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May 26, 2008

Obama's Veepstakes: The Top 15 Contenders


Now that Barack Obama has clinched a win at least with respect to pledged delegates, there remains little doubt that he will be the nominee. Which leaves one question among many: With whom will he share the ticket?


Obama's ideal vice president, at least according to the conventional wisdom, is a white male, from a crucial and/or swing state, who has both executive experience and strong foreign policy credentials, as well as a longer and more accomplished record than Obama. This person should be a solid, experienced campaigner, who is also able to help Obama appeal to demographics with which he has had trouble thus far, such as blue-collar and older voters, Hispanics and Jews. And finally, the person should have a good rapport with Obama, or at least a history of getting along well with him.


Unfortunately for Obama, it appears there is no one prospective veep candidate who meets all of those criteria. Here are the 15 who come closest, and why he should or should not choose them:


Evan Bayh (U.S. Senator, Indiana)

Pro: A former governor and senator who is popular in his home state of Indiana, which is crucial. Considered veep contender by both Al Gore and John Kerry.

Con: Was vocal Hillary Clinton supporter, and she very nearly lost Indiana.

Odds of being picked: 10-1


Joseph Biden (U.S. Senator, Delaware)

Pro: Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respected wonk and forceful public speaker.

Con: Gaffe-prone loose cannon whose past errors include insulting Obama himself; presidential bid went nowhere; Delaware neither swing state nor electoral vote bonanza.

Odds of being picked: 4-1


Wesley Clark (Retired general, Arkansas)

Pro: Respected ex-general who brings instant foreign-policy credibility, as well as support from the pro-Hillary side.

Con: A Hillary surrogate who was even more critical of Obama than most; a dreadful campaigner, as he showed in brief 2004 presidential run.

Odds of being picked: 50-1


Hillary Clinton (U.S. Senator, New York)

Pro: Putting Hillary on the ticket would unite the two sides of the primary campaign that broke turnout records; retaining all of that support, or even most, could make the ticket unbeatable.

Con: The two clearly hate one another, and acrimony at the top is almost never a recipe for electoral success.

Odds of being picked: 10-1


Christopher Dodd (U.S. Senator, Connecticut)

Pro: Veteran lawmaker, respected wonk, already endorsed Obama.

Con: Own campaign fizzled early, not exactly great with crowds, Connecticut not in play at all.

Odds of being picked: 20-1


John Edwards (Former U.S. Senator, North Carolina).

Pro: From a Southern state, has credentials with blue-collar voters and name recognition; has endorsed Obama.

Con: Was already on the ticket four years ago and it didn't work; has already said he's not interested.

Odds of being picked: 50-1


Russell Feingold (U.S. Senator, Wisconsin)

Pro: Foreign relations committee veteran who had foresight to oppose both Iraq war and Patriot Act. A Jewish veep whose sister is an ordained rabbi would also help neutralize the Rev. Wright thing. Plus, it would be hilarious, in a money-gouged election, if both McCain and Feingold were on the ballot.

Con: Wisconsin is a pretty solidly Democratic state, Feingold is quite far to the left, and his multiple divorces would likely be picked over.

Odds of being picked: 15-1


Bob Graham (Former governor and U.S. Senator, Florida)

Pro: Has been both a senator and governor, and knows foreign policy.

Comes from Florida, the most crucial swing state of all.

Con: Ran for president in 2004 but was out of the race by the summer of 2003; has been out of politics ever since.

Odds of being picked: 15-1


Sam Nunn (Former U.S. Senator, Georgia)

Pro: Foreign-policy experience, respected on all sides of the aisle.

Con: History of being pro-life/socially conservative; is 70 years old and has been retired from politics for 15 years, and the only precedent for that sort of pick is . . . Dick Cheney.

Odds of being picked: 25-1


Ed Rendell (Governor, Pennsylvania)

Pro: Popular governor of a crucial state; was a Hillary supporter who could bridge the gap between the two Democratic sides. Jewish, which would help in Florida as well as Pennsylvania.

Con: An East Coast guy through and through, his appeal may not translate nationally. Unlikely to relinquish his seat on the Philadelphia Eagles' post-game TV show, which a vice presidential run would require.

Odds of being picked: 8-1


Bill Richardson (Governor, New Mexico)

Pro: Only prospective veep with both foreign policy and executive experience. Could appeal to Latinos, who mostly broke for Hillary. Good rapport with Obama.

Con: Even in a "change" year, some may object to a black/Hispanic ticket, even if both men are biracial. Richardson's presidential bid also went nowhere. Good bet, instead, to be Obama's secretary of state.

Odds of being picked: 6-1


Kathleen Sebelius (Governor, Kansas)

Pro: A successful Democratic governor in a state so red it was the subject of a book about what's the matter with it. As a female, could draw some support from Hillary dead-enders. Early supporter of Obama.

Con: No foreign policy credentials, plus some swing voters might consider a black man and white woman "too much change."

Odds of being picked: 6-1


Ted Strickland (Governor, Ohio)

Pro: Governor of key swing state Ohio, won in 2006 by swaying blue-collar anti-Bush voters.

Con: Early and enthusiastic Hillary supporter, not a particularly charismatic campaigner.

Odds of being picked: 12-1


Mark Warner (Former Governor, Virginia)

Pro: The original "NASCAR liberal" has proven record with blue-collar voters; much swing-voter appeal.

Con: Already running for, and expected to win, important Senate seat; no foreign policy profile.

Odds of being picked: 15-1


Jim Webb (U.S. Senator, Virginia)

Pro: An ex-Republican military veteran with blue-collar appeal, Webb is a microcosm of the exact sort of voter the Democrats would like to attract in droves this fall.

Con: History of social conservatism far beyond where most Democrats are, as well as various sexually salacious writings; has only been in Senate two years, and a ticket of two first-term senators would be too much.

Odds of being picked: 10-1


2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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