Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Choose Someone Already!

Recently a buddy and I found ourselves discussing the looming presidential election, and sharing our concerns about the directions the respective campaigns are taking. On one hand there is a lot to be thankful for. I almost can't believe that our long national nightmare with the George W. Bush administration is only a few months from being concluded. That fact alone is reason for optimism. I don't know for sure whether or not history will judge him as the worst national executive in history, but he is a strong contender for that distinction. Although I have serious reservations about saying so, I do indeed think that we will be better off regardless of the outcome of the November election. Even John McCain is preferable to what we have been subjected to.

But one thing my pal and I find troublesome is that neither McCain nor Obama has yet to choose their running mates. What gives? According to my limited recollection, VP candidates have been picked many months before the general elections. Yet as of mid-August of 2008, the mystery remains. In May of this year I began to speculate on who might be chosen to round out the tickets. I feel no increased confidence in predicting outcomes at this late date. The handlers of our presidential hopefuls seem to be exceptionally secretive on this matter. It even crossed my mind that they might announce their decision to run as a bipartisan joint ticket, however ridiculous that possibility sounds.

What's ironic is that McCain and Obama have a history of working together in the Senate. In fact they collaborated over ethics reform. If you think about political prudence, the profiles of these opponents seem to fit the needs of their respective search committees. Obama would like someone with a strong record on foreign policy, and appeal with the older folks. McCain needs an injection of youth and spirit in his campaign; he would benefit from someone that can inject some sexiness into the ticket. Of course it's not going to happen, but the two of them would make for some compelling partners. From the tone of the campaign so far, it seems like they have respect for one another.

Will these guys pick surrogates for each other? If Barack Obama selects Jim Webb from Virginia, I'll be pretty suspicious. However Webb doesn't appear on the current shortlist being bandied about the media. Instead we see names like Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), Sen. Joe Biden (DE), Gov. Tim Kaine (VA), and Gov. Kathleen Subelius (KS). And still Hillary Clinton is in the mix. Of those names, only Biden seems to fit the profile of the conservative selection. If I had to guess, I would say that Obama would lose much of the enthusiasm from his fervid base if he went with a "safe choice". Regardless of perceived shortcomings, it is Barack's promise of substantial change that truly inflames his constituency.

As for McCain, he also seems to be distancing himself from the appearance of moderation. The Republican rank-and-file is pining for Mitt Romney. His conservative positions on social issues (like abortion and gay marriage) appeal to the Religious Right, no matter how politically expedient and disingenuous his convictions are. Reportedly he's also seriously considering former PA Governor and Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge (Gasp!), failed Bush acolyte Condoleeza Rice (Oh, c'mon!), and little-known Minnesota Governor Tom Pawlenty. Aside from the latter (whom I'm completely unfamiliar with) these candidates frighten me, especially with McCain's advanced age and arguably perilous health.

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