Monday, May 26, 2008

From whence does the perfect VP hail?

For McCain, from the religious right.
For Obama, from Virginia.

For the first time in decades, the Democrat seems capable of taking Virginia. Most polls put Obama within 2 points of McCain with a number of undecideds. Obama looks like he'll lose West Virginia now, but 'real' Virginia is much more important for gaining electoral votes. He has three choices: Sentor Webb, current Governor Kaine and former Governor Mark Warner.

Obama should choose one of these Virginians, and he should choose Mark Warner. Warner is a centrist, working-man's Democrat who won and governed much more solidly than Webb or Kaine. He is well-liked in VA and helps compensate from Obama's deficiencies with certain constituencies. Plus Warner comes with two further advantages: he's not currently in government (and didn't have to take positions on divisive economic or war issues as a governor) and could legitimately run for President himself in 2012 (if Obama loses) or 2016 (if he wins). Hillary Clinton doesn't make sense as VP; it's a small job she wouldn't be happy with. The only other VP who brings the heft that Warner brings is Bill Richardson - a generally small-government Democrat, he brings with him New Mexico and and experience as a governor. He also gives Obama an edge with Hispanics, where McCain is much stronger than your average Republican.

McCain isn't thinking in income or geographic terms. He needs to quell rumors that he's not a true Republican by nominating a VP who gives the religious voter a reason to come out in November. The thing that might kill McCain is if the religious right doesn't turn out as heavily since McCain doesn't excite them into voting. McCain is old: his VP will be, much more than Obama's, the successor to lead the Republican party. Several names have been floated: Huckabee, Romney and Bobby Jindal. Jindal is too young and too new, plus he's more about Reaganomics than religious conservatism. Romney's Mormonism still alarms some RR voters and some fear he's a liberal sneak attack.

Huckabee is the highest-profile, the most palatable and the most obvious. But he's got one fault: polls showed him losing by at least 10 points to Hillary or Obama in a head-to-head. Sure, VP isn't President but whoever it is will be important - they've got to be able to win in a legit election. On top of that, Huckabee balances his social conservatism with a few nanny state moves in health policy that scare small town and small government Republicans - who are already wary of McCain's candidacy. McCain's best bet is a southern governor who combines free market economics with religious conservatism, with an emphasis on the latter. This gives him a few choices.

I think that an Obama/Warner ticket would be the best move, as would a McCain/governor ticket. If these candidates make other choices, I'll have to talk about them. Meanwhile, we should dismiss ridiculous ideas like Obama/Edwards and McCain/Rice, since these pairings just exacerbate the candidate's major faults without giving them enough new support.

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