Back when there were more than two presidential candidates on the Democratic side, they liked to joke about wanting to see their opponents in the White House—”as my vice president!” You don’t hear that joke anymore, probably because the two survivors appear to like each other about as much as Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon .
Odd, then, that Clinton strategist Terry McAuliffe would tell NY1 that Barack Obama should “absolutely” be considered as a running mate, seeing he has “excited so many people.” Describing his experience watching the amicable Los Angeles debate, he said, “to sit there and look at that stage—the two finalists, African-American and a woman of the Democratic Party—I think that was exciting.”
Until a week ago, the prospect of a Clinton-Obama ticket would have been laughable. In South Carolina, the two campaigns had reached new heights of viciousness, alternately slamming Obama’s comments about Ronald Reagan and Clinton’s judgment in voting for the war. Obama criticized her for being divisive; she tweaked him for voting “present” instead of yes or no in the Illinois state Senate.
But suddenly the idea doesn’t seem so crazy. If/when John McCain wins the GOP nomination, expect an identity crisis among Republicans. Ann Coulter was joking about voting Democratic if McCain won the nomination, but a lot of Republicans wouldn’t be. A Clinton/Obama power team could capitalize on that, picking up alienated GOPers in the maelstrom. Also, McCain’s strength among independents means that Hillary would need all the moderate help she can get.
Of course, there’s a big difference between Obama/Clinton and Clinton/Obama. Hillary could use Obama’s star power to draw crowds in the tens of thousands. Add Bill and you could fill stadiums. Obama would also serve as a magnet for the middle—you hear stories of Republicans wishing they could change their party affiliation for the primary. But Obama doesn’t need her in the same way. Perhaps he could use help among women voters, but that disadvantage applies against Hillary—not against McCain. He has weaknesses in the South and among military voters, but a Democrat like Jim Webb would cover both areas. And it’s not like he needs help drawing crowds.
Some observers assume McAuliffe was giving Obama a backhanded complement: You’d make a great running mate, young man! But given Democrats’ enthusiasm for both candidates—South Carolina exit polls showed that 83 percent would be satisfied with an Obama nomination, while 77 percent would feel that way about Clinton—the idea is worth considering.
To be sure, any ugliness in the coming weeks could rule out an O/C ticket. Assuming the race remains tight after Super Tuesday, the stakes are raised with each new batch of primaries. And maybe the candidates have already bloodied each other beyond repair. But it’s remarkable how quickly wounds heal when expediency calls. In the 1980 primary, George H.W. Bush famously labeled Ronald Reagan’s supply-side theories “voodoo economics.” Back in 1960, JFK asked his primary opponent Johnson to be his running mate despite resistance within his own camp. McAuliffe might have been sounding off, but he isn’t crazy.