Vice Presidential Short List: Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Jim Webb, But Not Martin O’Malley

Posted on July 4, 2008


Three names should be on Sen. Barack Obama’s short list for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, in alphabetical order:

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton. Sen. Clinton brings the woman’s vote and the Latino vote. Hillary has proved her popularity and viability by winning two elections to the U.S. Senate from New York, and winning most of the big states in the late unpleasant Democratic primary season. The downside, Hillary would be an easy target for Republicans, and a big boost to Republican fund-raising. (And what do you do with Bill Clinton, the political third wheel in this scenario?) Obama-Clinton would be a rock-solid Democratic ticket, a ticket for the history books, and possibly unbeatable.
  • Gen. Colin Powell. Gen. Powell is former Secretary of State, former National Security Adviser, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He knows everything Barack Obama might not know, he’s been everywhere Barack Obama hasn’t been, done everything Barack Obama hasn’t done. In short, Gen. Powell, a senior statesman and (moderate) Republican, would be the perfect ticket balance for Obama’s youth and inexperience in foreign and military affairs. An Obama-Powell ticket would be a historic Democratic-Republican team, a perfect confirmation of Obama’s promise of change and end to partisan gridlock. Powell would give voters some confidence that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be brought to conclusion in a prudent way. Powell brings independents, moderate Republicans, and challenges for the veteran and military vote. Obama-Powell would be even stronger than Obama-Clinton, possibly a landslide of historic proportions.
  • Sen. Jim Webb, the Democrat from Virginia. I’ve written about Webb’s credentials previously. His stock is at a 52-week high following passage of his GI Bill for veterans of the modern era, which was signed into law this week by President Bush. Sen. Webb brings veterans, military-minded voters, and a large but nearly invisible group of Americans of Scots-Irish heritage. Most importantly, Webb’s presence on the ticket would bring Virginia and put most of the South in play for the Democrats, wreacking havoc with Republican election strategy. Jim Webb does not have the marquee name recognition of Hillary Clinton or Colin Powell. Webb would not be as popular as Clinton with female voters, to put it mildly. Obama-Webb would be a safer, more conventional ticket, an African-American man and a white man, offering traditional balance by region, age and experience. Obama-Webb would be a strong ticket, but probably not as strong as Obama-Clinton or Obama-Powell.

A note for Marylanders: Among conservative and Republican talk-show callers, there has been uninformed speculation about Gov. Martin O’Malley as a vice presidential candidate. Sorry, not this year.

Gov. O’Malley’s political skills, administrative ability, and his willingness to take on tough political fights all definitely mark him as presidential timber. But O’Malley is only in his second year as governor. His style and his track record is not to use one office as a brief stepping stone to a higher office. He served two terms on the Baltimore City Council before running for mayor, and won two elections for mayor of Baltimore before running for governor of Maryland.

I think O’Malley, like Democratic predecessors Parris Glendening, William Donald Schaefer, and Harry Hughes, will stay for two full terms. Workmen like O’Malley, Glendening, Schaefer and Hughes inevitably attract criticism because they are can-do leaders who take on the hard issues. They aren’t afraid to spend their political capital for the common good of the people. They get re-elected to second terms because Marylanders like governors who are committed to doing the hard and usually thankless work of governing.

A final note to Barack Obama: If you are unable to settle on Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Jim Webb, or any of the big names on your list, please remember: I am available on short notice. Have blog, will travel. Low maintenance and no baggage. Unlike with Clinton or Powell, you would never worry about being overshadowed by my experience or gravitas. With or without me on the ticket, I feel confident that you will carry Maryland.

Good luck, Sen. Obama. I know you’ll choose the right running mate. — Bernie Hayden