July 26, 2014

Howard Webb for Vice President?

Heading into the next (but not final) round of the Democratic primary, here’s a tantalizing question: Whom would the Democratic finalists pick as running mates?

First, let’s take last night’s South Carolina winner, Sen. Barack Obama. If elected, he would become the first President of color, as well as one of the youngest Commanders-in-Chief in history. For Obama, it would make sense to select a running mate who (1) brings impeccable foreign policy and military experience, and (2) can personally deliver at least a couple swing states. To me, no one else comes to mind except Virginia’s political wunderkind, Sen. Jim Webb.

A Vietnam veteran, lawyer and Navy Secretary under President Reagan, Webb left the GOP after becoming disgusted with George W. Bush’s disastrous foreign policy. Having already vanquished a Goliath (in George Allen), Webb would help Obama carry Virginia — which has not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1964. With his military, Reagan, and Scotch-Irish credentials, Webb would also help Democrats make inroads in other swing states such as Ohio, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, and West Virginia. Finally, like Obama, part of Webb’s family is Asian American: he and his Vietnamese American wife (corporate securities lawyer Hong Le Webb) have a baby daughter.

Next, let’s take Sen. Hillary Clinton. If elected, she would become the first female President, as well as the first First Lady to be elected to the White House. Clinton should pick a running mate who (1) has consistently opposed the Iraq war, (2) can excite the Democratic grassroots and netroots, and (3) can form an effective team with her. Although Obama certainly fulfills the first two criteria, he would be eliminated by the third requirement: the race between them has become intensely personal. Which leaves … DNC Chair Howard Dean.

Gov. Howard Dean, MD? Some may find this idea preposterous. While he may be (unfairly) remembered for the Scream, the good doctor (and DNC Chair) still commands fierce loyalty. Indeed, in 2003, Dean had the courage to oppose the Iraq war and support civil unions. What is more, party leaders give Dean high marks for his highly effective DNC leadership. Under his dynamic 50-state strategy, the Democratic Party has become much more competitive in former GOP strongholds. Indeed, Dean’s painstaking efforts to rebuild the party enabled Democrats to retake both the U.S. House and Senate in 2006.

Meanwhile, who will win the GOP’s VP sweepstakes? A good place to start would be with a charismatic ordained minister, Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Between preachers and doctors and lawyers, the meek could truly inherit the earth — as well as the White House.

– Gautam Dutta

Comments

  1. eric says:

    My friends and I had the same debate recently. Here is whate we came up with:

    1. Both Obama and Hillary have to pick a white male running mate.

    2. Their running mate cannot come from the Senate. Two senators on the same ticket doesn’t work (no executive experience), so this would eliminate Webb (who shafted API’s with his immigration vote). Also, Webb has two years less time served in the Senate than Obama, so that would not address the experience issue. Ideally their running mate would be a sitting governor.

    3. With Obama’s popularity in the Midwest and Hilary’s pull on the east coast, the running mate should be a governor from the South or Southwest.

    Tim Kaine of Virginia, Mike Easley of North Carolina, and Phil Bredesen of Tennessee fit this bill. My early money is on Kaine.

    Who does my friend think it will be? Gen. Wesley Clark!

  2. Gautam says:

    Eric,

    Thanks for your note. While I agree with your first point, a successful VP nominee need not be a governor (e.g., the JFK/LBJ ticket). A successful VP candidate must offer two things: (1) background and experience that would strengthen the Presidential nominee, and (2) the ability to deliver at least one or two states that the Presidential nominee could not otherwise win.

    While Virginia has become a swing state, it does not appear that any Democratic nominee can carry North Carolina or Tennessee. In this light, Sen. Webb (and perhaps Gov. Kaine) would best advance Sen. Obama’s cause.

    Sen. Clinton might prefer Wes Clark — who apparently does not believe Asian Americans should be able to run for President (see http://www.aaa-fund.com/?p=31). But it would certainly behoove her to explore more viable alternatives. Indeed, it is doubtful whether Clark could deliver a single swing state, much less energize the Democratic base.

  3. Ash says:

    I can’t imagine Dean as Hilary’s VP. First of all, he wouldn’t run for a VP position at this point. He’s being very effective in his current position, and doesn’t need to be anyone’s second-in-command.

    Second, I don’t think she would pick him. I certainly don’t think her advisers would let her pick him. He has too much “bad karma” at this point.

    And finally, even if he was interested in playing second fiddle, and she was interested in recruiting him, I can’t imagine him running with *her*. If he does, he’ll leave a lot of DfA progressives scratching their heads and bolting to join the Green/Rainbows.

    I also think Clark is yesterday’s news, a la Colin Powell.

    I like the idea of Webb, despite his limited national exposure. But of those mentioned, my money is also on Kaine.

  4. Gautam says:

    Ash,

    Thanks for your note. We can all agree that (1) Dean’s been extremely effective as DNC Chair, and (2) Sen. Clinton would probably not consider him for VP (although she should). However, if he were selected, Dean would spur the DFA folks to enthusiastically support the Democratic ticket. If anything, people have come to appreciate Dean’s courage to take a clear stand against the Iraq war when few others did.

    Gov. Kaine, whom I admire, could definitely deliver Virginia. As a devout Catholic and former missionary, he would definitely appeal to conservative Democrats, independents, and moderate Republicans. On the negative side, Kaine does not have any traditional foreign policy or military background (though his missionary service was in Honduras). But could Kaine help carry another state besides the Old Dominion? It’s certainly possible.

    Given his upset victory in 2006, Sen. Webb is probably better known nationally than Kaine. At any rate, a successful VP candidate need not have been nationally known beforehand. Once nominated, his or her virtues (and vices) will get media attention galore.

  5. Tom says:

    For Clinton:

    Kaine would make sense, but so do Governors Strickland (OH) & Rendell (PA)…as well as Senators Bayh (IN) & Nelson (FL). She could also convince former Gov. Warner (VA) to jump on board while keeping his name in for the open Senate race…

    For Obama:

    Webb makes the most sense. Or Clark. Or Nelson (FL). Basically, some old white man with military experience. Even though the latter two have endorsed Clinton, they’ll come back home if Obama asks them to serve as VP.

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