Politics

Barack Obama’s Veepstakes: A List of Possibles

With Sen. Barack Obama securing the Democratic presidential nomination next comes the veepstakes. Here are some of the top contenders for the second banana slot on the Obama ticket.

1. Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.)

Bayh was the 13th most conservative Democratic senator in 2007, with a composite liberal score of 62.2, according to National Journal. Choosing a more conservative running mate may be what Obama needs to even out his track record. Obama’s own composite liberal score of 95.5 made him 2007’s most liberal senator.

During the 110th Congress, Bayh has voted the Democratic line 83% of the time, including a casting an “aye” on Vote 204, which, while enforcing border control, offered what some saw as amnesty to current illegal workers through a path-to-citizenship provision.

Considered a skilled campaigner and debater, Bayh performs well under pressure. In one recent hearing on Iraq, Bayh engaged Gen. David H. Petraeus in a debate over the general’s strategy. Though he failed to overcome Petraeus’ intellect, Bayh showed himself a very adept politician.

Bayh could bridge the gap between Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters as well as appealing to working-class white males and possibly Indiana voters who have voted Republican in the last two elections. Bayh, however, offers no military experience — a key issue in this election.

2. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Even though Hillary’s White House dreams are crushed, another woman may find herself close to the Oval Office: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius, though not an outspoken feminist, may be able to rally Clinton’s female voters. She has won two terms in Kansas, traditionally a Republican state, which could mean the state would be in play for Obama.

Sebelius has governed as a liberal, offering in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants who graduated from high school in Kansas and were accepted to college there. She also, like Obama, has a pro-choice stance and vetoed a bill in 2006 that would have required clinics to collect information regarding why late-term abortions were conducted.

While Democrats say they’re ready for change, some speculate that it may be asking too much of voters to bridge both the gaps of race and gender.

3. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

Gov. Ed Rendell could be the wisest choice for Obama, who alienated middle- class voters in the Keystone State with his “guns and religion” gaffe. Rendell proved a powerful campaigner with precisely the voting blocs that Obama is weak among.

Following Obama’s controversial remarks, Rendell appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity’s America” where he criticized Obama not only for the remark, but also for his multiple explanations for why he said it and what he actually meant in regard to “syntax.”

Rendell has battled his state’s large budget deficit ever since his election in 2002. He proposed a 33% state income tax increase — lowered to 10% by legislators — and suggested employing slot machines to relieve property taxes, making Pennsylvania’s 6,1000 slots second only to Nevada in total machines.

Rendell also initiated highly unpopular legislative as well as executive and judicial pay raises in July 2005. After serious negative reaction, Rendell signed a bill negating the legislative pay raise.

4. Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn

Sam Nunn brings a lot of different assets, the principal one being a clear balance to Obama’s overwhelming liberalism. Nunn’s expertise — as former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Investigations — earned him broad experience in key areas as well as the respect of members on both sides of the aisle.

Also another plus for Nunn: Obama has chosen Georgia as one of the swing states he plans on trying to carry. As a former senator in good standing with the state’s voters, Nunn could offer valuable assistance in this endeavor.

Nunn could be very helpful to Obama on foreign affairs, due to his work with Russia in dismantling nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Despite his appeal, others factors may be too much for liberals to accept. Nunn helped author the highly controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning homosexuals from openly stating their orientation while serving in the military, and others feel that Nunn’s age weakens the age contrast between Obama and McCain that they hope to emphasize.

5. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark

Another possibility is retired Gen. Wesley Clark from potential swing state of Arkansas. A long-time pal of Bill Clinton, Clark’s appeal stems from his experience as NATO commander in the Bosnia intervention.

Like others in the running, Clark may be able to sway some of Hillary’s disappointed voters and help unify the Democratic vote. Before Clinton withdrew from the nomination contest, Clark attended several of the senator’s campaign events, giving her his endorsement and speaking on her behalf.

But Clark’s most prominent quality — his military experience — also is his least attractive for many people. Although Clark’s military background has already been scrutinized by conservatives, many Democrats fear there may still be skeletons in his closet that would surely come out were he to be selected.

Since Clark has never held office, it is unclear he could draw support and establish rapport with voters, which may be crucial in the Veepstakes proceedings since Obama himself is a relatively young politician.

6. Sen. Jim Webb (Va.)

Jim Webb is regarded by many as the most likely vice presidential choice for Obama.

In contrast to Clark, Webb offers both military and political experience. A Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, Webb can claim service as a Republican official as well as a Democratic senator. Yet, having held office only since 2006 doesn’t give Webb much of a legislative record on which to base a claim of experience.

During the 110th Congress, Webb missed a total of only seven votes out of 598. Although the National Journal rates Webb even more conservative than Sen. Bayh (D.-Ind.), Webb has followed the Democratic line his in votes a substantial 90.5% of the time, according to washingtonpost.com’s Votes Database.

A graduate of the Naval Academy, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of multiple awards, Webb’s military experience would be valuable for Obama to point to. Webb is so war-oriented that he wore his son’s combat boots during the 2006 senatorial campaign and now has them encased in glass and on display in his Senate office, which may be off-putting to many liberals. Nonetheless, Webb may enable Obama to carry Virginia — a Republican state in recent elections.

When asked about a VP nomination, Webb fumbled, “That’s just sorta, something that hasn’t been discussed, and, um, something that I really haven’t focused on that much.”

7. Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.)

Just when you thought she was finished, her name pops for further consideration. Hillary ranks No. 7 in our review.

The New York senator’s most appealing factor is the possibility she can gain back for the ticket almost all of the disappointed voters she gathered during the primaries, nearly 18 million of them.

However, Clinton’s negatives are overwhelming. Clinton shifted farther to the left from 2006 — when she ranked 32nd most liberal senator — to 2007, when her liberal stances propelled her to being16th most liberal senator. She has voted with her party an overwhelming 97% of the time, although she’s missed 199 votes during the 110th Congress due to her campaign.

Poor relations between the Obama and Clinton campaigns have also made Clinton’s selection seem highly unlikely. Obama’s appeal to female Clinton supporters to “get over it,” however misinterpreted, may have alienated Clinton’s voters for good.

8. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

Gov. Richardson brings an assortment of qualities to the table. He has held positions with the U.S. Department of State and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as serving as secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to name only a few.

After dropping out of the running for the Democratic nomination, Richardson gave his endorsement to Obama and become an active spokesman for Obama’s campaign, infuriating the Clintons. The VP slot for Richardson would offer much-needed political experience to Obama’s ticket, and at the same time, Richardson’s Latino background may draw added minority voters come Election Day.

Also, aspects of Richardson’s economic stance may offer appeal to Republican voters. He supports free trade, and realizing how uncharacteristic of his party that is, refers to himself as an “endangered species in the Democratic Party.”


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