Wednesday, July 16, 2008

VP Profile: Hillary Clinton

Age: 61
Current Position: Senator from New York
Former Positions of Importance: First Lady of the United States, January 1993- January 2001

Pros: Any Democratic women still angered at both the tone and the outcome of the primary will be mollified by this selection. It would show Obama's respect and admiration for the historic nature of Clinton's candidacy. By accepting the position, Clinton would give those women concrete evidence that she had made her peace with her defeat and was excited about the prospect of an Obama presidency. Those supporters could take solace in the idea that their heroine would have a voice in influencing policy.

Paul Krugman would be happy.

The campaign could deploy Clinton in the blue collar areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania that provided the margin of her victory in those states. Toward the end of the campaign she managed to forge a bond with the kind of scuffling lower-middle-class voters who are desperate for economic relief after eight years of this Bush administration. Those voters haven't yet embraced Obama, and could be heartened by the presence of Clinton on the ticket.

She brings a measure of policy wonkiness to the table, a heft that Obama supposedly lacks. In other words, Clinton might not be answering that 3 am phone call, but she'll be right there by Obama's side when he does.

Cons: No one cares what Paul Krugman thinks.

Clinton doesn't give the campaign anything in terms of geographic appeal. If New York is in play come November it's because Fox News played a video tape showing Obama and bin Laden playing pinochle on the Shroud of Turin.

The big question is whether Obama and the campaign wants to deal with all the detritus that comes with having a Clinton in the spotlight. Does Obama want to fight the Ken Starr battles all over again? If you've read any of the several hundred post-mortems detailing the collapse of Clinton's primary campaign, you get the impression it was run by a group of back biters who wouldn't be out of place in "I, Claudius." Does anyone in the Obama campaign want to deal with that collection of egos? Does anyone in the Obama campaign want to deal with Bill?

A Hillary Clinton nomination would energize the base of the Republican Party, that group of people on the extreme right wing who quite fervently consider her the Whore of Babylon. In an election where many of those voters are dissatisfied with their party's choice of candidate, it would seem unwise to poke them with a stick until they get angry enough to read that piece of direct mail.

Verdict: I don't think so. Clinton can certainly play a role in the campaign, and Obama would be wise to use both Bill and Hillary in certain areas. The ex-president, for example, could make hay in rural areas of Virginia and North Carolina, both states the campaign thinks are vulnerable.

But he can do that even without his wife on the ticket. There's so much there there. So much baggage, so much history, so much rage. I just can't imagine Obama dipping a toe into that swirling vortex of resentment and psychological devastation.

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