For some election prognosticators, the Democratic ticket is already a forgone conclusion. Senator Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and pick Sen. Barack Obama to be her running mate. Their combined political "rock star" status will be enough to triumph over any Republican candidates.
This projected threat of a Clinton-Obama ticket already has some Republicans worried about their chances in 2008, even though the first primary is still six months away. At a recent campaign stop in Iowa, this concern emerged when presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani stated that he's the only one who can beat the Clinton-Obama "dream ticket."
While this ticket may be tempting for a party that still feels wronged over the 2000 presidential election, nominating Obama to be Clinton's running mate could actually help the GOP retain the White House.
Ideally, vice-presidential running mates should help offset perceived weaknesses of the presidential nominees. Despite the media love affair with the former first lady, she is far from a perfect presidential candidate. She has a short political record, is perceived as too liberal, has little appeal with voters in the red states and is viewed by many as power hungry and simply using her husband, Bill, as a stepping stone to fulfill her political ambitions.
Obama does little to erase these weaknesses. Consider the following:
- Obama's legislative record is already left of the junior New York senator. When brought under the harsh lights of a presidential campaign, this record could further alienate moderate voters necessary for any national electoral success.
- Obama is still a political neophyte and has made some rookie blunders on the campaign trail, which includes his recent statement that he'd invade nuclear-armed Pakistan.
- He represents Illinois, a state that hasn't voted for the GOP since 1988 and is hardly likely to change its ways in 2008.
- Even though he'd be the first African-American to be on a national ticket, Democrats can usually rely on 90 percent of the African-American vote in national elections.
Despite their combined weaknesses, a Clinton-Obama ticket would still be difficult to beat, due to the fawning attention such a coupling is bound to receive from the media. It would require Republicans to nominate a presidential candidate who won't be intimidated by their "superstar" personas.
Instead of fearing that ticket, the GOP should work on creating a campaign that highlights Clinton's and Obama's weaknesses and on nominating a strong candidate who won't be intimidated by anyone the Democrats may nominate.
Republicans might have reason to worry, however, if Clinton bucks the political hype and nominates someone like New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. To use a catchphrase from the 2000 election, Richardson would add some serious gravitas to a Clinton nominee. Pluses include:
- Stellar political resume: current governor of New Mexico, a 14-year congressional career, past ambassador to the United Nations and past Energy Secretary under Bill Clinton.
- Sizable influence in the American Southwest, which could help swing New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado to the Democratic side as well as other states with sizable Hispanic populations.
- Allure for Hispanic voters—a block that votes in sizable numbers for Republicans.
- Moderate voting record, which includes lowering state income taxes in New Mexico—a very appealing attribute for voters who may be sitting on the fence come Election Day.
The fight for the presidency often goes to the person with the most guts. Clinton might find the presidency within her grasp if she can buck conventional wisdom and nominate someone who can aid her quest for the White House. Republicans could retain the White House if they nominate someone with the courage and ability to take on any Democratic "dream ticket."