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Barry's Next Big Decision

Washington Afro, News Report, Zenitha Prince Posted: Jun 06, 2008

On June 3, Sen. Barack Obama defied history, becoming the first African-American candidate to head a major party ticket and having a viable chance of taking the helm of the White House.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country that we love, said Obama from a stage in St. Paul, Minn.

The journey will be difficult, he added. The road will be long.
After ending the 5-month primary season Tuesday the way he beganwith a victory in Montana and accumulating enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination, Obama can now turn his attention to picking a vice presidential running mate.

Its a simple and difficult thing at the same time, said David Bositis, senior analyst for the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The simple part is knowing what the calculations are that youre going to be looking forthe vice president has to be someone who is qualified to be president if something happens, he said. But its not like theres a checklist that you can go down and check off.

Especially since the rubric used to guide the choice of running mates seemed to have changed given the almost universal disenchantment caused by the two-term Bush administration; the war on terrorism; the historical overtones of a race in which a woman and an African American both stood good chances of piercing the ultimate glass ceiling but mostly, analysts say, because of shifting population and, therefore, voter demographics.

For Obama, the stakes will be especially high. Still seen by voters as an enigmatic candidate with limited Washington experience, the senators choice of a running mate will be used to gauge his decision-making process and partly define his candidacy.

[That choice] tells us a great deal about the candidatehis judgment and what values are important to him, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginias Center for Politics

Obamas signature message of change and a post-partisanship White House will be best served by picking someone such as Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, said political analyst Ronald Walters.

Hes a moderate Republican senator who is leaving and who has been at odds with his party for most of the time that hes been in Congress, Walters explained. Hes likely to bring along some Republicans and independents and would strengthen Obamas point about being bi-partisan.

But before Obama makes nice-nice across the aisle, hell have to consider how to bring unity back to a party that has been divided by his sometimes acrimonious contest with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

According to one participant in a Tuesday afternoon conference call among Clinton and members of the New York congressional delegation, she was asked whether she would become Obamas running mate and Clinton reportedly replied, "I am open to it." Clinton has announced she would suspend her campaign and endorse her erstwhile rival on Saturday.

Democratic leaders, pundits and voters have long advocated a shared ticket as a sure-to-win combination that will repair a breach formed between women, White working-class and older voters, who support Clinton and the African Americans, college graduates and young voters who side with Obama.

If it works out that Sen. Obama is the nominee, the strongest ticket would be Sen. Clinton as vice president. No question in my mind, because the constituencies in the votes are different, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Clinton supporter, told the New York Post. The weight of the states he carried versus the states she carried its different. And, therefore, if you combine them both, youve got the best electoral path.

Not everyone agrees. Detractors say Clinton would bring more liabilities to Obamas campaign than assets. Not only would she not fit into Obamas theme of change, there would also be the political baggage of Bill.

Im not crazy about an Obama-Clinton ticket because it brings with it the past president of the United States and thats a problem for Obama, Walters said. The question will be, Whose administration is it? Is it Obamas or is it Bill Clintons third administration?

Walters noted, Weve seen what he can do in this campaign. He has a lot of bodies buried in Washington and around the world. He can pick up the telephone and interfere in a way that would muddy the water about whos in control.

Generally, the president and his VP should have good chemistry. However, too much ill will may have developed between the two candidates, some say.

I dont see it. They have too much anger between them, particularly from Clinton to Obama. And I cant see her wanting to be submissive to anyone; I wouldnt trust her under me, said Jonathan Johnson, 43, an occupational, physical and speech therapist from Baltimore and an unaffiliated voter, who plans to vote for Obama in the fall. I can understand the theory of it; and they will do it just to make it work. You see it in real relationshipsYoure pregnant; lets get marriedbut I dont think it [will be] a good marriage.
Besides, analysts said, an African American and a woman on the same ticket may be asking for too much sudden change.

It has to be a White man, Bositis said. Barack Obama is the first African American who can potentially break the mold. But, I dont think [the party will] take the radical step to have no White man on the ticket. The question is which White man?

Sabato said Obama has to pick someone who complements him in geography, age and experience.

For Obama, that is someone with gray hair and someone who understands Washington, especially military strategy and foreign policy because thats going to be what McCain uses against him, he said.

Some foreign policy experts bandied about as potential candidates are former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden. Obama could also consider prominent supporters such as 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards and former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. And for geography, Obama could turn to governors, including Arizonas Janet Napolitano, New Mexicos Bill Richardson, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Kansas Kathleen Sebelius.

Bositis does not buy into the gray hair qualification.

[Obama] represents a new generation, Bositis said. Hes not going to pick someone whos a hundred years old, Bositis said. Picking some old guy is not going to contribute to the future of the Democratic Party.

Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Republican-turned Democrat, gets Bositis vote.

He has a distinguished military career; he has executive experience, which Obama lacks, since he was President [Ronald] Reagans secretary of the Navy. He is very intellectual, he will help Obama win Virginia, which Democrats have not won since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and he will strongly appeal to White working-class voters, Bositis explained.

This week the senator appointed a three-person team to help in his search for a running mate, a team that includes former first daughter Caroline Kennedy, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and former Fannie Mae CEO and Washington bigwig Jim Johnson, who performed the same duty for Democratic nominees Walter Mondale in 1984 and John Kerry in 2004.

Republican candidate John McCain has a leg up on his Democratic rival, having launched his efforts since the GOP primary ended in early March. He, too, is said to be looking at governors:

Bobby Vindal of Louisiana, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Charlie Crist of Florida.

More than in the past, selecting a running mate could be Obamas defining moment. Bositis said,

If he picks the right vice president, Obama is very well positioned to win this election.

Related Articles:

Obama's Continuing Latino Problem

Change Comes to the Democratic Party

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