I liked Hillary Clinton a lot back in my teenage political junkie years, and she won big points with me when she copied John Edwards' health care plan. Even though I've become an Obama guy lately, I was excited to see her stick it to him on domestic policy issues -- her one clear area of superiority -- during the Texas debate. But an Obama/Clinton ticket is a match made in a place with lots of brimstone for making matches. So let me tell you why she clearly won't be the best VP choice for Barack Obama.
6. We'll have party unity regardless.
Over at Shakesville, PortlyDyke wants a unity ticket, regardless of who the nominee is, because a unified party is important. Of course it is! But after a Democratic convention where everybody in the party including Clinton talks up Obama and a couple months of campaigning against a warmongering GOP nominee with a 0% NARAL rating who doesn't care about working people, Obama will consolidate Democratic support.
We're moving through the stage in the process where there's maximal bitterness between the candidates' supporters. (I remember this from 2004, except it happened a lot earlier in the year.) But sure as Dean people fell behind the once-hated Kerry and people who care about each other make up after a fight, you'll see the vast majority of Clinton people cast a vote against McCain. And looking at the numbers, Hillary-Obama animosity is pretty tame by historical standards, with 1/5 of Obama people saying they won't vote for Hillary and 1/4 of Hillary people saying they won't vote for Obama. You know what percentage of McCain supporters said they wouldn't vote Bush in March 2000? 51%.
5. Just look at her favorability / unfavorability numbers.
When I want to see how people think of a candidate (and therefore, whether they'll make a ticket more or less likely to win), I don't rely on my own subjective impressions. My youthful fantasies of being the young White House intern Hillary would use for post-Monica revenge, for example, shouldn't have led me to believe that everybody liked her the way I did. Instead, I should look at favorability ratings and other poll numbers.
Even at the end of a brutal general election campaign, I don't think a non-Clinton VP nominee will end up with fav/unfav numbers worse than Clinton's now. If you ask the question the way Gallup does, both her favorables and unfavorables have been stuck between the mid-40s and the low 50s for a long time now. To give you an example of what a more standard VP choice's numbers would look like, John Edwards ended the 2004 campaign at 48-37. Those were his worst numbers of '04 -- he usually had favorables in the 50s and unfavorables at 30 or less.
4. I don't trust the consultants in Hillaryland to play well with an Obama campaign.
Some of this depends on whether the disastrous Mark Penn really has been replaced -- word is that he retains his access, but not his official stature. But even if he is gone, I don't trust Harold Ickes, Terry McAuliffe, and Howard Wolfson -- all of whom came into this with the confidence that they'd be running the next Democratic general election campaign, and probably the next Democratic administration -- to take orders from Plouffe/Axelrod and fit their candidate into the role that Obama's folks want them to play. There's a huge potential for organizational dysfunction here, one that's much smaller with any other VP candidate. Hillary herself strikes me as less problematic -- if she really wants the VP slot, she'll adapt to it. But a lot of people under her won't be content with less than they expected, and they may make trouble.
3. I want to see the Republican Party's 15-year investment in smearing her come up absolutely worthless.
Over the years, the Republican Party has spent a gargantuan amount of money and effort smearing Hillary Clinton. Right-winger Lisa Schiffren's post is one of my favorites:
Let's say last night really did indicate that Hillary's negatives will keep her off the ticket. (Or keep her from winning if she's on it.) You know what? Deep in my psyche, in the place that kind of misses the toothache I've been prodding at with my tongue, I am having a tiny little pang of missing Hillary. Not her, but hating her. Hating Hillary has been such a central political impulse for so long now — 15 years — and I have had to work so hard to keep it up as she became more appealling looking, less shrill, more human — I don't really know what I will do with that newly freed strand of energy.
Imagine all that well-tended right-wing fury... gone to nothing. What a pleasure it'll be to say, in January 2009: "Guess how much that enormous anti-Hillary investment was worth? $0. We had another great candidate -- the smart black guy who will make sure that American foreign policy won't ever be done your way again. His army of young followers will be voting Democrats into office for the rest of their long lives."
2. We need a clear antiwar message.
Bill Clinton's presidency made the economy a Democratic issue. Obama's big promise is that he'll do the same with foreign policy, and advance a view of the issue that will serve the Democratic Party and America well for the next several years. For VP, he needs somebody who can reinforce that message -- either a Democrat who never supported the war, or one who has totally renounced his/her support and rejects the war with the zeal of a convert. Hillary could've -- and should've -- come out against the war full-force during or before the primary. As it stands, it'll be a grand shame if we accept a candidate who's tied into Kerryesque knots on this central issue, and whose impulses for how to do foreign policy and how to strategically position yourself on the issue are so far inferior to Obama's.
1. We've got a whole heck of a lot to choose from.
Stephen cites the polls showing that 60% Democrats think Obama should choose Hillary. But this data is most likely the product of low name recognition for any of the other contenders. Most Americans, for example, have no idea who Kathleen Sebelius is. John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Jim Webb probably didn't come before most respondents' minds at the time, as they weren't mentioned as options. (Hillary was the only option named.)
One of the pleasures of all this Veepstakes talk is that it gives people a chance to learn about a bunch of Democrats who have accomplished great things for the party. And in fact, we have some excellent people to choose from. I'm going to be talking up Sebelius (who accomplished some truly amazing things in Kansas), Edwards (probably the ultimate in-office VP pick), Brian Schweitzer (the badass governor of Montana) and my favorite dark horse -- domestic policy Senate superstar Sherrod Brown of Ohio -- over the next couple weeks. I'll read more on Napolitano, too, and see if there really is as much of a case for Jim Webb as some people seem to think. Stay tuned.
(I misstated PortlyDyke's views in the original and have now corrected them.)