The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

May 15, 2008

McCain–Huckabee? Obama–Hillary?

With the presidential primaries wrapping up, the new pundit game is guessing who the presidential candidates’ running mates will be.

U.S. News & World Report reports that John McCain’s list of VP candidates is topped by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. McCain’s former rival is said to be an attractive choice because he “He is a great campaigner and communicator who could both shore up support in the South among social conservatives (Huckabee is a former Baptist minister) and appeal to working-class voters in the critical ‘Big 10’ states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio,” and is seen to care more for “people like me” (their quote, not mine) than, say, Mitt Romney. The supposition is also that “Economic conservatives and supply-siders may balk, but the threat of four years of Obamanomics and higher investment, income, and corporate taxes might be enough to keep them on board.”

Really? McCain and Huckabee are not the same person, but it seems to me that McCain’s negatives to conservatives would only be worsened with Huckabee as his VP choice, thanks to, for instance, Huckabee’s positions against free trade and in favor of more government involvement in health care and education. How one would reconcile the tax positions of the governor known as “Tax Hike Mike,” who favors the “Fair Tax” national sales tax, and McCain, who favors making the Bush administration tax cuts permanent, would be interesting to watch. Paradoxically, Huckabee’s appeal to moderate and independent voters would disappear as well in choosing a vice presidential candidate who doesn’t believe in evolution at all. (Not to get into a religious argument, but belief in God and belief in evolution is not as incompatible as some people believe.) If it is possible for someone to be simultaneously too conservative and insufficiently conservative at the same time, that’s Huckabee.

A much better choice is just down the road — U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Janesville). The Capital Times’ liberal columnist John Nichols, of all people, sees Ryan as being able to counter the complaints about McCain: “Ryan is so fresh-faced, upbeat and energetic that he sometimes seems a good deal younger than his 38 years. … Yet Ryan is, by most reasonable measures, more experienced than McCain when it comes to dealing with domestic economic, tax and budget issues. While the presumptive presidential nominee has freely admitted that he has little knowledge of — or interest in — fiscal affairs, Ryan knows his way around the balance sheets better than just about any Republican in the Capitol. As a key player for the better part of a decade in budget debates, he was a heavy-lifting member of the House Ways and Means Committee when Republicans were in charge of the chamber. And the congressman is still taken seriously now that the Democrats are in charge.”

Ryan’s not the only good choice for vice president (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would be had he not been in office for just one year, although his political experience is far more vast than that), but conservatives would certainly be happy with Ryan, and Ryan also would be a plus, I would think, in trying to win swing Midwest states.

Moving to the left, there are those who want Barack Obama to name Hillary Clinton as his running mate, a supposed Democratic dream ticket (or nightmare, depending on your perspective). There are at least two reasons this will not happen.

First, as Bill Clinton’s former advisor Dick Morris points out, Hillary Clinton would be a bad choice for Obama. (Morris describes it as “terminal insanity.”) Those who have voted for Clinton are either “true believers,” who will vote for Obama if he ends up being the nominee anyway, or those who “worry that he might be a closet black radical,” and are not likely to vote for Obama in November. Adding Hillary to the ticket isn’t going to add any swing votes. Moreover, the negatives Clinton would bring to the ticket — the Clintons’ complete lack of ethical grounding, for one thing — would be compounded by the negatives of Obama that having Hillary as his running mate would show off, namely Obama’s complete lack of legislative accomplishment in his political career and his lack of appeal to the white blue-collar voters who have supported Clinton. (As it is, for your supposed nominee-in-waiting to get hammered in primary elections this late in the campaign isn’t a good sign.) And then there’s the reality of having Hillary Clinton in government, which means having the uncontrollable Bill Clinton in government. (The Clintons in government is an entire ship full of loose cannons.)

It is also impossible to imagine that Hillary Clinton would accept being vice president. Her entire campaign has been about poking holes in Obama, which is the gift that keeps on giving to McCain and Republicans. This post wondering if Hillary Clinton would have been more successful had she done 10 things differently includes a somewhat jaw-dropping conclusion:
... in the end the success or failure of any electoral venture rests mainly on the candidate herself. For Clinton, this will undoubtedly be the hardest truth to grasp. But if she hopes to do better next time—and trust me, there will be a next time—grasping it fully will be essential.
Do the math. Clinton is 61, which means she’ll be 65 during the 2012 presidential campaign, and 69 during the 2016 presidential campaign, the campaign she’d be in if Obama was elected this year and reelected in 2012. Not even the Clintons are so self-centered to run against a Democratic incumbent (are they?), and they saw what happened when Ted Kennedy’s 1980 primary challenge helped torpedo Jimmy Carter’s reelection effort in 1980, not to mention Pat Buchanan’s 1992 primary challenge that helped Bill Clinton beat George Bush. This is, however, one of a growing list of suggestions (here’s the first, written before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries) I’ve seen that Hillary Clinton may be positioning herself for a presidential run in 2012, which also is the last year of her current Senate term.

The Clintons have demonstrated during this campaign that you can’t really even call them Democrats — they are Clintons, a party unto themselves, totally self-absorbed and self-obsessed, willing to do and say anything, including playing the race card and doing a complete flip on positions taken only a decade ago (for instance, free trade), to return to the White House. Neither Clinton worked very hard for 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, and I doubt either Clinton will work very hard for Obama, at least if Hillary isn’t on the ticket. I would suggest that the one good thing an Obama victory in November would do is to end the Clintons as a political force, except that, as this primary campaign demonstrates, the Clintons are also vampires, practically impossible to make go away.

If I had to pick right now, I would predict that Obama’s vice presidential choice will be New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations. (To use the words “irony” and “politics” in the same sentence is increasingly redundant.) Richardson is Hispanic, which plays well to those who play identity politics, the official position of the Democratic Party. Unlike Obama, he also has an actual record, as governor of New Mexico (incredibly, he cut taxes, something his gubernatorial colleague James Doyle is incapable of doing) and at the federal level as UN ambassador, secretary of energy and congressman. Richardson is also believed to be more centrist than Obama, which theoretically should help with those swing voters.

1 comment:

Dblogger said...

Interesting video interview:

Mike Huckabee tells Newsmax he has no idea where U.S. News & World Report got its information that he's at the top of the list of John McCain's possible running mates. Hear his response to the question, "Would he accept?" He says McCain needs to give some "straight talk" to conservatives to ease their fears. About climate change, he says it's a two-sided issue. He also expresses sympathy for Barack Obama with the Rev. Wright controversy.