Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Odds on VP choices

Now that the Democratic race has been decided (someone tell Hillary, please), the attention of the media will inevitably turn to the VP choice of each candidate. Tons of names have been thrown out there, some of them sensible (John Edwards), some of them kind of crazy (Mike Huckabee), and some of them completely unhinged (Al Gore). Without further ado, here is a short run down of my guesses at likely choices for the VP spots, add their respective odds of being chosen. (Disclaimer: odds are listed for entertainment purposes only and should not be viewed as an endorsement of gambling or as a suggestion to gamble.)


1. Jim Webb, Senator, Virginia (3-1). Tough, brash, Vietnam Vet with a military record a mile long and an independent streak to boot. Can bring formidable military background to the table, and was even nominated, back in the day, by Reagan. Top that, McCain! He'd help Obama capture Virginia, and would reassure some voters who find themselves hesitant to support Obama (read: conservative-leaning white guys). On the downside, he's not a woman, and has a few skeletons in his closet in the form of novels featuring sexist talk and crude scenes of sexual congress. Still, I think he's the odds on favorite.

2. Kathleen Sebelius, Governor, Kansas (5-1). She'd help Obama in middle America, she might help bring feminists back to the table, and she's highly regarded in Democratic circles, and is thought of as a pragmatic executive who's able to work with members of the other party. She has very cool gray hair. On the downside, she's something of an unknown on the national scene. A fairly safe choice.

3. Bill Richardson, Governor, New Mexico (8-1). He would help Obama pick up some of the Latino support he lost in the difficult primary with Clinton, and is highly respected for his foreign affairs experience. Frankly speaking, though, the Democrats are already charting new ground by having a racial minority on the ticket; it's hard to say if they'd be exposing themselves to any jeopardy by having two.

4. John Edwards, former Senator, North Carolina (15-1). Look, everyone says Edwards would make a great Vice President, and they're right. He's smart, passionate about issues like health care, very likeable, and a good campaigner. That being said, he wasn't enough to bring NC into the blue column in '04, and he's already had his shot on the national ticket. I just think there'd be too much of a "what, again?" reaction to his selection. I don't think the odds are good. A virtual lock to be Attorney General, however.

5. Hillary Clinton, Senator, New York. 5 trillion-1. Won't happen. Not in a million, billion years. The media, which lacks imagination and is lazy, is pushing this story, as are clueless Dems who can't find an independent thought to save their lives. She and her staff spent the last six months tearing Obama down--what makes anyone think he has the slightest inclination to add her to the ticket? Whatever strengths she brings in the form of blue-collar support would be lost by the fact that she's a polarizing political figure who would negate Democratic advantages in the mountain west and anywhere in the south they might otherwise be competitive.


First off, there are no easy picks here. The conventional wisdom is that McCain must try to win back the base, while at the same time try to court the independents who may be alienated following Clinton's defeat. What does he do? Does he pick a woman and try to cut into Obama's lead there? Does he take a conservative who can turn out votes in battleground states like Ohio and Michigan? Keep in mind that McCain himself has said that his age means that a Vice President under him must be prepared to step in from Day 1 and be Commander in Chief.

1. Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts (5-1). This is one I waver on. On one hand, Romney can appeal to conservatives while at the same time pointing to his record of accomplishment in Massachusetts. On the other hand, all evidence during the primaries this year indicates that McCain hates Romney. Yet, he could bring Michigan and perhaps Ohio into the GOP fold. He's about as smarmily phony and obnoxious as it gets, but the conservative press seems to like him. I'd put my money on Romney now, but who knows.

2. Condi Rice, former Secretary of State (9-1). Kind of the opposite of Romney--female, black, hated by conservatives. She had great name recognition and valuable foreign policy experience, but to me the resume is pretty hollow. What has she actually achieved since becoming SOS? Has anyone even hear from her in the past year? Can McCain risk the Democrats trotting our her pathetic appearance before the 9/11 commission ("what was the title of that August 6 PDB?") every week for the next five months?

3. Charlie Crist, Governor, Florida (12-1). The conservatives like him, he'd bring Florida in the GOP column, and he's a governor, albeit one with a pretty thin resume. However, there are "the lifelong bachelor has long been dogged by rumors about his personal life," stories. In other words, he's most likely gay.

4. Carly Fiorina, former CEO, Hewlett Packard (15-1). This would be an out-of-the-box pick for McCain, but would be well received by the right because she's a former executive of a major corporation (albeit one whose stock jumped dramatically on the day she was let go) and a woman, thus appealing to disaffected Clinton voters. She's a major player in GOP circles, but unknown nationally. Additionally, she lacks any foreign policy experience whatsoever, thus causing problems with McCain's earlier statements about his VP needing to be able to take over at a moment's notice (because he's old, you see).

5. Assorted GOP governors (Mark Sanford (SC), Jon Huntsman (UT), Tim Pawlenty (MN), Haley Barbour, (MS)), 20-1. I think McCain is going to have pressure to pick a governor, and after Crist, these are the names he'll probably consider.However, out of this list only Pawlenty would be from a state the GOP has the slightest chance of losing. Some time ago I would have said Barbour had the best shot here, but if you were to make a cartoon drawing of a stereotypical fat, rich, white Republican, it would probably wind up looking exactly like Haley Barbour. Meaning, in a campaign in which the Democrats are presenting a fresh vision for change in the persona of Barack Obama, the Republicans probably don't want to risk nominating Pasty McWhiterson as their VP.

Ok, so my picks are Obama/Webb, and McCain/Rice. I'll probably be wrong on both fronts, but stranger things have happened.