Veep Shot

Hillary Clinton’s simultaneous claims that Barack Obama is not prepared to be commander in chief, yet she would consider him for vice president, has drawn all the requisite scorn .

“I don’t understand,” Obama mused at a rally in Mississippi today. “If I am not ready, why do you think I would be such a great vice president?”

Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson explained on a conference call: “We do not believe that Senator Obama has passed the commander in chief test. But there is a long way between now and Denver.”

Setting aside the question of what could happen between now and August to prepare Obama for answering the phone at 3 a.m.—a terrorist attack? a flurry of security legislation?—it’s worth exploring why Hillary is working the VP angle so hard. The obvious reason is to convey inevitability—a logical stretch, given that she’s currently losing the popular vote, the delegate count, and the state count. But the real goal here is to sway superdelegates.

Clinton knows she can’t win the pledged delegate count. (To learn why, see here .) So if she’s going to clinch the nomination, she will have to persuade superdelegates to vote for her—and overturn the pledged delegate outcome. Naturally, many superdelegates are uncomfortable with this scenario. But by floating the possibility of Obama as VP, she’s trying to ease their consciences. They could still vote for him, she’s saying—just as vice president instead of president!

The problem is, Clinton’s hypothetical scenario isn’t worth anything unless it’s an actual promise to take Obama as her VP. Until that happens, it’s hard to see superdelegates factoring the veepstakes into their decision. And seeing as a Clinton-Obama ticket is next to impossible (he couldn’t seem less interested, for starters), she doesn’t gain much from hinting at it.