The Hillary-Obama Ticket?

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Rudy Giuliani is predicting a Democratic election ticket of Hillary Clinton for president and Barack Obama for vice president.

Not only can anything happen in a political situation as volatile as the current one, but it is also a little silly to make predictions so far before any primaries. That said, playing oracle in politics is a lot of fun, so I’ll play along too: I think Rudy is wrong…I think Hillary will be the Democratic nominee but I do not think Obama will be their candidate for vice president.

Prognosticating that Hillary “I refuse to answer that ‘hypothetical’” Clinton will be the Democrat nominee for president isn’t particularly daring. She’s leading the polls nationally. She’s getting the Clinton money machine back on track. She’s surpassed Edwards in pre-primary polling in Iowa. She wisely emphasizes her experience instead of issues and avoids mistakes even if that means not answering substantive questions. Her opponents, John “How’s my hair?” Edwards and Barack “No American flag on my lapel” Obama seem to be losing political and financial momentum (not that Edwards ever had much of either.)

So, when Hillary becomes all but certain to be the nominee, she’ll have a hard decision to make regarding whom to ask to run with her. Here are some of the reasons I believe Obama will not be her selection, in reverse order of importance.

1) Until it is absolutely clear that Obama will not win the nomination for the presidency, he must publicly and privately disavow any interest in the position of VP. If the race remains close as we near the Democratic convention in Denver, Hillary will not have Obama as an option even if she wanted him as one…which I doubt.

2) In order to become President, Hillary only needs to win one state more than John Kerry won in 2004. Vice presidential candidates are often selected with an eye toward helping the ticket win states where the presidential nominee might be weak. Barack Obama is a liberal from Illinois. Hillary Clinton, despite her current New York address, is also a liberal from Illinois. The Clintons are already exceptionally popular with African-American voters, so strengthening Hillary’s appeal among that group is probably not what she most needs to try to win competitive states. Clinton needs help with moderates, Whites, Hispanics, and men. She needs help in the South, the West, and Ohio. Obama isn’t a good strategic choice to help with any of these groups or locations. Bill Richardson is.

3) If Obama does not get the nomination to be the Democrats’ candidate for president, the primary reason will be his lack of experience. With the Oval Office being one tragedy away, adding someone with such a glaring weakness as the VP candidate is likely to be a substantial political negative.

4) Very few people really want to be vice president (even if they realize that it’s probably easier to become president from the VP’s office than from the Senate), and especially not people who are likely to have very substantial political influence by remaining in their current job. Unless Obama is financially reckless, he should come out of the campaign season with a substantial war chest of campaign money, especially if he begins to believe relatively early on that he will not be the nominee for president. Combining his obvious appeal to young voters and the incredible number of contributors to his campaign with the ability to shower money on other candidates, Obama would wield much greater power by staying in the Senate than by moving into the executive branch where his ability to be partisan and to influence elections will be more limited.

5) Given her ear-shattering ego, it’s a bad bet to think that that Hillary Clinton will choose a running mate who is more appealing, more fawned on by the media, and probably more liked by most of the country than she is. Not to mention the fact that Obama is better looking than Hillary. His appeal will give him more influence on policy decisions than Clinton would want to cede to anyone. After all, her whole adult life has been a pursuit of power. Why would she dilute that power at the same time that she reaches its pinnacle? Obama must realize that Hillary would likely harbor such fears and therefore expect that she would try to minimize his visibility while in office, giving him tasks and responsibilities which would keep him away from the public much more than he’d like to be.

At the end of the day, there is no compelling reason for Hillary to want Obama as her vice presidential candidate nor do I see a reason for Obama to want the job. On the other hand, from political strategy to influence on the country to basic psychology, there are plenty of reasons for both senators to prove Rudy wrong.