Vice Presidential Picks And The Consequences

[ Posted Tuesday, July 29th, 2008 – 17:15 UTC ]

Today we look at Barack Obama's vice presidential picks, by popular demand. I have so far resisted jumping into the VP fray, mostly because I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said by dozens of others. I can't pretend I can see inside Senator Obama's mind better than anyone else, and to my way of thinking the whole silly-season exercise of trying to guess who it will be is a lot of sound and fury, which ends up signifying nothing. But I've been noticing one facet of the choice hasn't really been adequately addressed: the consequences of such a pick.

Now, I'm not talking about consequences to Obama's chance of winning -- there's been more than enough of that sort of thing already, whether you want to slice it by geography or demographics, or whatever. Instead, I'd like to talk about the vacancy left behind.

Because many on the list are currently holding public office. Meaning if they get the VP nod, they're going to leave behind an empty office for someone else to hold. And the consequences of what happens to that office is what I'd like to focus on.

CNN has a monstrous list of pretty much anybody who has ever been mentioned in passing as Barack's running mate. Right off the bat, we can eliminate a lot of them from consideration here, because they do not hold any office right now. Names which would leave no vacancy: former Senator John Edwards (NC), former Governor Tom Vilsack (IA), retired General Wes Clark, former Senator Tom Daschle (ND), former Senator Bob Graham (FL), former Senator Bob Kerrey (NE), and former Senator Sam Nunn (GA). If any of these are chosen, it will mean nothing to the political balance of power on either the national or the state level, so there's nothing to say about them here.

There are also names on the list which I simply do not consider to be "contenders" at all. For the record, they are: Chuck Hagel -- who is a Republican and just isn't going to get the job, Senator Jim Webb (VA) -- who has stated publicly he will not accept it and has not been vetted, Michael Bloomberg (not going to happen), David Boren, Bill Bradley, William Cohen, James Jones, Tim Roemer, Donna Shalala, and Tony Zinni. I just can't honestly see any of them as real possibilities. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, maybe Obama will surprise us all, but for now I'm going to just mention their names and move on.

This still leaves thirteen names. Of these, six are currently governors. We're going to mention them in passing too, because their impact on national events and national politics is limited. The biggest power they have on the national stage is selecting replacement Senators (which we're going to get to next). All of these governors are from various shades of "purple" states, so trying to predict who would replace them would require a lot of local information that I don't have, so I'm not even going to try. Some of these states (PA, NM) would likely elect another Democrat, and some states (KS, AZ, VA, OH) might not. They all have a plausible shot at becoming Obama's running mate, though. The list: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (very high on Obama's list, it is rumored), New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (less likely by the day, it seems), Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (somewhat of a long shot), Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (a key swing state), Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (another long shot), and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (another key swing state).

Before we get to the Senate, there is one name who is in a kind of limbo right now who must be discussed. The former Governor of Virginia, Mark Warner, is currently the Democratic candidate for Senate. He is seen as almost guaranteed the win here (the Republican Party has even publicly announced that they've given up on this race). So while he might be the deciding factor in bringing Virginia's 13 electoral votes over to Obama's column, doing so might kill the party's chances of picking up this easy victory in the Senate. My guess is that if Obama is picking someone to lock in Virginia, he'll pick Governor Tim Kaine instead. Why throw away a sure win in the Senate?

This leaves only six names who, if selected as the vice-presidential candidate, would leave behind an empty office. The six are: Senator Evan Bayh (IN), Senator Joe Biden (DE), Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Senator Hillary Clinton (NY), Senator Chris Dodd (CT), and Senator Claire McCaskill (MO).

Indiana has (no surprise) a Republican governor. Evan Bayh's Senate seat is not up for election this year. This means he'd leave a vacant seat. And, bad news, Indiana state law gives the governor the power to appoint his replacement, meaning Democrats would lose a vote in the Senate. Indiana's a swing state this year, so if Bayh could bring the state's 11 electoral votes, then it might be worth it. Maybe.

Delaware has a Democratic governor, and is a fairly solid Democratic state. But Joe Biden is up for re-election. This means if he pulled out of the Senate race, it might give another Democrat time to campaign successfully. Alternatively, if he ran for both offices (I must admit I'm not sure if this is legal in Delaware, in some states it is and others not) and won both, then a vacancy would open up which the governor could fill with a Democrat. Even if it's a net loss of one Senate seat (which is highly unlikely), Biden would be worth it on Obama's ticket. The much more likely scenario is even if Biden vacates his seat, it'll stay Democratic.

Ohio has a Democratic governor, the aforementioned Ted Strickland. Sherrod Brown is not up for re-election. Now, Sherrod Brown might be accurately described as a long shot here, but he made it into the Senate from the House two years ago on a strongly populist platform. He might be just what Obama is looking for to woo those Rust Belt white blue-collar voters we've heard so much about, so I have to place him on the "serious contender" list. As I mentioned, he's not running and would leave a vacancy in the Senate, which would be immediately filled with another Democrat by the governor. But Ohio doesn't let the governor appoint someone for the full term, and a special election would be held eventually for the remainder of the term. So Democrats might lose the seat, in a year or so, but until then it would be still in the Democratic column.

[Full disclosure: Sherrod Brown, when he was running for the Senate, wrote a blurb (sorry, that site is a little out of date) for the cover of my last book. It was a wonderful endorsement, and I thank him for it. But while I would really love to see Vice President Brown, somehow I don't think it's going to happen.]

New York has a Democratic governor, who stepped up to the plate when the previous governor got caught with his pants down (and then immediately admitted his own dalliances). Ahem. And from all of us in California, thank you New York state for knocking us out of the number one spot on the "most embarrassing governor" list. Double-ahem. Seriously, though, Hillary Clinton is still in the running for VP, and is not up for re-election this year. New York's state governmental site is a mess, meaning I could not ascertain whether the governor appoints a new Senator in the case of a vacancy, or whether a special election would be held. Delaware's site was a lot easier to use, New York. I'm just saying. Anyway, the state is about as blue as you can get, so the net effect of Hillary joining the Obama ticket would almost certainly mean another Democrat in the same seat.

Connecticut has a Republican governor, but it may not matter. If Chris Dodd gets the nodd (sorry, I couldn't help myself there), he will leave a vacancy in the middle of his term. But Connecticut state law seems to demand a special election to fill the vacancy. And I would hope Nutmeg State voters have learned their lesson after re-electing Joe Lieberman, so I would assume this seat would go to a Democrat. I'm not certain of this, as Connecticut politics are pretty confusing at times. So it could go either way.

Missouri's current governor is not running for a second term, so it's an open question who will be there next year. And Missouri is always a swing state, so it could go either way. Claire McCaskill is kind of a long shot for VP, but she did look awfully impressive being an Obama surrogate last weekend, so who knows? She'd be a feisty pick to run with Obama, that's for sure. McCaskill is not up for re-election, so she would leave a vacant seat. But whether this seat is appointed by the governor or not, it's going to be up in the air what that will mean. So call it a tossup -- could stay Democratic, could switch.

So that's my take on the vice presidential guessing game. As I stated, I have no idea how it's going to turn out, and the Democrats look like they're going to pick up at least a few seats in the Senate, so even if the selection of Obama's running mate means we lose a seat, it probably won't matter much (unless the Democrats have a blowout year, in which case there's an outside chance that one seat may be the difference between having a filibuster-proof 60 in the Senate, or not). But the possibility at least has to be considered when talking about who Obama's going to pick.


-- Chris Weigant


15 Comments on “Vice Presidential Picks And The Consequences”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    Since we have seen how difficult it has been for the current Congress to move legislation forward I think that Sen. Obama needs to think very carefully before he picks a Senator to be his running mate. Which is why I think it would be better if he chose a Governor or someone who is not currently holding an elected office. There are plenty of qualified candidates out there and I am sure Sen. Obama's search team is checking everyone out.

    My favorite is Edwards but I don't think he will be picked.


  2. [2] 
    loslobo wrote:

    Need I say it.........JOE

    Look at Claire's record too. Talks a good game, but votes Bush light

    If I may regress to earlier posts, I stand by everything I said. I'm sorry if you and M think discretion is the better part valor.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I’ll be glad when all of this crazy veepstakes business is over, way or the other. Personally, I can’t take much more of it and I’m hoping it will end this week, if not tomorrow. But, I’d love to share a few thoughts here.

    First off, a note about vacant seats left the state of Delaware, I am pretty sure that Senator Biden can stand for both the senate and be on the ticket with Obama. At least, that was the case when he was still in the presidential race. In any event, Senator Biden’s seat will not only remain in the hands of Democrats, it may even stay in the family, too! You can’t get much better than that.

    Senator Obama has a truly critical choice to make in the selection of his running mate. In my not so humble opinion, the choice will be a determining factor in the outcome of this election which will be won or lost on issues related to national security and foreign policy and on the future course of two wars. Consequently, there are a number of requirements that must be met by the vice presidential candidate.

    The short list must include those candidates with impeccable and unimpeachable foreign policy and national security credentials with an unrivaled breadth and depth of knowledge of the critical issues of the day. Senator Obama may think his strong suit is foreign policy but it is clear that he has not demonstrated the kind of foreign policy prowess that he will need to negotiate the dangerous waters of the many complicated interrelationships that exist between nations and policies and meet the complex challenges that will face the US in the next decade.

    The potential candidates must have a proven track record of leadership and of having the capacity and capability of making change happen by working against the grain and attracting the support of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, alike. A simple 51% solution does not a governable majority make - Biden is fully capable of helping to deliver a wide and deep swath of Republican votes across the country. I should think that Obama/Biden would have a very positive effect with respect to adding to the number of Democrat seats in the Senate, given that conventional wisdom has gone out the window this time around and voters may not care about a balance between the White House and Congress. Well, we can hope.

    Lastly, but by no means least, the chosen candidate should have an intimate understanding of what will be required to resolve the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to reverse US policy in Iraq. The VP choice should come with a comprehensive and viable strategy to promote a political solution in Iraq that would allow for the withdrawal of US forces without the serious and long-term consequences of leaving a failed state in their wake. Of course, it would be an added advantage if the strategy has already received the overwhelming and unprecedented support of a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the unofficial support of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council and, most importantly, the tacit support of most of Iraq’s sectarian leaders.

    The short list is, in fact, a list of one. Senator Obama should use his good experience and sound judgement to ask Joe Biden to be his Vice President with Special Portfolio on Iraq.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    To me, the choice is easy..

    Anyone but Hillary...

    If Senator Obama chooses Hillary Clinton, it will show me that he is NOT about change. That he is same ole same ole politics as usual and cares more for his Party than he does for his country...

    But the GOOD news is, it does look like Hillary has moved off the "short list"...

    I also dispute your notion that Hagel won't be chosen. I think the VERY BEST thing that Obama can do is select a Republican for his VP. THAT would show the country that Senator Obama means it when he says he is going to bring this country together. Let's not let political bigotry blind us to the fact that, when all is said and done, we are ALL Americans and THAT should be the first consideration before party politics.

    If Obama were to pick Hagel, then I predict he would win in a bigger landslide then Reagan..


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    If I may use this forum to ask an unrelated question..

    Chris, Elizabeth or anyone else who uses HuffPo..

    Do ya'all have problems navigating or posting??

    I am having a helluva time. I can't navigate between page 1, page 2, page 3, etc etc. I have to right click on the number and then OPEN IN NEW TAB to see the next pages. I click on SORT NEWEST or SORT OLDEST and nothing changes.. I have tried it on several different computers (VISTA & XP) and FireFox 2.0 and 3.0 and IEX 7 and it's the same problems.

    I have been trading emails with the HuffPo IT people in an effort to track the problem. We're gonna go at it again today, but I wanted to see if the problem might just be my Home Network setup or if it is more widespread.

    Sorry to use your commentary for this, CW.. But it was the only way I can think of to get a message to other HUFFPOers.. If you like, you can delete this, no harm, no foul..


  6. [6] 
    loslobo wrote:


    Have you tried using Safari? 6 months ago I coundn't even log-in then navigate using my Dell (XP). It would crash. Then I got a Mac book, and no problems (yet). I put Safari on my home computer and it works on Huff fine. Huff is the only site it has done that on, probably gets filtered through the NSA. I also like that they have a running total of every thing they delete too.

    Hope you do the research on WTC7.......

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Huff is the only site it has done that on, probably gets filtered through the NSA.

    You really crack me up! :D

    But thanks for the tip on Safari.. I'll give it a try and let ya know...


  8. [8] 
    BLaws wrote:

    I don't think it will be anyone that the media is talking about right now.

    Bayh - too boring and was pro-war. I don't see him holding his own in a debate. Loss of a seat in the Senate is a deal breaker.

    Biden - I'd love to see him get it just to watch him smack down Romney or Pawlenty in the debate. It'd be so good you could put it on pay-per-view. But I don't see him getting it because he's "inside Washington". I'm 99% certain he's going to end up as Sec. of State.

    Kaine - Possible, but I don't think he's going to be the one. Obama needs a huge turn out among the left and enough of the middle. Kaine won't hurt with the middle but won't excite the left. He's got a thinner resume than Obama. Would cost the Dems a governorship.

    Hillary - Was a complete non-starter once she went negative in Texas/Ohio and refused to drop out even after she couldn't win. It might have worked if she had stayed positive and attacked McCain the entire time instead.

    My wild card:

    Robert Wexler (FL) - 6 years in Florida Senate, 12 years in US House of Reps. 47 years old. Very popular in Florida (Palm Beach County), Jewish. Would really juice up the progressive and liberal base. Would cost Dems a seat in the House but that would be trivial overall. Being a D+21 district, it wouldn't be an issue to regain on special election. Unlike Biden, Wexler would be young enough to run for 2 terms after 2 Obama terms. Biden would be 73, Wexler would only be 55.

  9. [9] 
    BLaws wrote:

    Apparently I'm either on to something, or someone else has had a similar idea...

  10. [10] 
    loslobo wrote:


    As Joe P from Goodfella's said, "I amuse you...."

    NSA was a joke glad you got it...

    Give Glenn a listen about your upsurd FISA stance..

    please lose the smugness

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I just wanted to say that Joe Biden is ANYTHING BUT "inside Washington"!!! In fact, Joe Biden is the polar opposite of "inside Washington" and has made a career on working against the grain and personifies bipartisanship/post-partisan work ethic. If Joe Biden were "inside Washington", then he would have been the presumptive nominee from the get go! You can trust me on that and bet the farm on it, even...unless it's in Iowa...goes without saying, really...


    I always have my share of problems at HuffPost - lately, they've been deleting every other comment I make???? But, I haven't had the problem you're having...yet.

  12. [12] 
    BLaws wrote:


    Uhh... he is "inside Washington" to the vast majority of people who do NOT pay attention to politics. They aren't like you. They don't know Joe Biden like you do. They don't know reality. They are called low information voters for a reason.

    To the vast majority of people, who don't pay attention to politics at all, he's just a Senator that has been around forever. Sorry, but fair or not that is "inside Washington". Unfortunately, in politics, for most Americans, perception is reality.

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Well, then...those people shouldn't be allowed to vote - that's all there is to it! :-)

    Seriously, there ought to be some sort of test you have to pass before you are allowed to come within 10 feet of a polling booth...okay, I'm kidding...sort of...

    I'll tell you what...if Biden is Obama's chosen one, then most Americans will get a taste of what Joe Biden is all about for the first time (please tell me the media won't continue to ignore or dismiss him if he is on the ticket!) and they may even begin to wonder why he isn't at the top of the ticket...stranger things have already happened.

  14. [14] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Once again, apologies for not keeping up on the comments, as it was due to our neverending efforts to bring you, the reader, better and more exciting features here at Stay tuned...

    loslobo -

    That's interesting, got a link to McCaskill's record, or stories about it? I must admit, I don't know much about her other than she won a squeaker of an election to get her seat.

    Discretion, in this case, is actually the better part of laziness... or being tied up in updating the site.

    Elizabeth -

    I have banned the annoying term "veepstakes" from this site, so your commenting privileges have been revoked forever.

    Just kidding... but do watch it, as I really dislike that term. It's not a "sweepstakes," it's more of a job interview, in my opinion.

    Please elaborate on the "stay in the family" comment. I guess I should have picked up on this before, but are you a resident of the First State? Are there junior Bidens out there waiting in the wings? Do tell!!

    As you're already aware, I've been a Biden fan ever since the Biden/Gelb plan was made public, although I must admit I do have a few questions about the bankruptcy laws he's supported, as well as credit card reforms he's been against, but then Delaware is a unique state because of its corporate laws (almost every corporation in the country seems to incorporate in Delaware for some strange reason...).

    But, considering the field, I agree he'd be a good choice for Obama, so hopefully that'll mitigate the flames I just incurred from that last statement...


    Michale -

    I think that Hillary has about the same chances as Hagel as getting named. Make of that what you will.

    I have never had browsing problems that you describe with HuffPost, personally. Maybe it's your browser, I dunno...

    And ya'all (as Michale says) should just cool it on all that NSA talk... I seriously don't need that kind of attention here!

    BLaws -

    I could go for Biden as SecState. I tend to agree with you -- I think it's going to be something the media will be astonished at. I am expecting something from out of left field (pun intended). We'll see... we'll see....

    And an EXCELLENT point about "low information voters" (boy, there's a euphemism if I ever heard one). Something we all have to deal with here is that a good solid THIRD of Americans can't even name who is president or VP right now, much less who is running to take over. Sad but true -- and a lot of these people actually vote. Something to always keep in mind throughout the election season.

    "Perception is reality." This may be the epitaph of the American experiment, sadly.

    Elizabeth -

    Since BLaws got me in a philosphical mood, I will answer you in Latin only (to your comment about who should be allowed to vote):

    Cui bono?

    Quis custodiet ispos custodes?

    That last one is going to become a lot more well-known when the "Watchmen" movie opens, that's my educated guess...


  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    ...revoke my commenting privileges!?...don’t even kid about something like can ban terms, as you wish, but just don't ban me! Anyway, it’s not one of my favourite words, either. The problem with picking a VP is all of the outside interference involved...what with vetters and search teams and...gimme a break! If a candidate can’t even pick his own VP without help when the choice is so completely obvious, all things considered - sorry, but an obvious choice it is - then that doesn’t bode too well for how he will chart the course of a nation...through perilous and treacherous waters, no less.

    As for the possibility of Senator Biden’s senate seat staying in the family...I was referring to the Attorney General of the state of know...Beau Biden. Actually, ‘Beau’ is a nickname for Joseph R. Biden, III. I’m not sure, though, if running for the US Senate is even on the horizon for him. He is also a captain in the Delaware National Guard and his unit has been put on notice for deployment to Iraq - not sure where that stands at the moment - and he has said that he will deploy with his unit despite being the AG! But, in any event, the Biden senate seat is pretty safely in the fold of the Democrats, I would think.

    I might just add that of all the lame excuses and outright fantasies that would seemingly preclude Senator Biden from the office of the presidency or from a position in the administration, the loss of his senate seat is a personal favourite...she says, sarcastically.

    And, I’m not a resident of the First State - I hail not from the First State, but from the 51st state...I thought you know, the great big blue state (more or less, depending on where you are - it’s a big state) to the north.

    Oh, just one more must refrain from referring to the Biden strategy as the Biden-Gelb plan as Gelb has been pretty much MIA on the subject, especially during recent times when his support could have meant the most...if you know what I mean and I’m sure that you do! Leslie Gelb is persona non grata in my book. And, besides...Biden has taken the strategy to greater heights on his own, anyway.

    Now, it’s your turn! I have yet to hear anyone explain to me why it is that they hold Senator Biden’s support for the Bankruptcy Bill against him. From what I can gather, and I’m no expert on this issue - not even close - most people are not armed with the facts on this bill and really have no idea about what motivates Senator Biden. So, I am hoping that you can shed some light on this for me because, God knows, I don’t agree with EVERYTHING Biden says or does and I would really like to better understand this bankruptcy issue...if for no other reason than to at least have an informed discussion with everyone and their brother who never miss an opportunity to bring it up...present company excluded, of course...I mean that sincerely!

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