Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Race to Be Hillary Clinton's Running-Mate

With the Democratic primaries continuing to look close, but with Hillary Clinton seemingly in a slim but insurmountable lead (especially considering her near unwavering strength amongst the superdelegates), the next chapter of the campaign appears to be starting, and with that comes chatter over whom Hillary Clinton will pick to be her Joe Lieberman, her John Edwards, or (if she's lucky), her Joe Biden.  Clinton's campaign has already sent out what are clearly feelers to the public, with specific names being bandied by Democratic operatives and being leaked to the more gossip-fueled political websites such as Politico.  While there's still a long way to go before Clinton, eternally cautious, shows her hand and we see who her running-mate is, it's never too early to speculate, and I figured I'd do a Top 10 list this Wednesday morning of the dectet of contenders I most think could be her running-mate.

Not on the List: I am including only candidates who are likely to be on the list, and not just those that the media wants to fawn over in an indulgent/fantasy sort of way.  As a result, you'll see no Joe Biden (if he wanted to run another campaign, he would have made a play for the top spot), no Elizabeth Warren (she's been a thorn in Hillary Clinton's side for months, has more power staying on as a senator and may be coming in in 2020 and building off of Bernie Sanders' momentum, and plus I get the feeling that the Clinton Camp really doesn't like her), and no John Kasich (really, news media?!?).  You're also missing some slightly more believable, but likely not credible candidates like Govs. Ed Rendell and Terry McAuliffe, both longtime Clinton allies but who have too many skeletons in the closet for such a high-profile campaign moment.  And finally, only People magazine thinks something like a Bill Clinton or Michelle Obama running-mate situation is feasible, so let's not even go there.

10. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)

For Him: I almost put him on the list above, but it's hard to shake the appeal of Sanders to certain sectors of the Democratic Party.  After all, he's won many states, nearly as many as Clinton, and continues to be an ardent presence on the campaign trail.  One of the biggest questions Clinton will have for her campaign should she win the nomination is how to get Sanders' supporters onto her side as she swings into November.  This would definitely the swiftest and easiest way of accomplishing that, and it feels like there will at least be some pressure on Clinton to make this happen.
Against Him: It's rare that someone picks a chief primary opponent anymore, certainly not as their first choice, John Edwards being the obvious exception.  Barack Obama and George W. Bush both faced similar pressures, but neither picked Hillary Clinton nor John McCain, respectively, and I suspect that Clinton will assume that Sanders supporters will come to their side in a similar vein, thus pivoting to a candidate who may have more appeal to general election voters.

9. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

For Her: Admittedly McCaskill is on this list as both a test balloon for an all-female ticket as well as because she's my favorite senator (I could just as easily have pitched Amy Klobuchar or Jeanne Shaheen, both of whom would have their own set of political ups-and-downs).  However, McCaskill is a former Obama supporter who came out incredibly strong for Clinton, and has been a pitbull for her against Sanders and the Trump campaigns.  She's a tough campaigner, a Democrat successfully elected (twice) to the Senate from a red state, and a former prosecutor which would help her on the campaign trail and especially in a debate.  Put it this way-if she were a man, we'd all be talking about how she's going to be the VP.
Against Her: Will Clinton, known for her caution, take such a bold risk even if she may secretly want to do so?  I have a hard time believing she will, and McCaskill's more moderate profile (particularly on trade) may alienate Sanders supporters hoping for a more traditional progressive on the ticket.

8. Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA)

For Him: Patrick is one of two African-American Democrats who currently have the stature to run for national office (and aren't already in that position), and some would argue that Patrick is the stronger contender of the two.  After all, he's an unquestioned liberal, served two terms as governor, and is a great orator as was evidenced in 2012 during the convention when he brought the house down while Martin O'Malley had just a lukewarm reception.  While Clinton has enjoyed strong support from the African-American community, her husband employed a double-down strategy when he picked Al Gore and it worked-would she consider something similar?
Against Him: There's no evidence that African-American voters would be more enthused to support Clinton with a member of their community on the ticket, particularly considering their ardent support of her in the primaries and the fact that Trump's rhetoric is probably going to drive up minority voters in general for the left.  Plus, Patrick is a Massachusetts Democrat and after Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, quite frankly, it's hard to make that pitch a third time to a party still stinging from two Bush losses.

7. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

For Him: He's one of the only Democrats on the national stage who has been both a governor and a senator, and he was a wildly successful businessman to boot.  Throw in that he's from a swing state and it's easy to see Warner's appeal.  He's a generally likable guy, and I suspect he'd keep Virginia firmly in Clinton's camp, which would inch her almost certainly closer to the White House, if not pushing her completely into the Oval Office.
Against Him: His reelection numbers in 2014, even in a landslide year for the GOP, were anemic and he very nearly Roy Barnes-ed himself.  He's not the smartest choice even in his home state, and he might be too blase for the White House.  Plus, it's worth noting that Warner could have run in 2008 and didn't, and some have questioned whether he'd be up for a race of this rigor.

6. Sec. Thomas Perez (D-MD)

For Him: Chatter within the beltway seems to have centered around Perez as an underdog sort of candidate, one that is probably underestimated in Democratic circles and could be a way for Clinton to gain Sanders supporters by picking someone who has been a strong supporter of her campaign but would be palatable to them.  Clinton is watching President Obama's approval numbers rise, and if they continue to hold, picking another person from his cabinet wouldn't be the worst idea. He has Elizabeth Warren's backing, which is something that Clinton will want to shore up the left, and being an Hispanic in an election year where Latino voters will be critical for whomever wins the White House, can't hurt.
Against Him: He's never held major elected office before, and his 2006 Attorney General campaign was a bit embarrassing to say the least.  It's hard to be able to tell whether or not he would be a great debater, or whether picking someone with so little elected experience would be seen as pandering by the media.  Overall it feels like Perez may be a better choice for a lower office, like Maryland's governor, before trying to make a play nationally.

5. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

For Him: If Hillary Clinton actually has a youth problem, picking the most social media-savvy politician in the country wouldn't be the worst way to go.  Booker is wildly popular amongst younger voters, and could energize them in a way that would make even Bernie Sanders impressed.  The New Jersey Democrat is one of only a few Democrats who voted against fast-track, which has to help him in terms of the left (which is suddenly very anti-trade), and could go a long way with getting union support.  Throw in the fact that his presence on the ticket could be a plus for African-American voters and shared media markets could make him an asset in Pennsylvania, and you have a solid candidate.
Against Him: While he's not a supporter of fast-track, his comments in 2012 about how President Obama was too vicious in attacking Mitt Romney's business record still induce cringes to Democratic stalwarts, and some say that the senator is too young and too new to the national stage to be given such an important role.  Plus, he's single, and that's one of the few taboos that has not been tackled nationally in modern politics.

4. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

For Him: When this was first posited by Bill Scher in Politico this last week, I scoffed, but the more you think about it the more it makes sense.  After all, if (as most assume) Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton's opponent, perhaps the biggest issue won't be shoring up the Democratic base (women and persons of color will be coming out in droves simply to stop Trump), but perhaps someone who works well with the chaos of celebrity.  Franken has proven to be a strong workhorse in the Senate, but his skills as a comedian, as well as someone who could sharply contrast Trump while still being in his famous personality wheelhouse, could be exactly what the Clinton campaign needs.  It's not for nothing that he did a video recently for the former First Lady. 
Against Him: It kind of depends on how the Clinton campaign plans on handling Trump and his force of nature persona (so far they've been more about drilling home to the base how dangerous he is, and not picking off Republicans, or specifically, swayable white male voters).  If they want to go the "the GOP's the clown car team" they're probably not going to get as much credit there by picking a former SNL cast member.  If, however, they want to beat Trump at his own game, Franken would be the perfect anecdote.

3. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

For Him: He's from a swing state.  THE swing state.  That's a start, but Sherrod Brown has a lot to offer in terms of liberal credentials (he also voted against fast-track, and while a strong supporter of Clinton he has impeccable liberal credentials that the Sanders/Warren wing of the party could hardly dismiss).  He's been elected statewide in Ohio four times so he knows his way around the kitchen, and if he were to land the Buckeye State for Clinton, the November race would be over.
Against Him: While I think he'd help the argument in Ohio, Republicans could counter with a Kasich or Portman as the running mate and they would defeat Brown, who doesn't have their skill at a pulpit.  Honestly, though, the biggest issue with Brown is Kasich in a different capacity-as the man who would choose his successor.  With a Supreme Court slot on the line, the Clintons need all of the senators they can get into the Democratic coat room, and picking a man who would result in a Republican senator wouldn't be savvy considering how likely it is the next Senate majority is a result of a tie (this, for the record, is also an issue for Cory Booker, though not Sanders, McCaskill, Franken, or Warner).

2. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

For Him: I wavered pretty hard between Kaine and our Number One for the top slot, and it's easy to see what Kaine brings to the conversation.  After all Kaine has pretty much everything going for him: he's a senator and a former governor, so he'll help on both fronts, a former DNC Chair (so he can raise money and be an attack dog), won his last election handily, is popular with the Obama wing of the party, speaks Spanish fluently (and has done so on the Senate floor), comes from a swing state, and it's a swing state with a Democratic governor so there's no risk of the Democrats losing his seat if he has to resign.  All-in-all, that's about all you could ask for from one candidate.
Against Him: Kaine is the head candidate, not the heart candidate, and Democrats vote with their hearts.  He voted for fast-track, so he's not without fault in the liberal wing of the party (as that seems to be the likely litmus test), and he's famously close to Team Obama, which may make the clubb-y Team Clinton a little bit nervous.  Plus, it's hard to see Kaine gaining much excitement if that's where Clinton is going.

1. Sec. Julian Castro (D-TX)

For Him: I'm sticking with Castro at the top spot if only because I think he's slightly more in Clinton's good graces than Kaine.  While he's a member of the Obama cabinet, that seems more out of necessity to promote a clearly-rising star than anything else, and he's been a strong Clinton advocate on the campaign trail.  He's young, Latino, and has the same sort of potential that made Bill Clinton and Barack Obama shine.  If the goal is to get young people and minority voters out, Castro seems like an outstanding candidate, and Clinton has taken a liking to him on the campaign trail.  Plus, he's considerably younger than her and would shore up (at least partially) the age question on the campaign trail.
Against Him: He fails the liberal TPP test, but I suspect that will mean less for someone that wasn't in Congress to vote on it, but perhaps his biggest question is experience.  With Kaine (or even Brown or Franken) you know what you're getting-they've done the debate thing, they've been in tough races, and they have a track record for dealing with someone like a Chris Christie or a Jeff Sessions.  Castro has never been on the national stage in a major way, and Sarah Palin is a recent enough memory to make Democrats leery about picking someone without a lot of experience.  I think he's the top choice because he hasn't exhibited many Palin-like tendencies, but know that he'll have to be on the campaign trail a little harder and longer for Clinton before he actually assuages those fears.

There you have it-the likely vice presidential contenders.  Share your guesses (and hopes) down below!

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