Friday, July 11, 2008

Who is that white man?

Al Giordano:
Chris Dodd lets it out that he's been asked for "stuff" from Obama's vice presidential search team. According to the same AP story, Kathleen Sebelius offers a by-the-book non-response (as Congressional Quarterly notes that four years ago she categorically denied being considered), Claire McCaskill gives a curt no-comment, while Joe Biden and Jim Webb are signaling that it ain't going to be either of them (as did Ted Strickland some time back). Yes, it's vice presidential hunting season!
Clinton spokesman-turned-Fox-News-commentator and consultant to Colombian oligarchs Howard Wolfson says that Hillary Clinton is so fucking awesome that she doesn't even need to be vetted, while his ex-boss was jetted together with Obama and his vetter, Caroline Kennedy, on Wednesday on the campaign plane.

Columnist Robert Novak puts Tim Kaine as number one of the numbers two for Obama (that could well explain fellow dominion stater Webb's Shermanesque statement last week), and adds a bunch of snooze-worthy "ticket balancers" - Evan Bayh, Ed Rendell, Bob Casey, Sam Nunn and Clinton - in that order as his tote board. The rest of his list seems pretty stupid but I'm about to tell you why I think he might be right about the first name.

For McCain, Novak puts Mitt Romney in first place and Tim Pawlenty in second: the Field thinks it highly likely it will be one of them, with an edge to the billionaire supervillain. But on the Democratic side, there's an excess of riches and more of a tendency by rank-and-file party activists to care deeply about who gets tapped, so it's much harder to call. Bill Richardson is being uncharacteristically silent and his neighboring governor Janet Napolitano is being characteristically so. John Edwards scheduled a fall debate, in Buffalo, with Karl Rove, leading to speculation that he's out of the running, but The Field doesn't count him out: he can always cancel the date. He's the one they'll turn to if the "you must pick Clinton" lobby gains too much momentum, because his name recognition is as high and his national numbers are in fact much better than hers. And yet, the promoters of an Obama-Clinton ticket have not gained the traction, so far, that they had hoped, thanks to the 900-pound ex-POTUS and his own business interests lurking in the background.

The argument that Obama must pick a military man or a pol with foreign policy gravitas is also losing steam, both due to Wes Clark's off-message dust-up and, now, the critique over Obama's supposed "moving to the center" works against that logic. For Obama to make that kind of pick would feed that particular beast.

Anything could happen but The Field thinks that Kaine, Sebelius and Dodd, in that order, have the inside track.

Sebelius is very much in there but ironically it's the warped "feminism" of some Clinton diehards that push on the scales against her. One pundit from a pro-Clinton publication went so far as to call Sebelius The Other Woman. In a land now filled with single moms and their kids, that's a great big "ouch." Also, whereas Kaine would be likely to surprise, and Dodd would predictably enthrall the party bases, Sebelius - not an orator - would bring a risk of underwhelming the crowd.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've thought Dodd's chances to be larger than the conventional wisdom would suggest. That scenario hit a speed bump last month when it was reported that Dodd received the same kind of VIP bank loan that caused vice presidential vetter Jim Johnson to have to resign from his post. That Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee makes it a potentially bigger pebble in his shoe. Picking Dodd would give the GOP oppo team a clear line of fire to paint him - and Obama by association - as more-of-the-same Washington insiders. That's too bad, because on every other factor - he would be an immensely popular surrogate and attack dog in the rust belt swing states from Pennsylvania to Michigan with the lunch-bucket voters, he can throw a punch, he speaks Spanish, and he may be the most perfect ideological match for Obama among all the names mentioned - Dodd would be a natural fit.

By process of elimination, The Field's computer is increasingly spitting out the name of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who exudes a common man's decency, in Spanish as well as English. His problem, surmountable but it would require some footwork on his part, is that while he's functionally pro-choice on the abortion issue, he's rhetorically pro-life: "I will reduce abortion in Virginia by enforcing current Virginia restrictions, passing an enforceable ban on partial-birth abortion, ensuring women's access to health care (including legal contraception), and promoting abstinence-focused education and adoption. We should reduce abortion in this manner, rather than by criminalizing women and doctors."

Kaine would have to give a pound of flesh on this one and undergo some kind of public tilt just a little more toward the pro-choice end on the rhetoric, or a convention one-third-filled with pledged Clinton delegates could get a bit awkward (but, then again, it's ditching their power to cause trouble that brings Obama to Mile High Stadium on the last night of the convention, a symbolic and literal opening of the doors. He could also play any tricks they might attempt to his advantage, and so Senator Clinton, at least, doesn't want them to "go there.")

Of course, the easiest way to calm down possible Clintonite qualms about Kaine or Sebelius (and by extension toward Napolitano or McCaskill) would be to give Senator Clinton the scoop: to have, during her big convention speech, Clinton make the surprise nomination of one or the other. That's entirely doable.

More and more, though (and Caveat Emptor because it's still early), The Field is thinking that it's most likely to be Obama-Kaine vs. McCain-Romney in November.

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