# VP

Biden-Palin debate open thread

I don’t know whether I’ll be online later this evening, but use this thread to discuss tonight’s big debate.

It seems that expectations for Sarah Palin couldn’t possibly be lower. How do you think Joe Biden should handle this? I think he needs to ignore any gaffes she makes. Let the media handle that. Biden should focus on promoting Obama’s policies and attacking John McCain.

Note to conspiracy theorists: this diary by ipsos suggests it would not be easy for Palin to get away with wearing an earpiece during tonight’s debate.

I still believe George Bush was wired during his first debate with John Kerry in 2004.

UPDATE: For entertainment value, it’s hard to beat TPM’S Ultimate Sarah Palin Video Guide.

POST-DEBATE THOUGHTS; Palin was smart to look right into the camera almost the whole time she was speaking. There weren’t any deer in the headlights moments, but on several occasions she transparently sidestepped the question and plugged into some programmed response full of buzzwords. I have no idea how it’s going to play with relatively uninformed voters, but I would hope that they could see past her repetition of certain phrases. I also couldn’t believe she kept winking at the camera!

Biden didn’t make any mistakes as far as I could see, other than looking too much at Gwen Ifill and not enough at the camera. However, he did look at the camera more during the second half of the debate, which was good.

On several answers he was devastating, pointing out the contrasts between Obama and McCain. I liked that he kept bringing the focus back to economic issues. I liked how he repeated that McCain was wrong about the war in Iraq being easy. I loved how he repeated that we spend more every three weeks on combat operations in Iraq than we have in six and a half years in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden has been. It was great the way he put the lie to McCain’s “maverick” image, showing that he hasn’t been a maverick on any of the issues important to Americans, like health care and education.

Although Biden’s not flashy, I felt he turned in a very solid performance tonight. I would be surprised if the snap polls show Palin winning. I know I’m not her target audience, but I felt she looked and sounded programmed. It seems like the people already supporting McCain would love her, but I’m not sure how she played with undecided voters and independents.

What was your favorite Biden moment? I loved when he talked about McCain’s flawed health care plan being “the ultimate bridge to nowhere.”

I have just one question

If today is John McCain’s birthday, why did he give us a present?

I strongly disagree with the idea that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a game-changer for the Republicans.

Hillary Clinton gave a strong endorsement of Barack Obama on Tuesday and will be out campaigning for him this fall. I’m supposed to believe that women who preferred Hillary in the Democratic primaries will flock to McCain, with his horrible record on women’s issues, because a conservative woman is his running mate?

I get the rationale for picking Palin, as laid out here by Chris Bowers and in a different way by Iowa blogger Douglas Burns.

But McCain is staking his campaign on persuading Americans that Obama is “not ready to lead.” I cannot see how it helps McCain to choose a running mate who is younger and less experienced than Obama. Palin has served less than two years as governor and before that was mayor of a town with fewer than 10,000 residents.

At 72 years old, McCain would be the oldest president ever elected. He is also a cancer survivor. Can the Republicans make the case that Palin is ready to lead this country should the need arise?

Supposedly the GOP base will be thrilled to see the anti-choice Palin on the ticket. I read some “mommy blogs” written by religious conservatives and will be checking them in the next few days to see how they react to this pick. (These bloggers tended to favor either Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul.)

I assume they will be relieved that McCain did not choose the detested Mitt Romney. However, I am not convinced these rank and file members of the religious right will celebrate Palin’s selection. They believe women should be homemakers who homeschool their children, and they think feminism and the trend toward working outside the home is undermining “Biblical womanhood.”

No matter how enthusiastically the Republican pundits welcome Palin, I suspect that many social conservatives will feel she should be at home, taking care of her special-needs infant and schooling her older children.

The business wing of the Republican base tended to support Romney in the primaries. Mitt himself is reportedly furious at the way McCain strung him along. Look for the knives to come out if anything goes wrong with Palin–for instance, if she gets tainted by the trial of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

I’m skeptical that Palin will neutralize Joe Biden (supposedly because he can’t afford to be seen as a bully). Biden has two jobs: to alleviate concerns about Obama’s lack of experience, and to be an attack dog. The first task will be easier with Palin as his counterpart. As for the second, Biden can ignore Palin most of the time and focus his fire on McCain during the only vice-presidential debate.

Choosing Palin looks like a Hail Mary pass from a candidate who knows he will lose unless he shakes things up in a big way. I’m feeling much more optimistic about Obama’s chances than I did five days ago.

Democratic National Convention open thread

Hillary Clinton released her delegates earlier today and told them that they could vote their conscience, but she had voted for Barack Obama.

Later she urged the convention to nominate Obama by acclamation, which it did enthusiastically.

This is an open thread for discussing any of Wednesday’s speeches or other events at the convention. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden will be the prime-time highlights. (By the way, one of my neighbors has put her Biden for president yard sign back in front of her house. She is “fired up and ready to go,” as they say.)

After the jump I’ve posted the text of Governor Chet Culver’s remarks (as prepared) to the DNC yesterday. He focused on energy policy, which is certainly among my top 10 reasons for Americans to vote for Obama.

UDPATE: When Bill Kristol idiotically claimed last night that Hillary Clinton gave a weak endorsement of Obama, he noted that she hadn’t said Obama would be a good commander in chief.

Guess what? Today’s theme is national security, and Bill Clinton has already said,

“In Barack Obama, America will have the national security leadership we need. My fellow Democrats, I say to you Barack Obama is ready to lead America…”

Got that, Mr. Kristol?

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Reaction to the Obama-Biden ticket

Icebergslim brings you pictures and speeches from today’s rally in Springfield.

Hope Reborn brings you lots of clips from journalists and bloggers reacting to Barack Obama’s selection of his running mate: “Glowing Reviews of Vice President Joe Biden: GOP ‘disappointed silence’”

Markos is not happy that Obama “filled a gap, rather than reinforced.”

Paul Rosenberg is disappointed for a different reason, as he explains in “Biden and the Primacy of the Inside Game.”

James L. of Swing State Project looks at what might happen to Biden’s senate seat from Delaware (Biden is up for reelection this year.)

dcprof says “Biden crimps McCain’s VP choice,” and I completely agree.

dday analyzes Ron Fournier’s hit piece for the Associated Press and makes the case that Fournier should recuse himself from covering the presidential campaign or be fired. He makes a strong case, since more and more newspapers rely on wire services like the AP for political coverage, and Fournier considered taking a job with John McCain’s campaign last year.

Steve Benen gives you the gory details on how bad Fournier’s piece is.

Firedoglake also put up an action item on calling for Fournier’s dismissal.

John Deeth’s take on Biden is here. You can find some of Iowa Independent’s greatest hits on the Biden family here.

MoveOn.org is giving away Obama-Biden stickers:

You can get one Obama/Biden sticker for free. For a $3+ donation, we’ll send you 5 stickers. For a $20+ donation, we’ll send 50 stickers. Stickers may take 4-6 weeks to arrive.

If you donate at least $30 to the Obama campaign, you’ll get an official Obama-Biden t-shirt with the campaign logo.

How do you feel about the ticket?

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Biden will be a good surrogate for Obama

CNN noticed that Secret Service arrived at Joe Biden’s home in Delaware last night, which makes it almost official.

The case for Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running mate is simple: he’s got a lot of experience at the federal level, particularly in foreign policy. That will reassure voters who may be concerned about Obama’s resume and blunt a major line of attack from John McCain (whose ads have been questioning whether Obama is “ready to lead”).  

But plenty of people in Washington have served in Congress for 20 or 30 years. What makes Biden better than most of them as a running mate? Media scripts about the “gaffe machine” notwithstanding, I submit that Biden’s campaigning ability will be a huge asset to Obama.

I know the stories about Biden putting his foot in his mouth, and I am old enough to remember the Clarence Thomas hearings, when Biden talked too much and didn’t put Thomas on the spot enough.

But he is a much better campaigner than people give him credit for.

Of all the presidential candidates, Biden got the best word of mouth from Iowans who attended his events last year. I don’t think I ever talked to anyone who went to hear him and walked away unimpressed. I wrote about this last summer and again right before the Iowa caucuses.

If you don’t believe me, read accounts by other people who listened to Biden take questions for an hour or more from voters, sometimes just about Iraq and foreign policy but more often about any topic Iowans felt like bringing up.

Biden is not going to need a crash course in federal policy to prepare for the vice-presidential debate, because he knows this stuff inside-out. And despite his reputation for long-windedness, he is able to answer questions in 30 to 60 seconds. In the Democratic candidates’ debates last year, Biden did extremely well despite consistently getting 30 percent to 50 percent less time to speak than the front-runners. He often had the most memorable one-liners from those debates too.

Speaking about the news media’s blackout of long-shot Democratic contenders, Elizabeth Edwards wrote in this op-ed for the New York Times:

And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.

Biden’s speaking style is more aggressive than Obama’s, which will help him be the attack dog Obama needs.

I also agree with Jonathan Singer’s point that Biden’s relative lack of wealth will reinforce the message that the Democratic candidates can relate to ordinary Americans on bread-and-butter economic issues.

Finally, Steve Clemons is absolutely right: Americans are going to love Jill Biden.

Biden wasn’t my number one choice for Obama’s vice president, but he is going to bring a lot to the table.

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Last chance to show off your VP prediction skills

Most people seem to think Obama’s short list is Biden, Bayh and Kaine, but there’s a lot of late buzz about him surprising us all, perhaps with Hillary.

What do you think? I don’t think he will choose Hillary, because his people stupidly made a big point of saying earlier this summer that he didn’t want her on the ticket. If he chooses her now, it looks like he is acknowledging he can’t win without her, and I don’t think he wants to show weakness.

She would be a good choice, though. The right-wing hate machine has been doing a good job of rallying Republicans around McCain. The argument that choosing Hillary would galvanize conservatives against Obama no longer holds water.

UPDATE: Politico says Hillary was never vetted and Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas is on Obama’s short list. Please don’t let Obama be dumb enough to pick him. If he wants a conservative Democrat, it should at least be someone who puts a state in play. Also, Chet Edwards is not seasoned as a communicator on the national stage.

SECOND UPDATE: A friend of a friend of a source of Matt Stoller says Biden’s family is making plans to be in Springfield this Saturday:


THIRD UPDATE: Marc Ambinder picks up on a chartered flight from Chicago’s Midway airport to New Castle, Delaware…possibly going to pick up Biden’s family?


Obama doesn't want Wes Clark in Denver

Ragbrai08 pointed me to this post by Steve Clemons, who reports that Wes Clark will not attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver:

Clark was informed by Barack Obama’s people that there was no reason to come.

General Clark has been given no role of any kind at the convention.

Rubbing salt in the wound even more, the “theme” of Wednesday’s Democratic convention agenda is “Securing America.”

Wesley Clark’s PAC also happens to be called SECURING AMERICA.

I have to agree with Paul Rosenberg, who once noted at Open Left that incompetence is not using your strongest surrogate, and idiocy is not using your strongest surrogate in your weakest suit.

Unfortunately, distancing the Obama campaign from Clark will not just reduce Clark’s influence. It will also embolden the right-wing noise machine. If they manage to get the punditocracy to throw a big, unjustified hissy fit, Obama will run scared. Expect further efforts to discredit strong Democratic voices during the general election campaign and next year if Obama beats McCain.

So, definitely cross Clark off the VP list. Senators Joe Biden and Evan Bayh will speak in Denver on Wednesday night of convention week, fueling speculation that one of them will be Obama’s running mate.

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Another VP speculation thread

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet says Delaware Senator Joe Biden is moving up on Barack Obama’s short list:

While Obama’s heart may go towards Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine–his head takes him to a more experienced pick, a Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) or Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Although Biden voted for the bankruptcy bill and was a vocal supporter of Bush’s Iraq War for a long time, his lifetime Senate voting record is much more progressive than Bayh’s. It’s not even close.

Also, Biden is a better speaker and campaigner than Bayh and would be a great attack dog.

Also, we wouldn’t lose a Senate seat if Biden became vice president.

Wesley Clark would be my first choice for VP, but if Obama wants to go with a DC establishment figure, Biden would be an excellent choice. He would do no harm to the ticket and would help Obama with over-60 voters, in my opinion.

Steve Clemons says sources indicate Bayh has a better than 50/50 chance of being chosen by Obama.

Paul Rosenberg reports that a new “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP” group on Facebook got more than 1,300 people to sign up on the first day. Early Thursday morning, they were almost at 2,000 members.

Choosing Kaine would be a big mistake, in my opinion. The Virginia community blog for Democrats, Raising Kaine, did a ton to help Kaine get elected, but the writers there are appalled by the way he has governed. Also, it would be too easy for the Republicans to peg an Obama/Kaine ticket as inexperienced.

Then again, Philip Martin of the Texas blog Burnt Orange Report watched a video of Kaine speaking in Texas and had this to say:

I started watching this video not liking Kaine. I already didn’t like him because he (and his staff) were surprisingly and unnecessarily pushy backstage at the TDP convention (where I was volunteering). After reading about his policies, I liked him even less. Suffice to say, I’m really, really unexcited about any prospects of him as Vice President.

But if the only measuring stick is, “how good of a stump candidate for Vice President” would Kaine be, I’d have to say excellent. He can speak in Spanish, delivers red-meat to the base without becoming too partisan or overshadowing Obama, and can honestly tell a real-life story of flipping conservative states red-to-blue.

He’s one of the worst choices for anyone who cares about policy, but is a damn good choice for anyone who only cares about politics.

Over at Raising Kaine, TheGreenMiles quotes Karl Rove to preview “the lines of attack the GOP would use if Kaine were the choice.” Hint: they’d say he was chosen for purely political reasons and lacks sufficient experience.

The New Republic’s Eve Fairbanks thinks Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is “much more impressive” than Kaine.

Use this thread to discuss whom Obama should pick as a running mate and why.

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New VP speculation thread: Is it Bayh?

Barack Obama’s got a layover in Indiana tonight, and some people expect him to select Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate tonight or tomorrow.

I’m not crazy about Bayh as a vice presidential candidate. On the plus side, he’s a former governor and current senator from a red state Obama is making a play for. (Kerry states plus Iowa, New Mexico and Indiana would put Obama past 270.) Also, Bayh backed Hillary Clinton for president, so picking him would be a gesture toward uniting the party.

On the minus side, Bayh is not a great speaker and wouldn’t be the best surrogate. Also, his voting record isn’t very progressive, and I’m not just talking about “values” issues; he voted for George Bush’s tax cuts. Maybe that’s what a Democrat representing Indiana has to do, but if Obama wins, his VP could be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Bayh isn’t the kind of politician I’d like to see get a leg up in the next competitive Democratic presidential primary.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that we most likely give up a Senate seat if Bayh becomes vice president (unless Democrat Jill Long Thompson pulls of an upset in the Indiana gubernatorial race). If Bayh were an outstanding choice for VP, it might be worth giving up a Senate seat, but that’s not the situation at hand.

If you think I’m too tough on the guy, check out Matt Stoller as he labels Bayh “A Democratic Dan Quayle.”

Jeralyn at Talk Left went over other aspects of Bayh’s record and observed:

Whoever Obama picks, you can be sure polling had a huge amount to do with it. That means he will go for the choice that is most palatable to middle America — not to progressives. We are probably considered “fringe voters”, one step short of being outlaws by any national presidential campaign. They want the heartland.

So the question is, who’s the best centrist for Obama? Bayh seems pretty bland, like mayonnaise. At least he doesn’t go around introducing major, comprehensive tough on crime bills every year. Talk about lowering one’s expectations…..It’s like that game people play at kids’ birthday parties where you have to slide under the bar that gets lowered with every contestant. I just hope we’re not all on the floor by the time November rolls around. Then again, better on the floor than underground, which is where we’ll be if the Republicans win again.

UPDATE: Here are a few views of Bayh’s voting record.

Progressive Punch ranks him in the 40s among the 100 senators on most issue fields. That means Bayh is among the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus in the Senate.

Project Vote Smart lists his votes on numerous individual bills.

And here Project Vote Smart lists Bayh’s ratings from a bunch of different interest groups.

SECOND UPDATE: I forgot to mention that in the past two years Bayh has voted with progressives about 68 percent of the time “when the chips are down,” according to Progressive Punch. The methodology behind the “chips are down” calculations is explained here.

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Weekend VP speculation thread

Either Barack Obama or John McCain may pick a running mate this week, before the Olympics start.

I haven’t heard much buzz lately about McCain’s choice. My money’s still on Mitt Romney, who has a relatively coherent message on economic policy (for a Republican) and can raise a lot of cash.

Word is that Hillary Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention in Denver on the Tuesday night. Since Obama’s running mate is expected to speak on Wednesday night, it seems that Hillary is not under serious consideration for VP.

Matt Stoller is still pushing for Wes Clark, and he and other bloggers have started a draft Clark for VP site, but I see no evidence that Clark is even being vetted by Obama’s team. They seem to want to avoid picking someone who will be seen as “balancing” any weakness in Obama’s resume.

Todd Beeton suspects the Obama team has decided the running mate should have some Washington experience, and he made a fascinating observation at MyDD:

My gut tells me a couple of things. First of all, Barack is not going to pick someone who needs to be introduced to the country. He has enough of an uphill climb introducing himself to the nation, is he really going to pick another unknown quantity for the ticket? So that leaves us with a different list, which, let’s say for argument, looks like this: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Sam Nunn.

Among these possible picks, some are known thanks to their extensive Washington, DC resumes (Clinton, Biden, Nunn, Dodd), some are not (Clark, Edwards, Richardson.) So, which list will Obama pick from? You’ll recall that in the primary, Barack ran against Washington experience and turned what Hillary thought would be her top selling point into an albatross around her neck with one very effective line: “are we just going to keep sending the same people to Washington and expect a different result?” In other words, if you’ve spent a lot of time in DC then how can you expect to change it? He could and should be using the same line against McCain, but he’s not. The other day I noticed him almost say it at one of his townhalls, but he caught himself. Why? My gut is that he’s leaning toward picking a Washington insider for his VP. My guess is it’s Biden.

Biden wouldn’t be my first choice for VP, but he would be a good fit for Obama in many ways. He’s a strong campaigner and could be an effective attack dog. Also, I think he would help Obama with the over-60 voters, where he is relatively weak.

Then again, First Read reports that the press team following Obama will spend 21 hours in South Bend, Indiana from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon. They suspect that Obama might select Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate there.

Like Biden, Bayh is a Washington insider, but he’s also a former governor of a red state. He endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, so that might be a gesture toward uniting the party.

Then again, Obama may just be planning to hold a few campaign events in Indiana because that state could be competitive this year.

Bayh is way too conservative for my taste; for instance, he voted for Bush’s tax cuts in 2001. More worrying, we would likely lose his Senate seat if he became vice president, unless Jill Long Thompson pulls off an upset in the Indiana gubernatorial race this year. If Obama wants a Washington insider, I’d prefer Biden.

Many people still expect Obama to choose a different red state governor, either Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas or Tim Kaine of Virginia.

For whatever reason, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson doesn’t seem to be on Obama’s short list. That’s too bad, because I like him a lot more than Kaine, and I think he brings more to the table than Sebelius.

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Obama campaign to announce VP choice by text message

Very clever. An e-mail from the Polk County Democrats informs me that the Obama campaign will be sending out the vice-presidential selection by text message.

To “hear the historic news wherever you are,” just text IOWA to 62262. Then you’ll receive updates from the Obama campaign in Iowa on your cell phone.

I don’t text message, but I imagine a huge number of people will be signing up for these updates.

Speaking of cell phones, the Obama campaign will have the biggest phone bank ever at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. About 75,000 people are expected to attend Obama’s speech the night he will accept the Democratic nomination, and the campaign will ask them to call unregistered voters.

And speaking of crowds, the Des Moines Register’s website has the video from Obama’s town hall in Cedar Rapids today. I only caught a small fragment, but I liked what he said about how parents need to turn off the television and unplug the video games.

In part of the town hall that I did not see, Obama went after John McCain on energy policy:

“Under my opponent’s plan, the oil companies get billions more and we stay in the same cycle of addiction and dependence on big oil that got us into this crisis in the first place,” Obama told an audience of about 1,000 at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. “That’s a risk that we just can’t afford to take.”

Obama was referring to McCain’s support for a gas-tax holiday and expanding the areas where oil companies can drill. Obama says a tax holiday would pad oil company profits and that they already have access to areas where they are not drilling.


“It won’t drop prices in this administration, the next administration or the administration after that,” he said. “Although it won’t save you dollars at the pump, I will say it has raised campaign dollars.”

Obama said McCain raised $1 million from oil company executives at a fundraiser in Houston last month.

Democrats better have a good answer on oil drilling, because not only is McCain blaming Obama for high gas prices in some of his campaign ads, down-ticket Republicans like Tom Latham will also use this issue against their opponents.

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Well, this is a first

I got noticed by Markos on the front page of Daily Kos!

Unfortunately, it was to attack and take out of context what I wrote in this post at MyDD yesterday.

Markos didn’t like my opinion that it would be a political mistake for Barack Obama to choose a woman running mate other than Hillary Clinton.

Actually, “didn’t like” is a bit of an understatement:

This is such a crock of shit. After all the talk of Clinton breaking glass barriers, are her supporters still so hung up on her loss that they’re willing to create a new glass ceiling for women candidates, one that excludes anyone not named Hillary Clinton?

Fact is, the party is united behind Obama. In the latest Research 2000 national poll shows that Obama wins Democrats 82-9 percent, which is little different than McCain’s 83-10. In 2004, Kerry won Democrats 89-11, and Obama will be up in that range when all’s said and done. There are no more “party unity” concerns.

Throw in the fact that Obama has locked down the Latino vote, is winning women handily, has shown surprising strength in the Mountain West, the midwest, and even parts of the South. He has locked down the Democratic strongholds. It’s clear that Obama doesn’t need Clinton on the ticket.

I never said Obama needed to choose Hillary or that he is having problems uniting the party.

And of course I was not a Clinton supporter at any time and have not been advocating for her selection as VP (though Obama could do a lot worse).

Markos goes on to say,

I’ve got several people on my list of veep possibilities that would certainly reinforce Obama’s core message of change, and several are women (mainly Sebelius and McCaskill). I don’t have any inkling where Obama is going with this thing, but I do know that being forced to take women off his shortlist lest he offend some Hillary supporters is asinine. I doubt Clinton fought to shatter one glass ceiling to replace it with another.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius makes sense in that she is a two-term governor. I also like that she stepped in to block coal-fired power plants from being built.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill would be a terrible choice in my opinion. She has less relevant experience than Obama and is on the right wing of the Missouri Democratic Party. She has a much less progressive voting record than Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

My comment in this thread at Daily Kos:

for the record, here is what I said

and did not say.

I did not say Obama needs to pick a woman. In fact, at the end of that very post I said I’d offer it to Wesley Clark if I were Obama.

I did not say Obama has a problem with women voters.

I did not say Hillary is the only woman qualified to be on the ticket.

However, she is the only woman who was the preferred presidential candidate of 17 million plus voters.

I do think that in light of this year’s extraordinary primary battle, it would be a political mistake for Obama to choose a woman running mate other than Hillary.

If Hillary were the nominee, I would also advise her against choosing a black man for VP other than Obama (though many would be qualified, such as John Conyers or Charlie Rangel).

To do so would be viewed as a slap in the face to Obama.

Also, Hillary wasn’t my first, second or third, choice, so I appreciate not being referred to as one of her supporters.

This comment got buried under an avalanche of comments agreeing with Markos and misrepresenting what I believe, but I wanted to set the record straight here.

Use this as a thread for more idle speculation about whom Obama should and should not choose as a running mate.

Several commenters at MyDD made the case for Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who was an early Obama supporter. I don’t think we have a very deep bench in Virginia. It’s not worth giving up a governor to put Kaine on the ticket.

I still think that if Obama does not want to choose Hillary (and it looks like he doesn’t), he should choose someone close to the Clintons–and not Florida Senator Bill Nelson or Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Not only are they both too conservative for my liking, we would lose a Senate seat if either of them became vice president.

UPDATE: Yet another report indicates that Hillary Clinton is not on Obama’s short list for VP. As I’ve said, I don’t think he would choose her unless he felt he couldn’t win without her, and he probably can win without her.

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Please tell me this is someone's idea of a joke

I’ve written before that I think it would be a huge mistake for Barack Obama to select any Republican for a running mate. The next president will appoint at least two and perhaps four Supreme Court justices. Obama is a longtime smoker with a family history of cancer. I don’t want any Republican in line to inherit the presidency.

And I’ve written that I think it would backfire for him to choose a woman other than Hillary Clinton for vice president. Not that I have anything against Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (I would give her serious consideration if she ran for president someday). But I agree with a MyDD commenter who wrote that for Obama to pick Sebelius or Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill would be like Hillary picking Harold Ford as a running mate if she had won the nomination.

I’ve also said I would hate to see Obama choose a corporate-friendly vice president. I already worry that as president he would do too little to rein in the excesses of corporate power in Washington.

Now Politico reports that Obama’s vetting team is floating the name of Ann Veneman, who was Agriculture Secretary during George W. Bush’s first term, with members of Congress. That would be the worst kind of trifecta in my mind.

I can’t understand what Veneman could possibly have going for her. She’s executive director of UNICEF, but who cares? When she was in the cabinet, she didn’t promote sustainable agriculture or sensible health protections.

As the Organic Consumers Association reported when Bush appointed her, Veneman had a long history of standing with corporate interests. When she left Bush’s cabinet, her “vision and commitment” won praise from the American Meat Institute. Politico notes:

The low-profile Republican was close to food and agriculture industries but clashed with farm-state Democrats and environmentalists during her tenure, which lasted from 2001 to 2004.

Maybe Veneman is being mentioned to throw journalists off the scent, or to trick progressives into feeling relieved if Obama chooses a corporate Democrat who’s not “that bad.”

It bothers me that Obama would even allow his team to consider someone like Veneman, even as a diversion. I want the next administration to make CAFOs pay for the harm they cause.

UPDATE: The Nation explains why Veneman would be “a uniquely awful choice” for Obama.

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Watch Republicans spin as Obama is proved right on Iraq

UPDATE: Al Rodgers has lots of video and photos of the reception Obama got from American soldiers in Baghdad. Think these people want to be home with their families?

A staple of John McCain’s stump speech has been to play up his military experience and to claim that he, unlike Barack Obama, will be able to win the war in Iraq.

It wasn’t the strongest hand to begin with, because polls show that a clear majority of Americans would rather bring our troops home from Iraq than keep them there indefinitely. Nevertheless, it made sense for McCain, an outspoken supporter of this unpopular war, to try to depict Obama’s plan for Iraq as irresponsible.

Trouble is, earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. Obama quickly published this New York Times editorial laying out his plan:

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition – despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success – it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

As Obama pointed out, President Bush and McCain have repeatedly said they would respect the wishes of the sovereign Iraqi government. Well, Al-Maliki told the German magazine Der Spiegel last week that he supports the timetable laid out by Obama.

An unnamed Republican strategist summed it up for Marc Ambinder: “We’re f*cked.”

Couldn’t Al-Maliki have been mistranslated? It doesn’t look that way. NBC’s First Read had this to say on Monday about John McCain’s “rough weekend”:

You know you had a problematic weekend when: 1) one of your top economic advisers/surrogates finally steps down from the campaign after his “nation of whiners” remark; 2) you get panned for breaking CODEL protocol/etiquette by announcing (incorrectly) at a fundraiser that your opponent is headed to Iraq on Friday or Saturday; 3) the prime minister of Iraq tells a German magazine that he backs your opponent’s plan for withdrawing troops from that country; and 4) when the Iraqi government tries to walk back that support, it does so unconvincingly. On the bright side for McCain, his campaign seized on remarks from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen that withdrawing US troops over the next two years would be “dangerous.”


Per NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Obama has arrived in Baghdad and he spoke with Maliki. The headline after their photo-op: Maliki’s spokesman said afterwards (in English) that the Iraqi vision is for all US troops to be out of Iraq by 2010. And with this news — as well as the Der Spiegel interview, in which Maliki seemed to back Obama’s withdrawal plan — the trip seems like it has already been a PR success for the Illinois senator.

Memo to political journalists: this trip is a lot more than a PR success. McCain simply doesn’t have anything left supporting his determination to keep us in Iraq long-term. Why should Americans hire him as our commander-in-chief?

Now Republicans are trying to change the subject. Talking heads claim recent events in Iraq prove that McCain was right to support the “surge” in U.S. troops (which Obama opposed but voted to fund).

McCain tried to submit his own op-ed about Iraq to the New York Times, but the newspaper’s editors rejected it because it didn’t contain anything new of substance. (You can read the rejected piece here.)

It doesn’t look like McCain believes he can win the election on the Iraq issue, though. I say that because his paid advertising is not using his own campaign’s talking points on Iraq, such as how Obama never talks about winning the war, only about ending the war.

Instead, the McCain campaign has focused on energy policy in some early commercials. On Monday, as Obama visited Iraq, McCain started running a new television ad contrasting himself and Obama on new oil drilling:

Open Left has the script:

ANNCR: Gas prices – $4, $5, no end in sight, because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.

No to independence from foreign oil.

Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?

CHANT: Obama, Obama

ANNCR: One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets.

Don’t hope for more energy, vote for it. McCain.

JOHN MCCAIN: I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

On substance, this ad is absurd. Drilling for more oil in the U.S. wouldn’t come close to replacing the oil we purchase from foreign countries. Oil companies aren’t even leasing all the currently available fields for offshore drilling. Opening up new drilling sites wouldn’t bring any new oil onto U.S. markets for years.

And anyway, who’s been running the country for the last seven and a half years? Obama’s just one senator out of 100, and he’s only been in Washington since 2005. But suddenly he’s to blame for rising gas prices?

At the same time, this commercial may be effective spin for McCain. To the average person, drilling for more oil here in America may sound like a good way to bring down prices and help us be independent from foreign oil. I also think the crowd chanting Obama’s name will be a turnoff for many viewers. If you don’t already support Obama, that probably sounds creepy.

An earlier McCain ad sought to tie Obama’s “hope and change” message to 1960s hippie culture, but I suspect this new approach has more potential for McCain. It suggests Obama only offers empty hope for more energy, while McCain has a plan. (Never mind that Obama has a much better plan for producing clean energy in the U.S.)

When Obama returns from his trip to the Middle East and Europe, he better have a good response ready on offshore drilling and energy independence.

In other McCain diversion news, the sometimes well-informed columnist Robert Novak says McCain may have something else in mind to steal Obama’s thunder this week:

Sources close to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip.

If McCain does name his running mate early, I doubt he will choose a dark horse. My money would be on Mitt Romney.

Final note: I don’t have satellite radio, but Keith Nichols mentioned that The Bill Press Show on Sirius 146 is doing a countdown of 101 reasons to vote against John McCain. They give a new reason every morning at 7:25 am (central time). The list of reasons 63 through 101 can be found here. The page is updated daily.

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New VP speculation open thread

Virginia Senator Jim Webb withdrew his name from consideration as a vice-presidential candidate. That’s a relief from my perspective.

According to Marc Ambinder,

A Democrat close to Webb confirms that a request for documents preceded his declaration to the Obama campaign. The Democrat said that Webb did not want to relive the vigors of a campaign so soon after his election to the Senate.

Like I’ve been saying, Webb does not like campaigning enough to be a good running mate.

Meanwhile, John Edwards will debate “Bush’s brain” Karl Rove on September 26. Some people have interpreted the scheduling of that event as a sign Edwards knows he will not be Obama’s running mate.

I still think Wes Clark would be an excellent choice for Obama, despite the recent dustup over comments he made about John McCain.

Some smart people think he will pick Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, but I still think that it would be a mistake for Obama to choose a woman other than Hillary Clinton.

VP search teams for Obama and McCain have both begun vetting candidates. McCain is said to be considering Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

I tend to agree with Douglas Burns, who wrote that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be a good running mate for McCain.

If McCain is feeling pressure in Florida (a state he must win in order to get 270 electoral votes), he might consider selecting Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Rumors that Crist is gay could be a problem with that scenario. Crist was married to a woman in his early 20s and just got engaged to his current girlfriend.

Put your predictions or opinions about either candidate’s VP choice in the comment section.

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Obama VP speculation open thread

Paul Rosenberg still wants John Edwards on the ticket, citing new opinion polls that show he helps Barack Obama more than many other possible running-mates.

Virginia Senator Jim Webb seems to have taken himself out of the running by co-sponsoring a bill to allow offshore oil drilling in Virginia.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold seems to have taken himself out of the running by criticizing Obama for opting out of public financing for his general-election campaign.

General James Jones has to be off the list after he accompanied John McCain to a campaign event in Missouri.

As I’ve written before, Obama must above all do no harm with his VP choice. That means he can’t choose anyone who would alienate the Democratic constituencies that favored Hillary Clinton in the primaries. If I were in his position, I would probably choose someone close to the Clintons, like Wes Clark.

However, if Obama doesn’t want to tap someone from the Clinton circle, a number of other choices, including Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and John Edwards, would be ok by me.

If he wants an “old wise man,” I much prefer former Florida Senator Bob Graham to someone like former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.

I am absolutely, implacably opposed to putting any Republican (such as Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel) on the Democratic ticket. The next president is going to appoint several Supreme Court judges, and I don’t want any conservative to have any chance of becoming president.

Make the case for the running mate of your choice in the comments.

UPDATE: Good discussion about the pros and cons of Biden on the ticket in the comment thread under this diary: Biden Drank Graham’s Milkshake: Veep Audition?

Point-counterpoint on the unity ticket

Ed Kilgore: “The case for an Obama-Clinton ticket, also known as, you got any better ideas?”

Thomas Schaller: “He would lose his claim to being the candidate of change — and probably wouldn’t get any swing states in return.”

Read, then discuss.

I don’t know what the best choice for Obama is. I think Hillary clearly would help him in some swing states, but would she hurt him in others? He is presumably doing the state polling now to figure that out.

UPDATE: In what doesn’t look like a smart move to me, the Obama campaign has hired Patti Solis Doyle, who was responsible for many of the Clinton campaign’s enormous strategic errors, to be chief of staff for Obama’s future running mate.

Insiders are interpreting this as a signal that Obama is not even considering Hillary for VP. Clinton and Solis Doyle have apparently been estranged since Solis Doyle was fired right after Super Tuesday.

If I were Obama, I would not be going out of my way to insult the Clinton camp right now.

SECOND UPDATE: Matt Stoller is still advocating for Wes Clark as VP, and I find it hard to disagree after watching this video:

The VP candidate needs to help build the case against John McCain. Without coming across as strident, Clark makes a very effective case against McCain on national security (supposedly McCain’s strength). Clark’s longtime ties to the Clintons would help unite the party as well.

Obama looking more likely to beat McCain

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I have been deeply concerned about Barack Obama’s ability to beat John McCain. I’ve been worried about his weakness in key battleground states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. I still think the electoral college nightmare scenario outlined by David Yepsen is possible if McCain squeaks by in a few large battleground while Obama runs up a popular vote lead in Democratic strongholds.

But if the last few days are anything to go on, Obama is going to be the favorite this November.

Obama has picked up a decent bounce in tracking polls against McCain since Clinton ended her campaign, and it looks like he is increasing his lead among women. State polls indicate that he is ahead in electoral votes as well as in nationwide polls.

He has taken an important step toward uniting the party by promising to work with Elizabeth Edwards on health care reform. Not only will this excite the Democrats who supported John Edwards, it is a gesture toward Hillary Clinton’s supporters as well. The Clinton and Edwards health care plans were very similar, and this spring Elizabeth Edwards made clear that she preferred Clinton’s plan to Obama’s.

I still think Obama should pick a Clinton loyalist to be his running mate (if not Clinton herself). But if these reports are accurate, it sounds like his VP vetting team is casting a wide net, including some former military leaders.

What has John McCain been doing? Saying on the Today Show that the timing for bringing American troops home from Iraq is “not too important”:

Slinkerwink summarizes the reaction from various prominent Democrats here. The defense coming from the McCain camp is that he didn’t say bringing troops home from Iraq was “not too important,” he said the timeline for bringing them home was “not too important.”

Tell that to the loved ones of troops serving in Iraq right now, especially the families of those who’ve been stop-lossed and are serving their second or third tour.

I’ll be sure to mention to other moms of young kids that McCain doesn’t mind leaving our troops in Iraq indefinitely, as long as U.S. casualties come down. I doubt many mothers relish the thought of their kids growing up to staff permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

Also for your reading pleasure, Daily Kos user timran brings you McCain’s top ten blow-ups. This is not the temperament you want in your president.

Obama should choose a VP who will unite the party

If I were Barack Obama, I don’t know whom I would choose for a running mate.

In a typical year, it would be enough to select a VP candidate who balances the ticket, or helps deliver a key state.

This year, with Obama just barely winning the most hard-fought nominating contest in living memory, it is vital for him to choose someone who can unite the party.

Some Clinton supporters think the only way for him to do that is to “throw the Hillary haters under the bus and ask Hillary to be his running mate.”

I am not convinced that Hillary is the best choice for Obama, but she’s far from the worst choice.

It would be much worse for Obama to choose someone who would particularly alienate the very voting blocs that favored Hillary in the primaries.

Two great posts by Natasha Chart make this point better than I can:

Veepness stakes: Please no Webb, DINOs

Veepness stakes: Securing the Clinton bloc

Do click over. These are worth your time.

UPDATE: Longtime Edwards supporter Neil Sinhababu gives you “Ten Good Reasons for an Obama/Edwards ticket.” I’m not sure that would be Obama’s best move, but he could do a lot worse. Edwards has said publicly he’s not interested in running for VP again, though.

SECOND UPDATE: David Yepsen looks at the pros and cons of having Hillary on the ticket and concludes, “Don’t Go There, Obama.”