Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hillary's Veepstakes

Now that Hillary has wrapped up the Democratic nomination for President, all eyes are turning toward who she will pick to run with her. The candidate herself has been circumspect about the kind of person she is looking for with one important caveat - that the person she picks will be qualified to be President if anything happens to her. While this may sound like typical political pablum, this might be called the “Palin Bar” because the erstwhile Alaska Governor failed to clear that basic threshold. So, with that said, let’s look at the contenders: 

The Progressive Wet Dream

The name on everyone’s lips right now is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. She is a firebrand who has shown a real zeal for attacking Donald Trump, a hero to the progressive left who was calling out the big banks for years, came up with what would become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and would join what would be the first-ever all-female Presidential ticket. These are not small things and, in its way, would emphasize a strength Clinton already has while checking the progressive box the media thinks Hillary needs to mollify the Sanders wing of the party. With that said, I do not think she will get the nod because most Democrats will “come home” to Clinton without her needing to spend political capital on her VP selection and the wonky succession rules if Clinton/Warren did win is a gamble Democrats may not want to take (though I do love the idea of John Kerry going back to the Senate in the special election that would be called within 160 days of Warren’s notice of resignation). 

Vice President White Guy

There is a strain of thought that Hillary should just grab a moderate white guy to stick on the ticket and help cut her deficit with male voters. Both Virginia Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, hurdle the Palin Bar as former Governors of the Commonwealth and Senators of some standing (Warner is also an independently wealthy former businessman and Kaine was the chair of the Democratic National Committee). They also hail from a swing state that if Hillary can lock down, would make Trump’s already improbable path to victory that much narrower. Either of these guys is a safe option though unlikely to set progressive hearts on fire. 

The Next Generation

If Hillary is looking for sizzle, New Jersey’s junior Senator Cory Booker or former Mayor of San Antonio and current Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro are both tempting options. Either would appeal to a constituency that Hillary will need in November (Booker is African-American, Castro is Hispanic-American), both are incredibly telegenic and charismatic and both are in their 40s, which would give a nice generational boost to the ticket. But here is the thing, Castro will be 42 in November and Booker will be 47 and each has only been on the national stage for less than four years. While I have no doubt both are smarter than Sarah Palin (both went to Stanford, Booker has a law degree from Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar; Castro has a law degree from Harvard) neither has spent enough time under the hot lights. 

Bernie Lite

Anyone who thinks Hillary will pick Bernie Sanders as her running mate has spent too much time sampling legalized weed in Colorado. Instead, attention has focused on Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown would be a sop to progressives and comes from another swing state that while not essential to Hillary’s electoral college map, would, like Virginia, limit Trump’s paths to victory if she did win it. Brown is also experienced, having served in Congress since 1993 and in the Senate since 2007. One downside? Vice President Brown’s successor would be chosen by Republican Governor John Kasich, who is under no obligation to fill the seat with another Democrat. This may be subtraction by addition when every vote in the Senate will be needed in 2017. 

The Sisterhood

There are two female Senators, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, who have also garnered attention.  Klobuchar in particular has strong progressive credentials but also had a stellar record as the District Attorney of the largest county in Minnesota. McCaskill has won statewide races in a place where Democrats do not do well and each is excellent on the mic. On the other hand, if Clinton wants to put a well-qualified woman on the ticket, why not pick Warren?

The Finalists

For my money, Clinton’s choice will come down to California Congressman Xavier Beccera and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Beccera is Chair of the House Democratic Caucus (4th in the leadership structure) and has served in Congress for more than 20 years. He would be very helpful in moving legislation and would be the first Hispanic-American Vice President. He is also a progressive, which would help corral Sanders’s voters. Patrick has deep ties to the Clintons from his time as head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in the 1990s and he was a two-term Governor. He also has experience in the corporate world (which might work against him in today’s Democratic Party) and delivered one of the stand-out speeches at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The national stage would not be too big for either of these men, they both add balance and value, pass the Palin Bar and would energize key Democratic constituencies. While I think a compelling case can be made for either man, Patrick’s history with the Clintons, his great oratorical chops, and governing experience give him the advantage. 

My prediction: Clinton/Patrick 2016. 

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