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The Democratic Veepstakes

July 14, 2007

Who will be the pick of the Democrat nominee?

Having handicapped the Republican vice-presidential nomination it is only logical to do the same for the Democrats. This is a relatively straightforward task possibilities for the vice-presidential nomination. This is of course extremely speculative at this stage. If it wasn’t for the fact that the contest seems to be essentially a race between Hillary and Obama, with Hillary the overwhelming favourite, it would be pointless. However, given that the contest for the top spot is not completely unpredictable a few basic predictions can be made about the candidate most likely to feature on the bottom half of the ticket.

1. Barack Obama – Usually people who come second in a presidential primary don’t get the nod as vice-president, not least because the campaign has either exposed their weaknesses or they have irreparably damaged their relations with the winner. However, people have extremely short memories and Kerry’s decision to choose Edwards as his running mate in 2004 has planted in many people’s minds the belief that Obama, if he puts in a good showing, will be entitled to the vice presidential spot. A more convincing argument would be that his youth and charisma would contrast well with Lieberman, or any other possible Republican nominee (excluding Palin). However, Obama adds little in electoral terms to the ticket and his youth is as likely to be a weakness as it is to be an asset. Essentially, his chances depend on Hillary (or Gore) being pressured into choosing him.

2. Mark Warner – If appealing to the political centre and moderate voters, rather than pacifying the base, were the sole criteria Warner would be the obvious choice. He’s moderate, experienced and his home state of Virginia is marginal enough to make putting him on the ticket good from an Electoral College point of view. However, some negatives from the perspectives of getting onto the ticket are his centrist economic and foreign policy views, his decision to withdraw from the presidential primary when he was seen as a serious contender and the fact that he was unable to unseat his namesake John Warner from the Senate in 1998.

3. Jim Webb – Jim Webb is similar to Mark Warner in that he is from Virginia and as a former Regan Republican) has some potential cross party appeal. He also has the requisite views on foreign policy that the left require and has a pugnacious populist streak. However, he only beat George Allen by a tiny margin and he could very well be attacked for abandoning the people of Virginia only two years after he was elected. Despite the fact that Virginia’s was the eighth weakest ‘red’ state in 2004 there are severe doubts, as there are with Warner, about whether Hillary Clinton should even be trying to win any southern states, especially if the Republican nominee is Frank Thompson.

4. Bill Richardson – If targeting southern states is out of the question for Hillary Clinton then moving westwards might be a logical response. Putting the current governor of New Mexico on the ticket would swing three western states (New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada) into the Democrat column and ensure that a McCain candidacy could not threaten California. Indeed, one of the decisive factors in Bush’s 2004 victory was the fact that he reduced the Democrat lead among Latinos to 10%. If putting Richardson on the ticket in 2008 meant that Obama or Clinton got 60% of Latino votes this could well swing a few other states, such as Florida. In fact, since Latinos turn out in lesser numbers than other ethnic groups (with the exception of Asian-Americans) the Democrats could get a double boost from having Richardson on the ticket. The only negative is that there are various rumours swirling around Richardson, rumours which made him withdraw his name from consideration in 2004, which are the last thing that Hillary Clinton needs.

5. Ken Salazar – He has all the electoral positives that Richardson brings to a ticket without the potential for sexual scandal and an appeal to moderate. However, it is his moderate views might bring the ire of Democrat activists while he has lesser name recognition than Bill Richardson. There is also the question of his relative inexperience.

6. Al Gore – Barack Obama might choose him for his experience and his appeal to the South. However, we are unlikely to see another Clinton/Gore ticket while he could fade from view if he enters the race and does badly.

7. Sherrod Brown – Brown would be a strong contender if the eventual nominee wants to win by energising the base and focusing all his/her efforts on Ohio. However, this is a very risky strategy and could backfire if McCain or Giuliani wins the nomination and decides to target a ‘blue’ state in the North-Eas as Brown is too liberal to appeal outside his home state.

8. Blanche Lincoln – If either Obama or Gore win the nomination they will face pressure to put a woman on the ticket. As a centrist and co-founder of the Blue Dogs she would be the logical choice. However, Arkansas is even more of a long-shot than Virginia and she would only be a reasonable choice if Hillary wasn’t the nominee.

9. Claire McCaskill – The Senator from Missouri might be useful in swinging a key Midwestern state into the Democrat column. However, she was only elected two years ago.

10. Bill Nelson – Nelson might be useful in helping the nominee win Florida but he has little national name recognition

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