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Why I have just put £50 at 12/1 on the man below

February 23, 2008

Why I am betting that Joseph Lieberman will be on the bottom of the Repblican ticket.

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Right now it seems very likely that, barring some sudden event, John McCain will be the Republican nominee. A lot of words are going to written about the upcoming contest on this web-log alone so I have decided to focus on the bottom half of the ticket, the vice-presidency. The vice-presidency has frequently been derided as a thankless job, with a lack of real power but the responsibility to carry the can for every mistake that the President make. Indeed, John Garner once compared it to, ‘a barrel of warm spit’. However, given that nearly every President has either faced an attempt on their life, a major health scare or a scandal (or any combination of the three) the choice of vice-president will be important. At the same time, the memory of the negative publicity that resulted from Bush’s choice of Dan Quayle should remind McCain that this is not a choice without electoral consequences (though Bush did of course win the 1988 election with Quayle as his running mate).

There are essentially three things that a running mate should possess; the ability to take over the reins if need be, the ability to boost the ticket and the absence of anything that might reduce the ticket’s popularity. As a moderate in a party that is perceived (probably unfairly) to be dominated by those who are not only to the right of Attila-the-Hun, but probably think that Attila was a big government liberal and soft on immigration, there have been calls for John McCain to appoint someone with impeccable conservative credentials in the fiscal or social field to keep on board. This also means that Rudolph Giuliani, Lindsay Graham or even Charlie Crist can be ruled out. While even dyed-in-the-wool Republicans accept that choosing polarising figures like the failed Pennsylvania Senator Richard Santorum or John Ashcroft would not be a wise move, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have both been suggested to placate fiscal and social conservatives respectively. At the same time there have been calls for more unorthodox choices such as Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and even General David Petraeus.

However, all these suggestions have severe drawbacks. The selection of Romney would alienate social conservatives while choosing Mike Huckabee would alienate independents. Sarah Palin may have an appeal that transcends politics, but putting a Governor who has barely spent a year in office a heartbeat away from the Presidency would undermine McCain’s arguments about experience. Although the choice of Condi Rice would be groundbreaking, she is not a natural campaigner and many people do find her a rather distant and cold character. In any case, while McCain needs to emphasise his hawkish ness, Condi is simply too connected with the Bush administration on all issues. Finally, we know little about David Petraeus’s beliefs on economic and social issues, and his willingness to deal with former Ba’athists, even in defiance of the administration, does not exactly inspire confidence about the sort of foreign policy advice that he would give to John McCain.

Of course picking the independent Senator Joe Lieberman, will have many potential negatives. There will need to be a lot of work put in to mollify the Evangelical Right about the sort of Supreme Court justices a Lieberman administration would appoint, in the event that something tragic happened to McCain. However, I believe that choosing Lieberman could paradoxically unite the Republican party behind the ticket while convincing ‘Charlie Wilson Democrats’ to consider sending the party that has deserted them, a clear message in November. The appeal of Lieberman’s message on family values and faith in public life should not be underestimated as well. At the same time selecting McCain could put a number of North-Eastern states in play. Indeed, if Obama is the nominee McCain could realistically compete in all states, including the traditional Democratic strongholds of New York and Massachusetts.

There is also the argument that selecting a conservative Democrat like Lieberman could actually unite the Republican party. Because of his Democratic background and the impossibility of him winning a Presidential nomination (even if he assumes the office of the Presidency) Lieberman allows the Republicans to delay the battle between Social and Economic conservatives to 2012 or 2016. If McCain nominated someone from within the Republican party, that candidate (and that candidate’s faction) would have a tremendous advantage when McCain stepped down. By nominating Lieberman (and giving both Huckabee and Romney positions in the cabinet) McCain could ensure that there was a level playing field in any future contest for the Republican nomination. Lieberman’s outsider status means that he has not offended anyone in the Republican party and will be above internal Republican politics.

Despite his denials of interest in the position, there are also strong indications that Lieberman is being groomed for the position. Although he briefly said positive things about Giuliani last summer he was a major part of pro-surge rallies in September. He endorsed McCain in December and spent a lot of time on the campaign trail for him, not just in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Florida, but also in traditionally conservative states, such as South Carolina. Although Tim Pawlentry did some campaigning as well, McCain failed to carry Minneapolis. Lieberman has also attended international conferences on McCain’s behalf and they most notably made a join appearance together at the National Prayer Breakfast. Lieberman was also awarded the ‘Keeper of the Flame’, by Human Events Magazine. Indeed, New Gingrich stated that ‘McCain he could do something truly different and potentially ask [Democratic Senator] Joe Lieberman to form a unity ticket because of the war to bring together Democrats and Republicans’ while William Kristol stated in 2007 that, ‘McCain-Lieberman, Thompson-Lieberman, Romney-Lieberman, Huckabee-Lieberman–those sound like winning tickets to us…why settle for a victory if you can have a realignment?’.

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