Horse Racing the Democratic Endgame — Spoiler Alert?

First, I should disclose that I’m an Obama supporter, and I have been from the outset. I’ve given his campaign money, I’ve made calls, I hit the streets, I even worked the legal boiler room in Austin last week for his campaign in Texas (I also punched in some phone lines, bought donuts, and did about a dozen other things — and if you’ve ever worked a campaign, you’ll know how that goes). My hope is that he is our next president, and if he wins in Pennsylvania, I think there’s a fair chance he will be.

But I’m also a realist and, after Texas and Ohio, I’m starting to look around for alternative endings. Here’s one that seems, at least for the moment, not as horrific as the Democratic implosion many are predicting.

Let’s say Clinton, by orchestrating a rerun in Florida and Michigan (she’ll pay for it herself if she has to), comes out ahead in delegates and popular votes. Were that the case, she’d be the presumptive nominee. Who should she offer the VP slot to? Obama, of course; she’d be a fool not to. If she doesn’t, she’ll alienate many of his supporters and, in all likelihood, lose the general election. Of course she’ll have to put up with him stealing her thunder whenever they’re together, but that’s a small price for her to pay to sit in the Oval Office. She needs Obama to win.

And he’ll accept; he’d be a fool not to. He’d be the presumptive nominee in eight years with all the “executive experience” anyone could want from him — and he’ll still be relatively young for a nominee. I think he also wouldn’t have much of a choice. If he were to refuse, he’d be seen as an election spoiler.

Of course, he may well be the nominee — in which case he would offer her the VP slot. At her age, though, I’m not sure she’d be willing to take one for the team. And I don’t think she’d worry overly about spoiling the election for the Democrats.

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7 Responses

  1. md says:

    Hmmm, seems you’ve pretty well mapped out the next 16 years of American politics. I count it as Obama’s singular talent that he’s able to make so many legal academics swoon…to the point where it’s not good enough to say one supports him. To have true Obama prawf cred one has to make sure one says that one supported him “from the outset,” before all the viral politics and Will I Am posers latched on. Reminds me of the way people had to be clear that they were Pearl Jam fans back in the true grunge period, before the Time Magazine cover and all that.

  2. anon says:

    You are right that Clinton needs Obama. At this moment, Obama could walk out of the party and take a good chunk of his base with him in a third-party candidacy. So Obama for a Clinton VP certainly makes sense.

    Why, though, would Obama want Clinton on his ticket, if the situation is reversed? Running against McCain, Obama needs to be the fresh, young, scandal-free candidate. This keeps his base of liberals and young people, keeps blue-collar democrats (who have no one else to vote for for economic reasons), and appeals to independents. Having Clinton by your side undermines each of those messages and just alienates the independents with her high negatives.

    The only conceivable benefit of having Clinton is to shore up the most loyal of Democrats: traditional blue-collar workers and union members. But if Obama needs to shore up this constituency by the general election, he is already toast.

  3. AYY says:

    “First, I should disclose that I’m an Obama supporter, and I have been from the outset. I’ve given his campaign money, I’ve made calls, I hit the streets, I even worked the legal boiler room in Austin last week for his campaign in Texas (I also punched in some phone lines, bought donuts, and did about a dozen other things. . . ”

    Okay, but please, please don’t drink any kool aid as the group chants “Yes, we can.”

    “Obama needs to be the fresh, young, scandal-free candidate.”

    There’s a trial going on now in Chicago that might cast some doubt on the scandal free part of that. But more importantly, wouldn’t it be nice if Obama supporters could point to something of substance about him, other than his uber-Progressive positions on everything.

  4. Donald Braman says:

    md — Interesting alternative take on my Obama disclaimer — but my point is that, as a long-time Obama supporter, I wouldn’t say this without a great deal of circumspection. Obama has plenty of other achievements besides winning over many legal academics, but this isn’t the place for listing them — there are plenty of blogs where you can do that. This is the place for wild speculation about the Democratic endgame.

    anon — Thanks for the substantive comment — my sense is that there is a large, relatively conservative (for Democrats anyway), white constituency that would be reassured by Clinton on the ticket & who will need some reassuring to vote for a young black candidate like Obama. If not her, who? (I’m not saying there isn’t anyone, just that I’m curious who you think it might be.)

    AYY — I support Obama for all sorts of reasons, but his policy positions are front and center. Have you seen his health care plan? It’s actually more detailed than Clinton’s. But that is beside the point — I don’t mean to defend Obama or attack other candidates in this post or response. Instead, I invite you to join me in some frivolous speculation about the Democratic end-game!

  5. anon says:

    Donald, I agree there is a white, relatively conservative, but solidly Democrat constituency that might have serious doubts about voting for Obama. These are, as I mentioned above, the traditional blue-collar “economic” Democrats. And I agree that having Clinton on the ticket will help shore up this constituency.

    The problems with this plan, however, are:

    1. This is not a “swing” constituency. These are core Democrats. If Obama can’t rely simply on the Democrat party label to carry them and instead needs to shore them up with his VP ace, he simply cannot win the general election. It is as if instead of contesting, say, Florida, Obama is spending the campaign trying to shore up New York.

    2. If Obama really needs someone for this constituency, there are many other candidates that fit this role and don’t carry Clinton’s baggage. E.g. Ted Strickland, Ed Rendell. These governors allow him to maintain the “running against Washington politics-as-usual” theme against McCain. Obviously with Clinton on the ticket that theme goes out the window.

    3. Finally, Obama simply does not need Clinton after a bitter campaign where they have been shooting at each other. Moreover, Clinton’s loyalty will be seriously questionable. The best thing for Clinton (if she loses the nomination) would be if Obama picked her for VP, lost, and Iraq and the economy both completely tank on McCain’s watch. Then in four years she will be the party’s natural standard bearer, since Obama and other upstarts will have been thoroughly discredited by the “crash of 2008”. On the other hand, if Obama wins, she will have at least eight years to wait since no VP can challenge the president she serves under; and VPs have not had great success following a president in the last 50 years (GHWB being on the one, and a one-termer). Obama doesn’t need his running-mate subtly but consistently stabbing him in the back with a view to running herself in four years, which has a habit of happening with the close-loser of a nomination contest (Exhibit A: John Kerry).

  6. dk says:

    I’ll start out by saying I’m a Clinton supporter. But, guess what, I am not conservative. I am quite liberal, actually (for example, liberal enough to be insulted by Obama’s use of those Harry & Louise ads to torpedo universal health care).

    Might I suggest that Hillary is winning big percentages of women (remember them, over half the population), latinos, gays & lesbians, etc. Just because she apparently is not doing as well with the legal academic constituency means that she is attracting more conservative voters. From my experience, I would actually posit that legal academics (as are lawyers in general) are a relatively conservative crowd as far as things go.

  7. bt says:

    Can’t even conceive what a mess the Obama-Clinton White House would look like. Too much old-school political power in the VP slot and too much personal ambition in the Presidency for that administration not to have some absolutely massive and very public fights.

    I’ve felt for a while that Obama would be wise to pick James Webb as his nominee. Webb has a lot of things going for him: Virginia could well be a swing state this time around, he has executive experience in the Department of the Navy, credibility with the military (see previous), what appears to be solid political instincts (took down George Allen, who not long ago was thought to have a good shot at the Republican nomination), and he’ll bring with him and excite a fairly large percentage of the blue-left activist types who supported Clinton or Edwards and who are left a little cold by Obama’s message of Hope (rather than Fight).

    Problem is Webb has not been a Democrat for very long and, like Obama, he carries little in the way of an instituational constituency.

    Is it possible that Clinton and Obama (secretly or otherwise) makes it a term of her concession that she be allowed to help select and approve Obama’s VP pick? Is that a bit paranoid?

    (btw, I don’t really have a horse in this race, I was a proud Edwards supporter, until…you know.)