Running Mates: A look at the vice presidential prospects in both parties in a rough order of how their chances rank:
- Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine: The logical choice is a moderate Southern governor, and Kaine is the only one who fits that description. His negatives are multiple: only been governor for two and one-half years, with few accomplishments; an absolutely zero profile nationally with low charisma to match; hard to imagine him as President of the United States. But he’s popular in Virginia, which hasn’t been carried by a Democrat for president since ’64, but would be possible with Kaine on the ballot.
- Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.): He is qualified to be President, and gives foreign policy expertise to Obama. He adds experience and age to the ticket, is a Catholic and was impressive as an unsuccessful presidential candidate (much better than in his disastrous ’88 run). The downside is that he talks too much, but who listens to vice presidential candidates anyway?
- Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.): He adds moderation and is presentable as a future President. But a fellow senator from the neighboring state of Indiana doesn’t add much balance. If he could really bring Indiana into the Democratic fold, it would be worth putting him on the ticket. But that’s a stretch.
- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: He is very able and very experienced, a ticket-balancer: age 64, Jewish, Clinton supporter and pins down a state that Democrats must win to elect a president. The problem is that he just doesn’t look or sound much like a president.
- Al Gore: Back again! We don’t think he would do it, but it’s possible. The question: Does he drive off more independents and Republicans than he attracts?
- Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.): He’s only 48 years old and elected to the Senate just in 2006, so it doesn’t make much sense to have two young first-term Senators on the ticket. Also, he would be an insult to his blood enemy, Rendell. But otherwise he’s a ticket-balancer: Catholic, pro-life, pro-gun. He endeared himself to Obama campaigning against the Rendell organization in Pennsylvania.
- Sam Nunn: The former senator hasn’t run office since ’92, so it’s doubtful how much he would help in the probably unwinnable state of Georgia, and he would be 71 years old when elected. He is still anathema to the gay community for his opposition to “don’t say, don’t tell”. Nevertheless, his national security experience makes him attractive to some party insiders.
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y): Immensely improbable if only because it brings Bill Clinton back into the picture.
- Mitt Romney: He’s on top of the picture with backing from Bush White House, many conservatives and money-raisers. The negatives are that he still is not first on McCain’s dance card and never has polled well nationally.
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: McCain likes him, and he is one of the few eligible GOP governors. But it’s hard to see what he brings to the table. He’s not considered very conservative, and he can’t carry Minnesota for the ticket.
- Rob Portman: He looked much stronger a month ago. But now his background as a Bush Cabinet official is hurting him. Also, polls show his background as congressman from Cincinnati does not help him much in the rest of Ohio. Still, he is an extremely able, attractive conservative.
- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist: He might seem the most improbable president since Chester Arthur. But McCain likes him, and he owes him big for his endorsement that may have decided the Florida primary—and the nomination. He erased one question mark last week when he announced he was getting married.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: The 36-year-old first-year governor always was a long shot, but the steam went out of his balloon when he promised state legislators he would sign their pay raise (Mistake No. 1) and then vetoed the bill (Mistake No. 2). Still a favorite of many conservatives.
- Sen. John Thune (S.D.): A late starter, who is still revered in party circles as the man who defeated Tom Daschle in 2004. But he is an earmarker, and running with anti-earmark McCain would be difficult.
McCain: McCain released an economic plan this week as an effort to reach out to conservatives and shore up one of his weak points.
- McCain has long been willing to defer to others on economic issues. In 2000, he joked that his economic plan would be to make certain Allan Greenspan stayed atop the Federal Reserve, even if Greenspan died. This year, he professed (to the consternation of his advisers) he didn’t really know much about economics.
- This admitted ignorance not only opens a line for Democratic attack, it also confirms the suspicions of conservatives wary of this maverick: that his periodic embraces of big government—keeping upper-income tax rates high, regulating energy in the name of climate change, and even his open-borders stance on immigration (his claim that nobody would pick lettuce for $50/hour)—flow from ignorance of and apathy towards the economy.
- McCain’s plan was a conservative reform plan that will upset some in his party (“John McCain will veto every pork-laden spending bill and make their authors famous.”) It mentioned the biggest conservative reforms of recent years, including entitlement reform.
- He fully displayed his conversion to base conservative positions on taxes (fighting to protect the Bush tax cuts he originally opposed) and domestic drilling (supporting off-shore drilling, while leaving out ANWR).
- Certainly not everything in the plan is conservative—coal and renewable energy subsidies, strict federal regulations on fuel economy, and others.
- The document contained nothing new: It was more or less a compilation of his past positions.
Virginia: Sen. John Warner (R), for the second time in the last two decades, is helping hand a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia to the Democrats.
In 1994, when Lt. Col. Oliver North (R) won the Republican nomination for Senate, Warner refused to back North, and instead ran his own candidate, independent Marshall Coleman. Coleman garnered 11%, enough to drag down North and give incumbent Sen. Chuck Robb (D) a 46% to 43% victory. That seat is now in the hands of Sen. Jim Webb (D).
In 2008, Warner has chosen to retire at a time when the Democrats have a top-tier candidate to offer, and the Republicans do not. As icing on the cake, John Warner has yet to endorse this year’s Republican nominee, former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R)—who has secured the nomination.
Former Gov. Mark Warner (D), the Democratic nominee, is a safe bet for November. One measure of his dominance: He holds a 24-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Gilmore, who almost lost the GOP nomination at the state convention last month.
Gilmore has just too many problems to overcome—his own likability deficit, the leftward drift of the state, Warner’s popularity among liberals and the business community, the cash disparity, and the utter lack of GOP unity in the commonwealth.
Republicans can attack Warner for raising taxes as governor, but he did so only with the eager cooperation of the GOP legislature. Also, Gilmore’s fiscal bonafides are sullied by his 40% spending increase over four years—which made him break his promise to completely eliminate the car tax.
After the 2000 elections, Virginia had a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and two Republican-controlled chambers of the legislature. After the 2008 elections, those could very likely all be Democratic. Likely Democratic Retention.
Virginia-11: Continuing their steady march across the well-manicured lawns of Northern Virginia—and white suburbia nationwide—Democrats look likely to swipe up the Fairfax County-based House seat of retiring Rep. Tom Davis (R).
Republicans—even conservatives who didn’t like his voting record and didn’t even like him personally—pleaded with Davis to run again on the belief he was the only Republican who could win this seat. With Davis retiring, Fairfax County Council Chairman Gerry Connolly (D)—mostly on the strength of being the Democratic nominee—is well positioned to be the next congressman from the 11th District.
Republicans have nominated businessman Keith Fimian (R). Fimian is a conservative and a political novice, but he so far has kept even with Connolly on fundraising, and had thrown in $325,000 of his own money as of May 21. Because Connolly had to burn through $373,000 in order to win a competitive primary against former Rep. Leslie Byrne (D), Fimian started the general election with a $500,000 cash advantage.
Connolly is a long-time operative in the local party, and he should have no trouble organizing a ground game and fundraising. Fimian’s greenness, combined with a depressed Republican base, will give the Republican a serious disadvantage on the ground.
The most important factor in this race, however, are the shifting demographics and the politics of this region. As exemplified by the Democrats’ state legislative victories last fall (which swept out Davis’s wife, a state senator), Northern Virginia suburbs are turning blue. One factor is the growth of government and government employees. Another is an increasing cultural liberalism among wealthy whites and an increasing economic moderation among Democrats.
The Democratic primary was bruising, with the more moderate of the two candidates winning handily. Thankfully for Connolly, the Byrne supporters are nearly guaranteed to turn out, anyway, with Obama atop the ballot—and they’re not going to vote for Fimian. Leaning Democratic Takeover.