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|Veep Clinton? Not so fast|
n Tuesday, June 3, Barack Obama made history. The obvious reason is that he became the first African-American to be the presumptive nominee from a major political party. No doubt this is a major event.
But something else happened The Billary Empire crumbled.
Think about it. If I told you 16 months ago that Hillary Clinton would raise $200 million, get more than 17 million votes and carry every major state that a Democrat needs to win the White House … only to come in second? You would have called me a fool and ask that I return my political license (similar to a poetic license, but much more dangerous) and never prognosticate in public again.
After all, isn't Bill Clinton the greatest politician in the last 1194 years? (I picked that number so as to not offend those contending that Charlemagne holds that title, after all he was Charles the Great, not Charles the Average).
But, not so fast! If Bill Clinton is the best politician, then why were there fewer Democratic Representatives, senators and governors in 2000 when he left office than when he entered? If his coattails were so long, then why didn't Captain Planet Al Gore ride effortlessly into the Oval Office? And better still, why was he such a detriment to Hillary over the past year?
Several pundits have already begun to ask: what does Hillary want? Will she consider Vice-President?
My response: she came in second, it isn't up to her. Obama won the contest and he will decide. When you lose, you are at the mercy of the winner. That is what we call politics. Sure, a recent poll of Democrats indicated that more than 53 percent favored Hillary as vice president. So what?
In all fairness, Hillary adds nothing to the ticket that Obama does not have already and may, in fact, provide too many distractions.
Here is why: Bill has proven to be completely unreliable over the past several months, Hillary and Obama are too much alike on every major issue (that is if you accept her latest twisting on Iraq) and Obama needs someone from a swing state. On this last point, consider this: New York has not gone for a Republican since 1984, and even John Kerry won by double digits in 2004. Obama needs help elsewhere. He will carry New York regardless.
Senators Jim Webb (Virginia) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) fit these criteria much better than Hillary. Both of these are seen as conservative Democrats with foreign policy experience. Neither of those descriptions fit Obama. Also, both Webb and Brown have strong, constructive wives that will be assets and not liabilities. Brown's wife Connie Shultz won a Pulitzer Prize!
So, where would be the best place for Sen. Clinton? I think on the campaign trail leading the charge among Hispanic voters.
Here is why: no Democrat has won the White House in modern times without carrying 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. As indicated in California, Florida and Puerto Rico, Hillary is a champion among Hispanic voters. If she is really willing to do 'whatever it takes to defeat McCain' then put her in Latino communities and rally the voters.
Another thing that Obama needs is someone that does not appear as part of the DC Beltway. You cannot be a candidate for change and hope with a running mate that is a lifelong member of the Cosmos Club.
This decision will take some time and should.
In many ways, this is Obama's first big test as the presumptive nominee. A mistake here could be costly and further support the position that he is untested and naïve politically. Both of which are true. But, I would argue that this is precisely what makes him genuine and able to connect with voters in a way that … sorry to say … Bill Clinton did a long time ago, in a political race far, far away. Obama comes across as idealistic, but honest. He is not phony. Neither of which has been uttered about the Billary machine in quite awhile.
Obama's message of hope and change ultimately must surrender to specifics if he is going to beat McCain. It is fine to bask in the rays of revolutionary optimism and unbridled potential, but real soon we need to hear what the agenda actually is.
We smelt the sizzle, let us see the steak.
My concern for Obama is that there is only sizzle. Which means this will be a personality contest where too many serious issues will get brushed aside.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.