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Assuming Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, and she wants Barack Obama to fill out the ticket, will he accept?

The question is predicated on two BIG assumptions, especially in the midst of a campaign in which nobody knows anything--but here goes nothing...

Some things to think about:

1. As a general statement, nobody turns down the vice presidency. Off the top of my head, I can think of only two American statesmen who have demurred. Gerald Ford in 1980. John McCain (from Kerry) in 2004. Both of those instances were extraordinary cases: Ford a former president and McCain a member of the opposition party with presidential aspirations within his own caucus. Any others?

An Update: Thinking about things, Silas Wright declined to run with James K. Polk in 1844. Surely there must be others who famously declined. Help me out. Let's make a contest of it.

2. Why do American statesmen so often accept the VP?

--most American statesmen are committed to service above self aggrandizement (that's their story anyway). The VP is a lowly job but somebody's got to do it. Turning the job down smacks of too much ego and seems almost unpatriotic. Turning the job down would also be seen by many partisans as betrayal of party.

--the VP is a lowly job (John Adams called it "the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of man contrived or his Imagination conceived"). Having said that, the VP is a heart beat away from ultimate power.

--the VP is a platform for ambitious men. True, the office is a gamble. Sometimes the VP prospers and sometimes he fails miserably. But the potential for elevation (both literally and metaphorically) strikes most young men in a hurry as an irresistible gambit.

3. Even in the case of Al Gore, whom both the Gardener and I cite as a person damaged by the administration to which he attached himself, the VP opened up a plethora of opportunity for the former senator from Tennessee. Gore is Gore, Inc. today because he was VP. His association with the Clintons may have lost him the presidency in 2000 (or it may not have), but it is hard to argue that Gore would have even made a run for that nomination without his VP connection. The cult of Gore depends mightily (albeit indirectly) on his eight years in the second slot.

In closing, the VP is hard to turn down for a number of reasons, especially for a young man. If Hillary wins, and if she decides to tap Obama (two big ifs), I say he takes it. He has no real choice.
Category: Campaign 2008.4
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Okie Gardener points us to this story in the Washington Post : "Religion Looms Large Over 2008 Race" (read here).

The article attempts to make two basic points:

1. Religion plays a much more important role in electing a president than it did four decades ago. All candidates (both GOP and Dems) feel that they need a religious public persona.

In essence, this is correct. However, there is a bit of journalistic leger demain in there. The story pivots on the Election of 1968, in which Mitt Romney's father, George, a practicing Mormon like his son, did not face much animosity or even curiosity about his religious beliefs in his unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination.

What changed? The Post calls on pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, who avers that "between the late 1960s, when Romney's father ran, and now there has been one of the great transformations of our era."

Kohut asserts: "There is more mixing of religion and politics than there was then."

The attention to 1968 seems to imply that there is an unprecedented concern for religion in politics today, which perpetuates the modern myth of an American electorate historically dedicated to preserving a strict separation of religious culture and political culture. As we have discussed time after time on this blog, such a "wall of separation" was never the reality in the American tradition.

Although the Post assumes the importance of JFK and his Catholicism in 1960 as precedent, they don't seem to make the logical connection to an electorate concerned with religion in 1960 (not to mention 1928). Nor does the Post ask the perfectly reasonable question: if religion were not a factor in selecting national leaders, why has a Mormon candidate not won the presidency over the past 150 years? A Jewish candidate? The truth is that 1968 is the aberration (for a lot of reasons that I will not go into here). No matter, by neglecting to mention the context of 1968, the Post is sloppy (at best).

UPDATE: Something for another time: I agree with the Post that we are in the midst of a religious revival in that faith is increasingly essential for candidates; on the other hand, our corporate religious personality has become so diverse that minority religionists today have more viability than ever before. More at some later date on this paradox.

The other theme of the Post article:

2. The Religious Right and their prejudice against Mormonism still presents Mitt Romney with a formidable obstacle to overcome in winning the Republican nomination.

This one strikes me as based on a false assumption at worst, and a bit overblown at best.

The power of the Christian Right in the GOP is limited

It is a mistake to assume that the Christian Right plays the ultimate "kingmaker" role in GOP primaries. Just ask Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, Sam Brownback, and a myriad other failed aspirants who built campaigns around appealing to the tastes of religious conservatives. Since the advent of the so-called Religious Right, the GOP has nominated Ronald Reagan, George Bush (41), Bob Dole and George Bush (43). None of those candidates were anathema to religious people--but, with the possible exception of the latter George Bush, neither were they simpatico with conservative evangelicals.

An aside: the continued success of Rudy puts the lie to the notion that a candidate offensive to the Southern Evangelical power structure is not viable within the Republican Party.

Evangelicals can be quite ecumenical when the situation dictates

More importantly, the continued speculation centering on Romney's Mormonism ignores the propensity of the evangelicals to compromise and coalesce. Regardless of how powerful the Christian Right may be within the party, there is no doubt that evangelicals have been more than willing to join hands with other like-minded people of differing faiths. Part of the strength of modern religious voters is that they transcend denominations. Conservative Jews, Catholics and Protestants are now quick to make common cause. As for the General Election: faced with a big-name opponent whom they don't like very much (Hillary Clinton), religious conservatives will be happy to support Mitt Romney, a person of faith who enunciates shared conservative values.

My hunch is that Romney does not need to overcome a religious hurdle. Romney needs to prove himself a stimulating candidate with a message and a good chance to win in November. Once he does that (and I must admit that he is even making some headway with me in that regard), he will be plenty palatable to the Richard Lands of the political world.
I try not to do a lot of "I told you so" on this blog; such egocentric triumphalism is boring and boorish. On the other hand, the buzz concerning Newt's prediction that Clinton and Obama will form the Democratic ticket for 2008 makes this late post newly relevant.

From last week:

A Likely Scenario

Right now Mrs. Clinton holds a comfortable lead. Most likely, Obama will continue to rise in the polls until he is even with Clinton, possibly even surpass Clinton, and then peak. These will be tense moments. Both camps will develop a deep dislike for the other. Then Mrs. Clinton's experience and superior organization will take over, the adults in the Democratic Party will exert their influence, Clinton will pull back ahead of Obama, and then pull away from him down the stretch. Then Mrs. Clinton will extend a gracious hand of friendship to Obama and offer him the VP. Obama will seize the opportunity to further his political education and prepare for his ultimate elevation to the Chief Executive. And they both shall live happily ever after.

You may review the entire post here.
Category: Campaign 2008.4
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Important Caveat: The following paragraph is not offered as a veiled prediction.

I remember distinctly watching the Today Show at some point during the early stages of the Republican primary in 1980 when Tom Pettit of NBC News pronounced the political career of Ronald Reagan officially dead. Not too long after that, Reagan fired John Sears as his campaign manager, went back to being Reagan, and won the nomination easily.

Even before his latest troubles, I had counted out John McCain with sincere regret. I would not be at all surprised if he bowed out of the race in the very near future (hours not days; days not weeks). On the other hand, it would not surprise me if McCain persevered through Iowa and New Hampshire. After all, he is tough as nails. It would SHOCK me, however, if McCain re-emerged as a viable candidate a la RR.

Here are a few reasons why McCain is not Ronald Reagan:

1. Charisma. McCain lacks the movie star good looks and stage presence, not to mention the Reagan gift for communication. Of all the candidates for president, McCain is the most ardent and spot-on regarding the war. No matter, he seems incapable of delivering that message to a wider audience.

2. True-blue believers. I know a lot of people who like McCain, but I cannot think of anyone who worships him. Back in 1976 and 1980, a whole host of us saw RR as a political messiah.

3. The Kitchen Cabinet. In addition to an army of awestruck admirers out in the heartland, Reagan enjoyed an intensely loyal coterie of really smart and sophisticated political operatives who believed in him completely. McCain had the best staff money could buy. Now he has no money and no staff.

4. The Base. Reagan always had his detractors--but they were on the other side of the political divide. The most virulent hatred for McCain comes from within the GOP.

5. The Message. Reagan articulated core convictions he had rehearsed and perfected over the course of three decades. Even when adopting a new position (right to life, for example), Reagan hammered it home like a lesson he learned in Sunday School back in Dixon, Illinois. McCain, exceedingly principled and full of core convictions, ironically, strikes voters as an opportunist. Too often GOP loyalists see McCain as prone to adopting trendy positions to impress the Washington intelligentsia.

Much of this is unfair--but sometimes the ball bounces that way.
A few thoughts from a conversation with Bosque Boys reader and contributor, Coach, which further points to a Hillary Clinton presidency:

I said: Americans vote FOR people more than they vote AGAINST them. I agree that Hillaryís negatives are bigóbut I donít think they will sink her. Her negatives are part of the landscape (a lot like Nixon). They strike me as obstacles that sharp operators can navigate, having the advantage of knowing where they are from the outset.

I continue to think Hillary can win in November. I tend to think her biggest problem is that Democrats might panic in January and decide she canít win in November and look for a more conventional candidate.

Coach agreed and added that "the Democrats donít have a good conventional candidate to fall back on."

And he ticked off a few other elements in Hillary's favor:

--The Republicans donít have a candidate for those who would most oppose Hillary. Neither Giuliani or McCain (moderates) or Romney (a recently converted conservative) are especially fitted to the needs of conservative Christians, who seem to find the most fault with Hillary.

An Aside from me: I am not sure how Fred Thompson fits in to that equation.

--Hillary will run as a moderate, advocating positions very close to the Republican candidate.

--The Republican candidate will be fighting an uphill battle. This is a Democratic election year. See the results of the recent Congressional elections and the approval ratings for the President.

--The electorate is restless. The public has unrealistic expectations about what the president can actually do, and they are disappointed when those expectations arenít met.

--Hillary will have the discipline to stay on message and listen to her magnificent brain trust. Part of the political genius of the Clintons is that they never slip up during elections. They are criticized for being phony or ďcannedĒ, but there are never any gaffes.

Good handicapping, Coach.