I had a little fun last night throwing out some ridiculous ideas for a potential running mate for Sen. Obama, but his actual running mate will tell us a lot about what Obama really intends to do and how he views the presidency.
First things first - I think the chances are almost nil that he'll select Mrs. Clinton. Besides all the rancor that has emerged in the campaign, her Machiavellian nature guarantees that Obama would spend the foreseeable future worrying about getting a shiv in the back. My friend Strolling Amok has suggested that Obama will offer HRC a seat on the Supreme Court, but I don't see that happening, either. My guess: she'll fade into the background and hope that McCain wins so she can go after it again in four years.
Way back at the beginning of the year, SA suggested someone who would be an excellent choice for Obama: James Webb. Webb has the military background that Obama lacks and is significantly more moderate politically; as an old Reagan hand (former Secretary of the Navy) he would have the chance to moderate some of Obama's sillier diplomatic ideas. He might also bring somewhat purplish Virginia into play electorally. If Obama can take the flak that he'd get from certain quarters in his party over the choice, he'd be hard pressed to find anyone better. Another individual with similar credentials would be former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.
If he bypasses HRC, there will be a lot of pressure to pick a woman. The thing is, at least to this observer, most of the distaff choices in the Democratic Party aren't especially impressive. Nancy Pelosi may be Speaker of the House, but she's not well-regarded right now and rightfully so. Most of the female senators available would be poor choices as well -- Dianne Feinstein, who has supported Hillary, will be 75 this year and is too old for the job. Her California colleague Barbara Boxer is an uber-liberal and has an especially annoying persona. There's no way he'll pick Barbara Mikulski (too old and irritating), Patty Murray (uber-liberal with bad soundbite history) or Mary Landrieu (product of a corrupt, dying political machine). He might want to take a flyer on Claire McCaskill, but I don't see that. Nor do I see him looking at our distaff Senator, Amy Klobuchar (a/k/a Senator Hotdish), whose tenure thus far has featured Alphonse D'Amato-style small bore initiatives mixed with the sensibilities of a WCCO "consumer reporter" (lead toys and swimming pool drains).
That leaves governors and there are two that Obama might consider. First is Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. She brings two advantages - a record of accomplishment both in the governor's office and as a U.S. attorney and, perhaps more importantly, she's from the same state as John McCain. Since Veep candidates tend to have an attack-dog role in a campaign, her critiques of McCain might have more trenchancy since she's from the same place. The other possibility is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, whose photo appears at the beginning of the post. She's managed to get elected and re-elected in a conservative state and (sorry if this seems sexist) presents herself better than Napolitano. Either would be a smart choice.
Two other male governors have been mentioned as well. The first is former candidate Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Richardson's endorsement of Obama was a big story earlier in the campaign and he has perhaps the best resume of all the potential choices. But his campaign was singularly unimpressive and while he definitely helped Obama with his endorsement, the transparency of it will probably hurt his chances. The other name you hear a lot is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. I don't see him at all, though, and not only because he supported Clinton. Rendell is the quintessential big-state political machine politician that Obama's campaign has used as a counterpoint from the beginning. If he were to embrace someone like Rendell as his running mate, it would signal that much of the loftier rhetoric from Obama was simply that.
If I were Obama, I would be choosing between Webb and Sebelius. What do you think?