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Monday, February 25, 2008

Facts to Consider for Choosing A Running Mate

While the race for the Democratic nomination for president has yet to be decided, the choice of a vice-presidential candidate will soon be upon us. Unlike other topics lately (Clinton vs. Obama, Ralph Nader, "my candidate can beat up your candidate"), the few discussions undertaken thus far in this forum regarding potential running mates have been fairly civil, with many good ideas.

The purpose of this diary is the encouragement of a brainstorming session to put forth the pros and cons of potential Vice Presidential candidates from different segments of the Democratic Party. For purposes of organization, I have tried to put the groups in three categories, starting with:

Senators – The biggest positive to considering a Senator for your running mate is safety. There’s a clear voting record on issues that can be weighed easily as a positive or a negative. There is also a long list of senatorial running mates on the Democratic side, as every running mate going back to 1988 was a Senator at the time of their initial elevation to the ticket.
The big negative these days is the dire need for 60 Democratic votes in the Senate, and how taking a Democratic senator out of the mix affects those numbers. As it stands right now, we have two Democratic senators battling for the nomination. If one of these candidates wins the presidency, that creates a seat that will more than likely need to be defended within one year of the 2008 elections (I’m unsure of the state laws of Illinois and New York pertaining to this; I’m happy to accept help in this area). If either Clinton or Obama choose a sitting senator as the running mate, that creates two seats.
One name that is brought forth from this category is Jim Webb, a Democratic senator in a state that is narrowly Republican who has been a senator for all of 14 months. If the goal is 60 Democratic senators, it doesn’t make much sense to put Virginia back in play so quickly after a tremendous victory in 2006.

Governors – The last two candidates for president coming from the Democratic side that were declared the winner of a traditional election were both governors. This time around, the Democrats will once again have a senator at the top of the ticket. This is a unique time in that the majority of our current crop of Democratic governors offers some attractive choices for the VP slot. The positives are similar to choosing a senator for a running mate. Governors have a voting record that’s easily assessed, with the added advantage of a governor having once been a chief executive of a state. The fact that governors act as executives independent of Washington, D. C. gives them a unique appeal.
The one thought that gives me pause is the timing. 2010 is a census year, meaning gerrymandering and reapportionment are right around the corner again. While this process has become convoluted in the past ten years with Tom DeLay’s shenanigans in Texas, having a Democrat in a governor’s chair goes a long way in drawing districts that are favorable to Democratic house chances for the next decade. It’s great to get better Democrats in U. S. House seats, and nothing gives them a leg up better than a district drawn in their favor post-census.
All of my personal "sleeper" candidates for VP come from this category. I like Brian Schweitzer and Janet Napolitano, but I realize that they are way down the list of possible running mates that have been discussed.

The Sympathetic Unelected – These are defined as people well known in the party who don’t currently hold elected office. The two biggest people in this category are John Edwards and Wesley Clark.
The positive aspect of choosing an outsider can’t be dismissed in a year when the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party will be a sitting senator. The element of surprise tends to rear its ugly head from this group, as every fuzzy speech recorded on video before any trade group becomes fodder for criticism. People from this category would be chosen because they are so good a compliment to the top of the ticket, they can’t be ignored. Edwards and Clark both fit that description, though Edwards didn’t fare very well in this slot 4 years ago.

Everyone here has someone in mind. As long as we don’t make the Joe Lieberman mistake again, virtually any of the names flying around for Vice-President are well qualified and will be better than anyone John McCain pulls out of his ancient head. With the damage that George W. Bush has done to this country, and the work it will take to correct these same mistakes, there are now many more reasons to choose the Vice Presidential candidate wisely.

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