Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Got Those Running Mate Blues From My Head to My Shoes

MSNBC appears to be reporting something that everyone else seems to be suggesting these days — that John McCain will announce his pick for running mate this week.

Mind you, MSNBC is only the latest to make this suggestion. In recent days, Bob Novak wrote, in Human Events, "Sources close to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip."

If that happens, it seems to me that the timing would tell you everything you need to know about how important the running mate selection is for this nominee.

As Novak reported, Obama is overseas right now — ostensibly to demonstrate how engaged he will be as president — but the truth is it's mostly a media ploy, a photo opp that seems designed to reassure voters who are skittish about Obama's credentials on foreign policy.

Of course, going overseas during a presidential campaign is nothing new. Presidential candidates have done it before — and it's a legitimate thing to do, even if it costs the campaign some money to do it. Nevertheless, it's an option that any presidential nominee — or presumptive nominee — is welcome to take.

And, of course, both nominees are expected to name their running mates soon.

But, to this point, the conventional wisdom I've been hearing has said that McCain will wait until after Obama makes his choice.

Obama is under a little more pressure than McCain is. As the presumptive nominee for the party that is out of power, Obama's convention will be held first. And the Democrats will hold their convention starting on Aug. 25, because the Olympics in Beijing will consume most of August and the closing ceremonies won't be held until Aug. 24.

The Olympiad starts on Aug. 8. So, if Obama doesn't announce his decision before Aug. 8, he will have two choices:
  1. he can disrupt the TV coverage of the Olympics by announcing his choice

  2. or he can wait until the convention is about to begin.
The Republicans, on the other hand, are scheduled to hold their convention the first week of September, which gives McCain a little more flexibility for announcing his choice.

Unless he makes that announcement this week, while Obama is traveling overseas.

In which case, McCain clearly cares more about disrupting his opponent's press coverage than he does about choosing the most qualified running mate.

Obama, according to Charlie Cook in the National Journal, is working to strengthen his appeal to skeptical white voters. Depending on the quality of McCain's choice, Obama may feel pressured into making an unwise decision in an ill-advised attempt to mollify undecided centrists.

(Although sometimes I have to wonder why some of our nominees even bother to go on these trips abroad. As David Aaronovitch writes in the London Times, "[E]ventually, we will hate or ridicule Mr. Obama, too — provided, of course, that he is elected." Seems like a no-win situation to me.)

It remains to be seen whether Obama's selection of a running mate appears to be more concerned with appealing to particular demographic groups or with disrupting his opponent in some way than it is with the country's best interests.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: This is the most presidential decision either candidate will have to make before Election Day.

By the way ...

For the last month or so, MSNBC has been running an interactive game in which participants made their choices for the Republican and Democratic tickets based on a series of head-to-head, single-elimination matchups that resembled the NCAA Tournament brackets.

The contests finally wrapped up this week, with participants choosing (drum roll, please)

Mitt Romney for McCain's running mate and Joe Biden for Obama's running mate.

My initial reaction is that neither choice is right.

McCain and Romney don't get along. It isn't necessary for the president and vice president to get along, but the modern vice presidency requires a working relationship with the president, and I'm not sure McCain and Romney can work together.

And I don't think Biden works because he's part of the "old Washington politics." He's been in the Senate since 1972. I think he's very knowledgeable, very talented, and I think he'd be a great choice for secretary of state or ambassador in the next administration. But I don't think he works as the running mate.

What do you think?

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