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket in the 2008 General Election, there is almost no way either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will select the other if nominated.

The only possible way an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket would happen would be, if for some reason, neither candidate could get a majority of votes at the Presidential Convention in Denver this coming August and they were forced to team up. Stranger occurrences have happened in politics but not in recent years.

Even this scenario is very unlikely, however, because one of them probably will have a majority of the delegates prior to the Convention and, even if that were to not happen, it is more likely enough delegates would defect to give the leader a majority so as to intentionally avoid such a ticket.

Hence, even in a very close race, those delegates ultimately deciding the nominee would not want to see the Dream Ticket because they are sophisticated enough to know it likely would contribute towards the defeat of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. As a result, it is highly unlikely there will be a ticket formed by the two frontrunners. There are three primary reasons for this.

First, despite the appearance of a mutual admiration society, by the time the campaign ends (if not already by now), neither candidate will want to have anything to do with the other. Each carries too much baggage that the other would find intolerable. And each would be more than just disgruntled about the attacks launched by his or her opponent.

Second, everyone assumes the General Election will be very close for the third consecutive election. With this assumption, the nominee will want a partner on the ticket who can either (a) help move the ticket towards the all-important center where national elections are decided and/or (b) help win one or two crucial states.

Both Clinton and Obama are seen as very liberal candidates whose strength is based in states with similar demographic profiles. Thus, neither brings as much to the ticket as a vice-presidential nominee as they could because the presidential nominee already will appeal to most of the same voters. And while both are U.S. Senators, neither one has much formal foreign relations experience or any real governing expertise.

Obama and Clinton each represent a historically significant achievement - i.e., the Democratic Party will nominate either a person of color or a woman for President. This may be enough for the American electorate to digest at this point in time. With approximately 5% of the electorate saying it will not vote for a woman or person of color, it is politically dangerous to challenge all voters to be unbiased. That challenge will exist with either nominee. Having both will increase that challenge significantly.

One could argue that such a historic ticket would energize people of color and women but the political reality is the ticket needs to be forged to win and such a ticket may not accomplish that objective. Hence, even though this should not be the case, the reality may be that having both a black man and a woman on the ticket may be too much for a small percentage of the electorate. If that is true, and if the election comes down to a one- or two-point difference, having both candidates on the ticket could be fatal.

If Obama is the nominee, he may want to balance his inexperience with a veteran of government and leadership - especially someone with foreign policy experience. He may select from gubernatorial or other ranks but, for him, his goal will be to forge an impressive team. If Clinton is the nominee, she actually faces the same "balancing challenge" and is likely to reach out to a person similar to one Obama would want. Unfortunately, neither one fits the bill the other needs.

Part 2: Geography May Be The Deciding Factor

Besides the fact Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can’t help but develop antipathy towards each other - after all, they are engaged in a fight to the political death - and the reality that each needs to add experience and gravitas to the ticket, there is an even bigger reason why neither will select the other for the vice-presidential slot on the ticket. That reason is the need for geographical diversity - a factor which, in today’s close elections, may be a presidential nominee’s most important consideration.

Geographically, the two Democratic candidates also do not offer much diversity. Obama comes from a large, northern state (Illinois) as does Clinton (New York). If either of them is nominated, they will want to reach out to a vice presidential partner who is based in the South or the West as a way to balance the ticket from a national perspective. This is one reason why New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson is seen as such an attractive candidate for Vice President, despite finishing a distant fourth during his participation in the presidential primary race.

Clinton or Obama may even adopt a more sophisticated strategy and select a vice-presidential candidate who can help win one particular state. For example, had Al Gore selected Florida U.S. Senator Bob Graham in 2000 and told him to stay there and win that state, Gore may have been elected President. Gore’s running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, added little to the ticket that Gore did not already offer. Similarly, if Gore had assigned President Bill Clinton to win Arkansas and Tennessee, a victory in either state would have resulted in an outright Gore victory.

In 2004, John Kerry had just as many opportunities to win the race by making a strategic vice presidential candidate selection. Kerry, instead, selected the person who was the best campaigner - Senator John Edwards - but Edwards brought very little to the ticket, especially given what John Kerry already offered.

So, whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2008, he or she may first look at a map of the United States and assess what his or her needs are in states which are anticipated to be the closest races. A vice presidential selection at that point could be based simply on who could help win one or two key swing states. As the 2000 and 2004 elections proved, getting a majority of Electoral College votes is not easy and just one state in the winner-take-all format can make a difference in an election.

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