Thursday, June 26, 2008

Intuition on Obama VP

For whatever this could possibly be worth: I was intrigued by a comment Obama made in his press conference yesterday. He was asked his opinion of Chicago politics. He said that mainly he had always run independent of the traditional Chicago and Illinois machines, but there is a quality of politics in Illinois--which he broadened into a Midwestern trait--of pragmatic problem-solving across partisan divides.

Obama is unlikely to pick someone just to maybe win a state, or only for that person's role in the campaign (some pundit or other said that the only function of the VP was to win the debate with the opposite VP, which is short-sighted in the extreme.) Obama responded to a question about his thinking on the VP yesterday by emphasizing the VP's qualifications to step into the job of President if necessary, and to be a close advisor otherwise. But the electoral map, including the polls today that showed Obama's strength in Midwestern swing states won't be ignored either.

Anyway, my intuition is that Obama has more of a comfort level with like-minded office-holders in the Midwest and probably the West as well. The hegemony of the East and South in dominating Democratic candidates may end this year. So I'm feeling that Obama's VP choice will come from the Midwest, or the West in general. Maybe Claire McCaskill, Kathleen Sibelius, Janet Napolitano, Bill Richardson or somebody completely off the radar at the moment (which is not unprecedented.)

Another factor I have a strong intuition about is age. I don't think Obama is going to pick someone significantly older. JFK did, and he was 4 years younger when he ran. But this is a generational election, and Obama knows that in picking a VP, he's signalling the party's future.

The unknown factor is how much he wants to avoid offending the Clintons. Picking Bill Richardson would probably tick them off big time, and there was noise about Hillary having a problem with any other woman. But if I had to bet right now it would be on one of the three women I named.

Sebelius is the oldest at 60 but she seems the youngest. McCaskill is 55, Napolitano is 51. Obama is reportedly close to all three. McCaskill (Missouri) has been probably the most politically helpful, and she will be a close political advisor no matter what. Sebellius (Kansas) has been the most visible, and Napolitano (Gov. of Arizona) the least, though the White House Project that focuses on women named her as one of the eight female politicians who could be President. Politically, I like her a lot. She has roots in traditional Democratic areas (she would be the first Italian American in the White House; she grew up in Pittsburgh as well as later in New Mexico), she's strong on education and family issues. Plus Arizona is in play, despite being McCain's home state.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Obama Everywhere

If John McCain wasn't getting relatively gentle treatment from the news media (which actually doesn't bother me at this point--but only if they go after him in September), his campaign would be in even more of a shambles. The best thing that happened to him recently is that he has a guaranteed $80 million for the fall, by accepting public financing. The RNC corporatists and lobbyists should kick in at least that much more.

But Obama is staying with his army of donors, 1.5 million and growing. His campaign brought in only $22 million in May, but there are whispers about a huge rebound in June, perhaps to be his biggest month ever. We'll see. But now that it's clear that the GOPers have nothing positive to run on, and must go negative on Obama to have a chance, and remembering 2004 when the Swift Boaters attacked Kerry between the costly primaries and when public financing for the fall kicked in (and even then, because of convention timing, he got about $11 million less than Bush) and Kerry had no money to fight back--well, it made perfect sense to keep the campaign in his control by staying with his donors and supporters, and passing up federal financing.

That's helping him continue to organize a formidable campaign, with a presence in every state. Obama is already showing surprising strength--no more so than in the Newsweek poll which shows him 15 points ahead of McCain. Another set of numbers has him ahead in the major swing states of Ohio, Florida and PA. These numbers may not hold up, but it's better than the reverse. My own guess is that it's closer in Ohio and Florida, but Democratic registration was so strong in PA that Obama will win it. With a concise personal and patriotic first ad ("Country That I Love") and his Father's Day exhortation, Obama is introducing himself to general election voters.

Polls like Newsweek's show that Obama can add the category of women to those (like Latinos, Jewish voters, working class voters, etc.) he isn't really having a problem with, and the importance of that increases on the choice issue--particularly as McCain is under pressure to limit his vp list to anti-choice candidates. Even his highly touted "Appalachian problem" seems exaggerated to one of the most respected numbers analysts in the blogosphere.

Obama came out and pretty much said that he expects an element of the fearmongering the GOPers will try will be on his race, but a Washington Post poll--while it shows racial concerns, prejudices and divides--has this silver lining: 90% of white voters surveyed said they would be comfortable with a black President. The poll shows there is potential for racial mischief, but at the moment, McCain's problems are worse: "Numerous polls, for example, have indicated that McCain's age may be a bigger detractor than Obama's race. And more are now concerned that McCain will heed too closely the interests of large corporations than said so about Obama and the interests of blacks."

But remaining on the list of problems this week at least are older voters, and specifically baby boomers. Though the poll's definition of what constitutes a boomer is not demographically correct (they polled those born between 1944 and 1958; the boom was 1946-1964), it shows Obama behind McCain by 18 points.

Though a decision is likely months away, the vice presidential sweepstakes got a lot of attention last week. The appointment of erstwhile Clinton campaign manager (but now reportedly estranged from the Clintons) Patty Solis Doyle to be that vp's chief of staff seemed to dim the likelihood of Hillary, as did a swing states poll that showed independent voters don't much like the idea of her on the ticket.

A couple of the less likely names also dropped off the list. Barney Frank put the kabosh on Sam Nunn for his anti-gay votes, and Senator Jim Webb came out for off-shore drilling the same week as McCain and Bush did, and Obama spoke out strongly against it. Chris Dodd accidentally got himself a preferential loan, and that may have stopped his chances. Besides Webb's problem, the other Virginians Mark Warner (said he won't) and Tim Kaine (doesn't seem to want to) seem less likely. Bill Richardson seems eager, but that might depend on how campaign insiders felt he performed after endorsing Obama--some stuff I've seen says not so well.

John Edwards seems to have gone back on his "not me" comments, so he remains in the running. As do Kathleen Sibelius and Janet Napolitano. Joe Biden maybe. But I see no chance (and would be very disappointed if) colorless Evan Bayh, old pols Strictland of Ohio and Rendell of PA, and all the other lazy choices. Wesley Clark doesn't seem to want it, though that's just a feeling.

Well, on to more important things, like songs. Of all the Obama songs this year, the one that sticks in my head is this one--"Obama Everywhere in Pennsylvania" by Earl Pickens and Thunder. Message to Earl: get busy on nationalizing those lyrics. I want to be hearing the new version real soon. Can we hear another guitar solo? Yes, we can.