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.