Will Obama Dump Biden?

Fred Dicker at the New York Post published a Fourth of July column in which he speculated that President Obama could drop Joe Biden and select New York governor Andrew Cuomo as his running mate in 2012. 

Dicker cites two sources for his column… one of them a Republican, former New York party chief William Powers, who says, “I don’t think there’s any doubt Obama is going to pick him as his running mate. The president is in trouble and [Vice President Joseph] Biden doesn’t bring anything to his ticket.  The president will call him up later this year and say, ‘Andrew, you have to do this for the good of the country.’ What’s Andrew going to say, ‘No?’ “

The other source is former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who listed Cuomo’s assets as: “He’s a big name, a big-state governor, and a Democrat who is taking on the issue of public-employee salaries and pensions. Plus, he looks good.”

Neither of these gentlemen has any sort of inside track to the Obama campaign.  They’re just making a smidgeon of news on a slow holiday weekend by speculating that since Joe Biden is a non-stop embarrassment, and Cuomo is one of the few members of the Democrat Party to be enjoying a reasonably successful tenure at the moment, a veep upgrade would make sense.

Such talk is fairly routine in the desperate hours of a troubled presidency.  It’s comforting for the faithful to think something as simple as switching the names at the bottom of the ticket could arrest a political free fall.  In reality, Obama’s problems have very little to do with Biden, especially since the media has absolutely zero interest in turning the gaffe-prone Vice President into a nightly news spectacle, in the manner of Dan Quayle.  For that matter, Obama himself has blurted out more eminently ridiculous things than Quayle ever did, but the press is not likely to dwell on that.

Even if Obama did think dumping Biden could help his campaign, the move would likely do more harm than good.  If New York is so much in play for 2012 that adding Cuomo to the ticket is necessary to shore up Obama’s position there, this is a walking-dead ticket anyway, and Cuomo would be foolish to tarnish his rising-star image by riding it into the grave. 

Also, Cuomo is a big name at the moment because of New York’s new gay-marriage law, and that is probably not baggage Obama wants on the ticket.  The President speaks endlessly of his “evolving” position on the subject.  He’d lose his wiggle room if he brought Cuomo on board. 

It may be that Obama plans to suddenly finish “evolving” and openly come out in favor of gay marriage during the campaign, in a bid to grab headlines and political support – but if that’s true, he probably wouldn’t want to telegraph his move in advance by tapping Cuomo as his new veep candidate.

Cuomo is also inconvenient for the emerging Democrat narrative that no price is too high for taxpayers to maintain the lavish benefits of union members, since as Willie Brown pointed out, Cuomo has been “taking on the issue of public-employee salaries and pensions.”  Of course he gets a pass on much of that activity, because he’s a Democrat, but elevating him to the presidential ticket would make it difficult to maintain the narrative that “union-busting” Republicans are the embodiment of totalitarian evil in places like Wisconsin.  Obama needs a lot of enthusiasm from union supporters in order to win this race.  Vice President Andrew Cuomo would probably cool them off a bit.

Swapping out blue-state Biden for blue-state Cuomo would also irritate the growing regional wounds in purple-state flash points around the country.  Biden’s already there, so his Delawareness is baked in the cake… but at this point trading him for a prominent politician from someplace like New York or California might be a bit too much for a nation rapidly losing patience with Chicago politics.

Veep swaps are often discussed, but rarely practiced, because they constitute an uncomfortable admission of political weakness from an imperiled incumbent.  Unless the media really beats on them, as they did with Potatoe Quayle and Darth Cheney, they become largely invisible to voters until the election rolls around, and their sudden disappearance is noteworthy.  If Joe Biden is such a disaster, why would people want to re-elect the guy who made him Vice President?

There are few cases where the political damage from jettisoning a Vice President would outweigh the gains, because it’s a gambit that fascinates political junkies, but just plain looks bad to everyone else.