Exhibit 11.24

Vice Presidential Candidate Review

Outside of those hopelessly pining for Clinton or Bush '04 voters who jumped to Obama but hoped he'd make his claims of bipartisanship explicit and nominate Hagel, it's hard not to like Biden. His negatives all seem to be the stuff of Washington gossip that no one else really seems to care about because, you know, they're making house payments and saving for college as opposed to worrying about what senators may be on the annoying side of loqacious. Even the punchline set can't do much with that fact since A) There's nothing funny to say about it and B) He's a politician campaigning so he's supposed to be talking a lot this time of year.

His only other negative--his long tenure in Washington--is, in this case, mostly a positive since it shores up any doubts about Obama's experience and gives him someone both respected in the senate and internationally admired as a surrogate at home and abroad. If nothing else, it's a pick that screams competency, a criminally overlooked quality in this election which, though it's never going to show up in polls, is probably the number one reason why the democrats are so well positioned. When people say they trust the Dems more on the economy--a party they've been told for 30 years will raise their taxes and take their jobs--what they're really saying is that they don't trust the Republicans to do it (or anything else outside of protect the country. And even that...)

In addition to playing some of Biden's anti-Obama rhetoric from the primary, which campaigns always do when a former competitor for the nomination gets the VP nod, expect the McCain camp to start saying how much they admire Biden and wish the positions on the ticket were reversed. In other words, they're going to try to use this pick to highlight Obama's inexperience, but it's hard to see how this line of attack is going to have any teeth because...

...more than any other pick this puts a lot of pressure on McCain. Had Obama picked Hillary, the election would be more or less over and McCain would probably have chosen an outsider and hoped for the resentment vote or a major gaffe to send people back his way. Had Obama picked a relative unknown like Kaine, McCain would have picked the most seasoned (yet not old) person he could find and just hammered their inexperience to lead and we'd probably hear a lot more about terrorism. With Biden, however, Obama pretty much made the first gambit in the experience game which puts McCain in a very awkard position.

He can try to follow suit and go with Romney or a senate colleague we're not hearing much about. This seems to have been McCain's first instinct, especially when some of the smaller names were mentioned for Obama's slot. That would have been a smart play, but now, with Biden getting a week to claim this role for himself, it wouldn't exactly come across bold leadership. The entire narrative has been claimed by Obama who is undoubtedly going to continue to talk about having someone to challenge his ideas--again, competency in an administration being the unspoken idea there--which is exactly what McCain would have needed to say to make a pick like Romney palatable to anyone, including his base. Sure he can still do it--and my guess is he will--but no one is going to care since it's clear that A) He hates Romney and B) America does too.

His other option is to go the opposite route and pick a young "Change" candidate to counter Obama and then claim that they arranged the ticket the right way (with experience on top). This isn't a bad move except for the fact McCain's entire campaign is now buoyed by his attacks on Obama's alleged superficiality and celebrity status. Picking, say, Jindal, seems to make such attacks hypocritical, especially since Jindal couldn't make them himself without looking like he has a total lack of self-awareness. The other issue here is that Biden is a great debater who, with his insanely long senate record, is likely going to make whomever McCain throws up there look silly, especially on foreign policy issues. Picking Pawlenty and his recently deceased mullet is not going to go over well once he has to admit that, outside of maybe Canada, he's probably never had cause to go to a foreign country or meet a foreign leader.

McCain's base pick would be Huckabee, but it's almost impossible to see. Christian conservatives rally behind him or not, there Republicans just don't have the numbers this year with their base. McCain simply has to keep showing up at whatever godawful forums and meetings and abstinence-only ice cream socials those people throw and hope they come out for him anyway. They will. Come out, I mean.

The only worrisome thing about Obama's pick is that Biden is known more for his foreign policy credentials than his economic ones. Given the way this economy is performing, it wouldn't be too much to ask for him to play up his experience here. People seem all but ready to forget Iraq and Afghanistan if gas prices stay high. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. This seems like the biggest reason why Romney should be McCain's pick even if it pisses off everyone except Wall Street (including McCain himself). Romney--with his lack of conscious and ruthless ambition--will go after Obama just as hard as Biden is going to go after McCain (whereas someone like Pawlenty wouldn't have the balls or the gravitas). Even if Obama-Biden has already seized on the Team of Rivals-style consensus narrative, McCain could at least hope that Romney would show people that he's not the crazy, grudge-holding coot that they think he is (and he, um, is).

Of course, Romney's weakness are obvious, not least of which is his religion. No one is going to think harder about how close he is to the White House than religious conservatives who might be tempted by the unstoppable force of Obama's, and now Biden's, personal story that confirm everything they believe about the world. The other obvious handicap is for every bad thing Biden ever said on tape about Obama, there are about five worse things Romney has said about McCain (and vice versa). There would be some ugly, ugly ads running in conjunction with a convention where the two men--who obviously hate each other--would be on stage obviously hating each other. It would make the palpable coldness of Kerry-Edwards '04 seem like the hotness of Floozy-Edwards '06-'08.

In any case, Obama's made the right call. I personally wish Bill Richardson would have gotten more play, but with international issues taking a backseat to domestic issues and the need for a more LBJ-esque elder statesman on the ticket, it's understandable that he didn't. McCain's pick is probably going to say a lot more about how he plans to run the rest of his campaign than this says about Obama's plans. If nothing else, Obama should be praised for picking someone he thought was the best candidate rather than someone who helps his electoral map. It fits with his entire narrative about doing what's right as opposed to what's politically convenient and the contrast to McCain's pick--which is going to be about math more than anything else--is going to be clear. People won't vote for Obama because of Biden, but his choice only confirms what we already know about Obama. If McCain is lucky, his choice won't do the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Biden brings strength to Obama's relative weaknesses. Obama is already favored in the polls to run the economy better than McCain so picking a strong foreign policy guy was really Obama's only choice. (Besides doesn't this strengthen the possibility of Sec. of Defense Hagel?) I think it's safe to say McCain is going to go with Pawlenty, Huckabee, or Lieberman. Maybe Tom Ridge? God, let's just hope it's Lieberman so the entire conservative base can be alienated and sit home on November 4th.

Overall, major praise for the Biden pick. Plus, he could and may help in Pennsylvania. We'll see.