Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Time to play “Pick the Veep”

Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 10, 2008

This was me earlier today in Crikey.

With the melodrama of the primary season behind us, the next big game in US politics will be “Pick the Veep” — and it will really all be about one Veep in particular: Obama’s.

While the benefits a VP can bring to the ticket are relatively small compared to the damage they can inflict if the choice is a bad one (Thomas Eagleton anyone?), good VP choices attempt to add something to the ticket – a few votes from a particular State or region where the VP originates, some particular demographic block like women or working class males, and sometimes even a policy strength that the Presidential candidate may be perceived to have as a weakness (although this carries the risk of the theory working in reverse where the Veeps’ strengths end up highlighting the Presidential candidates’ weaknesses rather than complementing them).

Yet the overriding need for all Veep candidates is that they fit with the general vibe of campaign. It’s no use running on a meta-theme of ‘change politics’ if you then appoint some Washington old boy who has more frequent flyer points on his K-Street card than Tom DeLay.

The Intrade markets for the Democrat Vice Presidential Nominee have thrown up a few interesting possibilities in this regard, particularly the alternative Intrade market which has a broader selection of candidates.

Clinton and Virginia Senator Jim Webb are riding high as the favourites for the nominee, with both hovering around the high teens to low twenties as an implied probability of clinching the Veep spot. While Clinton’s chances are pretty self-explanatory, Webb’s come from him ticking all the right boxes – he burst on to the scene by knocking out Republican Jim “Macaca” Allen in the Senate race for Virginia at the last mid-terms, he combines a strong anti-war position with the military experience of being Secretary of the Navy under Reagan. He’s a popular Senator in a swing State that has strong appeal to working class males and he brings with him high levels of support and regard from military families – an important demographic for any election campaign with a large focus on Iraq.

After Clinton and Webb, the next bunch of contenders hovering around the high single figures to low teens as implied probabilities, are a mix of the usual suspects and some out of left field possibilities.

Everyone has, or no doubt will, in the very near future read about the chances of Joe Biden, Mark Warner, General Wesley Clarke, Michael Bloomberg, Claire McCaskill, Ed Rendell and Kathleen Sebelius.

Even Bill Richardson is often invoked, particularly as a way to bring the Hispanic vote on board for the Dems – but that risks having two minorities on the same ticket which would be a stretch, and there’s the permanent rumour windmill that hangs around Richardson of the type that Glenn Milne would be talking about were he an Australian politician.

But there are three intriguing possibilities at the moment that aren’t the usual suspects.

Firstly, the Republican Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel. This guy has been smacking the Bush administration around over the Iraq war for years, has sided with the recent Democrat anti-war push in the Senate, is retiring this term and is currently running at 9% odds for getting the VP nomination. An Obama/Hagel ticket would send shockwaves through the US political system – but his biggest drawback is the obvious, he’s a Republican and many Democrats would go ballistic at the mere thought of a cross-party ticket.

Secondly, one of the most popular Governors in the country, Brian Schweitzer from Montana, has rocketed into 10% odds from nowhere over the last week. Schweitzer is the leading Democrat Prairie Populist in the country and has shown the Democrats that they can win over even the strongest of Republican electorates if they frame their political language right. He’s the master of the one liner – “I believe in gun control; you control your gun and I’ll control mine” — he speaks fluent Arabic, is a soil scientist by trade, is big on energy reform and would add to the ticket in unusual places if Obama is really pursuing a 50 State strategy – particularly the Dakotas and Colorado. His one liners would create mischief for McCain in the news cycle and he’d bring good down ticket support in Senate and Congressional races across the normally Republican leaning areas of the US.

Finally, there’s the Ohio Governor Ted Strickland who is currently running a 10% probability in the Intrade markets. What makes Strickland interesting is that nearly all Republican roads to the White House go through Ohio. If the Democrats take Ohio it would be almost impossible for McCain to become President. Strickland is highly popular (61% approval rating currently), has very broad support in the electorate and would bring a conservative flavour to balance out the Obama ticket. He might even drag a few percentage points of the vote in a really critical State along with him. Strickland has repeatedly stated that he would not accept a VP nomination which throws a spanner in the works – but looking at the Intrade odds, no-one seems to believe him.


34 Responses to “Time to play “Pick the Veep””

  1. Andos said

    A soil scientist, hmm? That is an interesting career move.

    I think we certainly need more scientists in (every) Government. That would definitely be an interesting ticket.

  2. Bernice said

    But what about McCain’s running partner? Does anyone pay credence to the rumours re Ms C Rice, being both black and a woman – the outflanking of the Dems?

  3. The Big Ship said

    Governor Ted Strickland as Obama’s running mate is definitely the man, in my view. Ohio has been the lynchpin in the last 2 US Presidential elections – if you flip Ohio in the electoral college (and both times the popular state vote was close) then Al Gore is President in 2000, and John Kerry is President in 2004. Simply on this basis alone Ted should be the favourite as Obama’s VP. Add to this his current popularity and his somewhat conservative political bent, and you would have a nicely balanced ticket.

    If the Democratic Party goes to work on him, and Obama asks, he really won’t be able to refuse. His experience (he is 67 years old, and has been in politics since his first run for Congress in 1976) is to his credit – he is a 6 term member of the US House of Representatives, and as Governor of Ohio since 2006, he has championed Education and Health Care reform, as well as being in the forefront of encouraging alternative energy resources for his state.

    I’d say his odds will shorten in the next few weeks – I’ll be putting my money on old Ted!

  4. The Intellectual Bogan said

    Would a cross party ticket complicate matters in the event of the VP having to assume the Presidency?

    Not having been aware that the cross-party option existed, I’m genuinely intrigued as to how the succession of a Republican VP, following an elected Dem President would be received by the electorate and managed by the system.

  5. CK said

    Much as I hoped Hillary would win the nomination, she would be a mistake as VP. It would damage the Change brand, and you can just imagine the development of a ‘Tensions in the ticket’ meme being flung up in the MSM.

    I’ve always thought Clarke would be a good choice, although I doubt very much whether he could bring a block of voters with him.

    I do rather like the perky cheekiness of an Obama/Hagel combination though.

  6. Swing Lowe said

    Hate to be pedantic Possum, but a few corrections for you:

    1. Sen. Jim Webb beat Sen. George (not Jim) Allen in Virginia in 2006.

    2. Gen. Wesley Clark doesn’t have an “e” in his last name.

    3. Former Gov. Mark Warner (D – VA) is currently running for an open Senate seat in Virginia, recently vacated by Sen. John Warner (R – VA). Confusing, I know. Anyway, he’s the prohibitive favourite there, so I don’t see him giving up a sure thing for the VP ticket to a President, if elected, is definitely going to serve 8 years. But you never know..

    4. Gov. Schweitzer (D – MT)’s odds of becoming Obama’s VP seems to have shot up soon after an article appeared on a highly read US political blog (www.fivethirtyeight.com) endorsed him as an excellent choice for VP.

    5. You have failed to mention Gov. Tim Kaine (D – VA). Also from Virginia, unlike Mark Warner or Jim Webb, he is term-limited. He also (obviously) is from Virginia, is highly popular there and is conservative enough to provide some counter-balance to Obama. I would put him the top tier of candidates available – he’s certainly a better choice than Sen. Biden (someone who has been in Washington for ages) or Michael Bloomberg (who became Mayor of New York as a Republican).

    Apologies for sounding condescending – I just couldn’t phrase this post any other way! 🙂

  7. Steve said

    Even though he’s a Republican, and it’s probably a stupid thought… how about Arnie as Obama’s running mate? I know he can’t be President but does this ineligibility extend to the VP position? From what I understand, the Terminator has been a good Governor, he’s from a battleground state, and he’s married into a respectable Dem family.

  8. Charlie said

    An Obama/Hagel ticket would be fascinating. It would definitely fit with the change message.

    The Governator would pose problems as VP, as he could not step into the Presidency should anything happen to the President. That would mean that the Speaker of the House is next in line, and the President has no control over who that is.

  9. @Bernice, The Republicans tried running a token black candidate against him in his senate race and that was a historic embarrassment. I doubt they’d try to pull that again. Then again, Dr Rice might be a good candidate for all kinds of other reasons – if you take the position that the war in Iraq is a success 🙂

    @Steve, I live in California and Arnie’s doing a surprisingly great job in his second term. I actually don’t think he’d want the nomination this time – I think he’d rather complete his second gubernatorial (love that word) term.

  10. Poss,

    Currently in the US after my nuptials and can tell you that a Clinton Veep option is fast becoming a dead horse. Well that’s what the political commentators are saying (so it must be true). That said, people on the ground that I have spoken with (in the Democratic-leaning New England area) also think she’s lost s lot of street cred.

    That’s the news ‘on the ground’ from Connecticut – if half a dozen alcohol-fuelled conversations in a bars can be considered statically representative.

    Off to Hawaii today. Will report what the ‘average Joe’ sitting on a beach sipping Long Island Ice Teas thinks next week.


  11. Enemy Combatant said

    Now that Virginia has jumped 5 points on Intrade and looks a more likely Dem pick up, reckon Strickland of Ohio would be a smart choice to help sew up the Buckeye state’s 20 juicy ECVs. Then the Dems need to only hold onto their present States. Not a cert, but looks good so far. Any other pick ups in their 50 state strategy is cream. 271 ECVs is as good as 371 ECVs the way this one works.

    Dig the updates PC, and from what JW says at 10, previous suggestions that HRC is damaged goods gather credence.
    Is there not a toadstool in Oz under which a Poisoned Dwarf can shelter from marsupial wrath?

    “and there’s the permanent rumour windmill that hangs around Richardson of the type that Glenn Milne would be talking about were he an Australian politician.”

    Give the bastard heaps, Poss.

  12. Richard Green said

    Bernice – I was thinking about the Rice option as well, but it seems unlikely. The things McCain needs to balance are likely to be problems with the Republican’s own base, since his gun toting, evolution dneying and gay bashing haven’t been up to par. Well, that’s exaggerating, but as a senatorial “maverick” he’s more appealing to the centre than the base, and in a voluntary voting system, you have to make sure they don’t stay at home.
    Problem is that Rice’s experience both in and out of public life has been entirely foreign affairs based, and domestic politics almost always dominate voter concerns. Additionally, that experience is tied with the current unpopular administration, and McCain already has a (perceived) strength in foreign policy. You don’t play a chord by pressing the same note twice.
    I was thinking about Colin Powell, but he has almost precisely the same problems.

  13. codger said

    Article XXIII
    Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act


    um next!

  14. Kris said

    AK Governor Sarah Palin looks a decent bet for McCain.

  15. Aristotle said

    I’d like to see Obama team up with Senator Robert C Byrd of West Virginia.

  16. Stephen Hill said

    Strickland is likely out of the running


  17. josh lyman said

    I note Strickland is down to 2% on InTrade. Why? Asked on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ if he is auditioning to be Obama’s running mate, Strickland said, “Absolutely not. If drafted I will not run, nominated I will not accept and if elected I will not serve. So, I don’t know how more crystal clear I can be.’ ”

  18. The Big Ship said

    Steve (7) and Ian (9) – Arnold Schwarzenegger is not eligible to be selected as the VP any more than he could run and be elected as the President, as he is not a native born American citizen as defined under Article 2, section 1 of the US Constitution, and the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.

    I see in today’s NY Times that my pick, Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio is definitively using the old General Sherman wording – “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

    That seems pretty final, but I wonder what will happen if Obama makes the call to him, in the name of party unity?

  19. Enemy Combatant said

    Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sibelius is now into 5/1 at Ladbrokes. At first, like a lot of punters, I thought her selection would peeve women who wished for VP Hillary as they stew over the “MSM misogyny factor” and nurse their frustration with the newly cracked(although not smashed) political glass ceiling. Sibelius’s selection would assuage some their disappointment about sister HRC missing out on the big one. Sibelius also shapes up well as a cracker wrangler, and an Indy magnet.
    Ohio’s Teddy Strickland has drifted to 30/1 at Betfair since his “withdrawal”.
    Also notice that Bobby Jindal has firmed in the GOPper Veepstakes. Dunno how the Dukes of Hazzard gon’ feel ’bout Bobbeh, and GOP base-fundies might not exactly swarm the polls in November to vote for a “pigmentally challenged” Rock Chopper.
    Fascinating stuff when sociology, mathematics and politics coalesce at Pseph City Central.

  20. Enemy Combatant said

    Below is fresh from TG’s political wire and furthur suggests why Kathleen Sibelius as Dem Veep nominee would have many American voters exclaiming:
    “Oh……excellent choice, Senator Obama!!”

    “Key findings: “Obama continues to do poorly among white male voters… More ominous is his weakness among white women, particularly suburbanites, who generally are open to Democratic candidates and whose votes could be decisive… Some good news for the presumed(poll conducted June6-9) Democratic nominee: Despite suggestions during the Democratic primary contests that many Hispanics and Hillary Clinton supporters wouldn’t support him, the poll shows both groups overwhelmingly do.”

  21. Possum Comitatus said

    Ecky – the interesting thing that’s happened since Obama sealed the nomination is the way Obamas support from women, and particularly women over 50 has changed.

    Obama now leads McCain 51-38 for all women, blowing out from a 5 point to a 13 point lead in a week.
    On women 50+ he’s gone from a 43-46 deficit against McCain to a 47-41 lead in the same week.


    Clinton led McCain 51-41 in this age group so there’s still a few points of “unity fat” left for Obama to chase down.

  22. Aristotle said

    Here is his David Brooks’ view from his most recent weekly discussion on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

    DAVID BROOKS:I think the Republicans fully expect — and I know they fully expect Obama to really shoot upwards in the polls, which we’re beginning to see, but shoot up to a significant lead, and then McCain try to close in the last three or four weeks.
    But Obama is going to have a big lead within a couple of months because the Democrats will unify.


    Also, betting agencies have Obama a clear favourite http://www.way2bet.com.au/odds_comparison/16437/16438/28241/USA

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that all that cheering you are hearing in the background is the Rugby League fans from last night’s State of Origin match, unless of course you agreed with John Howard, then you’d be convinced it was Al Qaeda watching the US election from the hills in Afghanistan.

  23. josh lyman said

    Poss, can we take that as early signs that the Clinton camp has almost (but not quite) entirely fallen in behind Obama, despite some media outlets suggesting angry white women would somehow flock to McCain? I have to say I never thought that was very likely! Obama really should have no trouble winning over the Demo base, a few “I’m not racist, but I can’t bring myself to vote for a black man” folks aside…

  24. Possum Comitatus said

    Josh – the gap between the rheotric of Clinton “owning” voters and the reality of them being Democrat supporters that simply preferred Clinton to Obama, was always going to disappear pretty quickly.

    There’ll always be a few disgruntled nut jobs – in their 10s or even 100s of thousands, that will bitch and moan and complain and probably stay at home because Clinton isnt the nominee, maybe some will even vote for McCain. A couple of million that are registered Dems (or unregistered Dem leaners) but are really swinging voters will also be in the mix for McCain.

    But the tens of millions of registered Democrats and Democrat leaning voters that either voted for Clinton in the primaries (or preferred her but werent registered Democrats) were never really going anywhere else but to the Democrat nominee.

    The way the media were carrying on, we were expecting to see all these 50+ feminists flocking to McCain even though he’d dump a bucket on Roe v Wade with his Supreme Court appointments and that McCain stands for nearly everything these women have spent most of their lives fighting against.

    I never quite got the logic in it either.

    BTW – do the two new US election graphics in the right sidebar work OK in everyones browsers?

  25. Aristotle said

    Possum, you asked do the two new US election graphics in the right sidebar work OK in everyones browsers?

    Both work fine on mine.

  26. Possum Comitatus said

    Excellent – Ta Ari

    I run a 1440×900 widescreen, so what appears on my screen is not always what appears on other peoples!

  27. josh lyman said

    Fine for me at 1280×1024 as well

  28. JP said

    Aristotle @ 22 quoting David Brooks:

    “I think the Republicans fully expect — and I know they fully expect Obama to really shoot upwards in the polls, which we’re beginning to see, but shoot up to a significant lead, and then McCain try to close in the last three or four weeks.”

    Bloody hell, it’s “The Narrowing II” coming soon to an election near you 🙂

  29. Possum Comitatus said


  30. Enemy Combatant said

    Possum at 21,
    it’s as if a spell has been broken and good, wholesome XX chomosomes across America are aligning like iron filings when a magnet draws near. Not long after finding quality blogs, I mentioned that Obi reminded me of an Elmer Gantry-type mesmericist without Elmer’s roving eye. Young, gifted and black. We ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!

    Nice piece of writing this from Sharpiro:

    “….but the rituals of insincerity must be slavishly followed. For such are the ironclad rules of the vice-presidential Kabuki that will dominate the political headlines for the next two months.”

  31. Possum Comitatus said

    Nice article Ecky.

    Latest MSNBC poll blows some holes in the usual arguments too:

    “(In the head-to-head matchup, Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7 percent), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19).

    Yet among white men — who made up 36 percent of the electorate in the 2004 presidential election — Obama trails McCain by 20 points, 55-35 percent. “That is the reason why this election is close,” Hart notes.

    In addition, McCain leads Obama among white suburban women (44-38), group which makes up about 10 percent of all voters that Hart calls “absolutely critical” for both candidates in the fall.

    However, Obama has a seven-point advantage (46-39) among all white women.”


  32. josh lyman said

    Poss, do you have stats on the head-to-head for ‘evangelical’ voters, and in particular in comparison to the Bush-Kerry HTH? I’d hazard a guess that it’s much closer this time. Which it should be, given that Obama is much more religious than McCain.

  33. Possum Comitatus said


    Bush got somewhere around the high 70s% of the evangelical (or committed Christian)voters in 2004.

    This is a relatively recent poll that includes evangelicals and how their vote is changing at the moment.


    Cant vouch for how good it is, I dont know much about the organisation.

    There’s also this piece over at the national review that has a poll of Christian voters from May and McCain wasnt doing well compared to either Clinton or Obama.


  34. feral sparrowhawk said

    It’s fair enough that people consider VPs to a large extent on their influence on the election, but in a few cases you really wonder whether it would be worth winning unless one was really confident the President would serve the time. Brian Schweitzer is famous in large part for wanting to turn Montana’s coal reserves into oil. It’s hard to imagine a worse policy in a Greenhouse world.

    Maybe he’d change his tune once he’s in Washington, but I’d be very scared if he got the nod. I think similar concerns apply to Hagel.

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