Ridiculously Early Running Mate And Cabinet Speculation

[ Posted Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 – 16:04 UTC ]

Last night the Democratic response to President Bush's final State of the Union speech was given by Kathleen Sebelius, Democratic Governor of Kansas. While the initial reaction of most Americans could be summed up as "Who?" watching her deliver her speech made me wonder if Barack Obama had helped write it. And after Sebelius endorsed Obama today, I'm left with an even bigger question -- will she be Obama's running mate?

Her name has already been floated around among the pundits handicapping who will be the choice for vice president (they also have a name for the process which I refuse to use due to its overwhelmingly saccharine cutesiness: the "Veepstakes"). So it's not out of the realm of possibility that she'd be on Obama's short list.

I do wonder at the stunning political tactics it must have taken to get Sebelius selected to give the speech, though. She must have been sold as a successful Democratic politician from a red state, and her speech must have been sold to the party leadership as a "let's work together and get something done" speech. But the speech she actually gave could easily have been given by Obama himself. It was entirely in tune with Obama's campaign slogans and strategy, and then the day after giving the speech she endorses Obama publicly. That's quite a coup for Barack, and shows that maybe he knows more about manipulating the levers of political power in Washington than most give him credit for. In the midst of a tight primary race, a week before Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday, Barack gets his own supporter to give a speech that an enormous number of Americans are watching. That's impressive, and I bet the Clinton camp is seething today over being outmaneuvered in such a crafty way.

This opens up the subject of running mates and cabinet picks in general. [OK, I realize it is ridiculously early for such speculation, but that's never stopped me before.] The general rule for picking a VP candidate is that they should shore up weaknesses in the presidential candidate. This is usually ideological, geographical, or demographical shoring up. Ideological shoring up means a candidate who is perceived as weak on foreign policy (for example) would select a foreign policy expert, or possibly even a retired military type. Geographical shoring up would be a candidate from the Northeast (Kerry or JFK, for instance) selecting someone from the South to run with (Edwards or LBJ). And demographical shoring up would be a woman selecting a man, or vice versa (just to give the easiest example in the current race).

By this conventional political formula, Hillary Clinton would pick a male candidate who was from the deep South (or even the West) who was strong with African-Americans and white men. While some may suggest John Edwards at this point, I don't think he'd go for the second place slot again. I think Wesley Clark is a good bet for Clinton, since his military experience may serve to offset worries some voters have about electing a woman as Commander-in-Chief.

Barack Obama, as I mentioned, could surprise everyone and name Sebelius. Then he'd have a woman on the ticket (just not one with the last name "Clinton"), and it could truly be an inspiring "first woman / first black man" ticket. Sebelius' executive experience (a weak point for Obama) would help, and she certainly seems in tune with his "let's do this together" approach to winning the general election. Being a Democrat from a red state would help this theme as well.

I have to say that I don't believe for a minute that there is going to be either a Clinton/Obama ticket, or an Obama/Clinton ticket. I think too much animosity exists between the two camps, and I just don't see it happening. But then, I've been wrong about these type of things before, so who knows?

John Edwards' chances of being the nominee seem to be diminishing, but were he nominated a good pick for him would be someone with a wealth of experience who wouldn't overshadow him personally. Now, he might select either Obama or Clinton just to have their star power, but I would be more inclined to think he might reach deeper into the Democratic candidate bench, and select someone like Richardson, Dodd, or Biden. None of these three has much in the way of charisma, but they are all solid men with long résumés who each have enough experience to make an Edwards White House a successful one.

Guessing the Cabinet at this point is too speculative even for me, but I do want to mention two excellent selections for either Obama or Clinton to make. I've been saying privately for weeks now that John Edwards (should he not be the nominee) would make a particularly fine Attorney General, and apparently the nation's trial lawyers agree. They held a convention in Puerto Rico recently where the subject was mentioned at length. Since they have always been strong financial Edwards backers, this is an interesting footnote. I would strongly support such a nomination, since I think it is going to require someone with Edwards' fire in the belly to clean up and rebuild the Justice Department after the Bush folks ooze out of there on their last trail of slime. Edwards, it seems to me, would fit the bill perfectly.

And for my last pick (I have repeatedly mentioned this in passing, more so since he dropped out of the race), I think Senator Biden would make an excellent Secretary of State.

As the contest winds down and a nominee is made apparent, running mate and Cabinet speculation is going to run wild. I'm sure I will revisit the subject in the future myself. But after watching Sebelius give her speech last night -- and her subsequent Obama endorsement -- I just couldn't help but begin the process.


-- Chris Weigant


One Comment on “Ridiculously Early Running Mate And Cabinet Speculation”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    Its never to early to speculate in politics because it is such fun. And later on you can laugh about how off-base you were or how accurate you were.

    I would like to know how the Dem who does the response to the SOTU gets chosen if you ever find out.


Comments for this article are closed.