Obama's Hillary Option Still on the Table
May 22, 2012
Toss all conventional wisdom aside in the 2012 election cycle in what promises to be a photo finish. All national polls show the country returning to 2000, when the final election result between former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore was separated by only a handful of questionable Florida votes, where Bush picked up the state’s 25 electoral votes, putting his electoral vote total over the top beating Gore 271-266. When the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 12, 2000 ruled no more recounts and handed the election to Bush, the election was the closest in U.S. history. While the popular vote doesn’t count, Gore topped Bush by nearly 500,000 votes or 48.4% to 47.9. Given that current polls show a virtual dead heat, there’s going to be more surprises between now and Nov 6, 2012. Talking about what FDR did in 1940 when he dumped John Garner for Henry Wallace is irrelevant.
Calculations over vice presidential choices are serious business when elections are settled by a razor’s edge. Past wisdom about vice presidential picks no longer applies. In extremely tight races, vice presidential picks can make the difference between cigar or no cigar. When U.S. Sen. John McCain picked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin Aug. 29, 2008, it was the beginning of the end. While any other VP pick probably wouldn’t have made a difference for McCain in 2008, the final vote tally might have been much closer than Obama’s 7.2% victory margin. This year’s election could be decided by under 1%, making the VP choice all the more important. Obama’s GOP opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has already promised to carefully pick someone that gives him the best shot in November. There’s nothing etched in stone about Obama retaining VP Joe Biden.
Concerns about how the press would react to Obama switching running mates is way overstated. If there’s anything to media’s left-wing bias, they’d open their arms to picking Hillary Rodham Clinton. Romney’s playing cat-and-mouse when it comes to his VP picks, only hinting that he’s in the “vetting” process. What the late President Gerald Ford did dumping Nelson Rockefeller for Bob Dole in 1976 when he lost to former President Jimmy Carter doesn’t matter today. Romney, above all else, must not commit the same mistake as McCain in 2008, picking someone like Palin that hurt him in the general election. Depending if the polls tighten over the summer or if Romney leaps ahead, Barack might be forced to do something dramatic before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 3-6. Worries about what the media thinks are grossly exaggerated.
When Biden came out in support of same-sex marriage May 9, it forced Barack to a day later to rethink his position. Suggestions that supporting gay marriage helps his reelection bid couldn’t be more off-base. Most gays and lesbians already support Obama. Backing same-sex marriage drives crossover Republicans and independents away from supporting the president in November. Biden’s mouth, once again, caused Obama more problems. When Romney reaffirmed his belief that marriage is only for a man and a woman, it provided even starker contrasts than before. If polls head south for Romney ahead of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fl. [Aug. 27-30], he may be forced, like McCain in 2008, into a game-changing pick. While denying any interest to date, picking former Secretary of State Condoleezza “Condi” Rice would be one such dramatic pick.
If Romney holds his pick only days before the RNC Convention, he’ll give Obama a big advantage, since Obama picks last. Depending on the polls, both candidates may have to do something extraordinary this time around. Unlike the 2008 election, Obama no longer enjoys the “fresh face” advantage, especially given today’s economic challenges. Given the cat-and-mouse game between the Obama and Romney campaigns, both sides are looking for an advantage. Without former President George W. Bush’s negative coattails, there’s a level playing field in 2012. Romeny has already shown cautions political instincts, especially about attacking Barack on the “birthwe” or “Rev. Wright” issues. He’s trying to out Obama by showing his unflappable side, wining endorsements from just about everyone inside the GOP establishment, including anti-tax Party boss Grover Norquist.
Dramatic VP picks, including dumping a sitting vice president, could very easily be in the works this time around. Early polling shows that the race is virtually a dead heat, with something dramatic needed for more separation. Because Romney lacks the kind of pizzazz on his own, his VP will need to be dramatic to give him the edge. Before either convention, Obama and Romney will have to commit themselves to their running mates. If Obama stays up in the polls, he’ll probably keep the status quo. If things head south, look for something dramatic, like handing the baton to Hillary. Though she’s denied any interest, recent chatter by former President Bill Clinton indicates that Hillary may be eying 2016. If Biden has no such ambitions, it only makes sense to make the move now rather that later. With Hillary in the second slot, Democrats will clearly have the advantage next time around.
About the AuthorJohn M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma
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