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An Astronaut For Second Chair On The Democratic Ticket

Apr 18, 2008
While I went out on a long limb to suggest that Rudy Giuliani may be the best running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, I am at a loss to guess who would run with whom on the Democratic ticket. The highly competitive race between Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama has had more than its share of drama -- and more than its share of barbs that will only help a Republican deflate the credibility of the eventual nominee.

That's one reason why I do not believe a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket can win. I can just see the Republicans using their own comments against each other. Combine that with McCain's strengths on defense and national security, and it's likely we'll see Bush and McCain on the podium together on Inauguration Day.

Obama and Clinton have also run very different campaigns, with Obama doing a better job at attracting new contributors and young volunteers. He's also made better use of the Internet. Clinton has obviously done at better job at winning the larger states through a more conventional campaign. Obama has carried only one, his home state of Illinois. Neither has enough to be on-course to win the nomination outright. Even the uncommitted superdelegates in the states that Clinton and Obama have already won (excluding Michigan and Florida) go along with the popular vote in their state, Obama would have an additional 137 delegates and Clinton would have 91. That would put Obama at 1,759 delegates and Clinton at 1,576; neither close to the 2,024 needed to win the nomination. There are only 48 uncommitted superdelegates in the states that are yet to hold primaries; they are votes to be had, of course, but hardly enough to sew things up.

It's going to come down to Florida and Michigan for Obama more than Clinton; he has to prove that he can take better than 45 percent of two large states where his opponent has already won a popular vote. Or the fight's coming down to the convention floor and one potential bargaining chip can be the vice presidential nod. And it should not go to the losing side.

It's too difficult to imagine a former First Lady enthusiastically fighting to be further from the West Wing, while the Republicans use the bad old days from her husband's presidency to defeat the ticket. She would be a stronger public figure if she remained in the Senate with a safe seat from an important state. Hillary Clinton could go down in history as one of the most effective Democratic legislators, like Ted Kennedy. Why should she compromise that legacy by running as the number two on Obama's ticket?

It's equally difficult to imagine Obama as number two on a ticket led by the Clintons. Bill Clinton is one of the finest political minds of this generation and he is still the standard bearer of his party. Hillary would do better to run on the positives of his record -- and compare the end results to Bush 43. Obama is charismatic, but can his charisma sway voters, especially the younger ones who volunteered for him, to a candidate he so soundly criticized?

Which comes back to the notion of the vice presidency as a bargaining chip.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee should be Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

A Clinton supporter, Nelson comes from an important swing state. A former six-term Congressman, Nelson, like Clinton, is a second term senator and he was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote from a Republican state. Nelson not only comes from an important state, he lends an experienced contrast to Obama, should he emerge the nominee.

Interestingly enough, Nelson has gone into space as a payload specialist on the shuttle Columbia. There may be some amusing comparisons between him and Larry Hagman's Major Nelson from I Dream of Jeannie, but in the rough and tumble world of politics that might not be such a bad thing. Neither Clinton nor Obama would be hurt by Barbara Eden's endorsement.

Nelson has also been active in pressuring the Democratic National Committee to seat his state's delegates; it was a Republican-controlled Florida legislature that moved up the state primary date.

It would be wise for the Democrats to position Nelson as a hero from the convention and strong second chair in what promises to be a very tough presidential race.

(Originally published at Educated Quest blog and reprinted with permission of the author, Stuart Nachbar).
About the Author
Stuart Nachbar has been involved with education politics, policy and technology as a student, urban planner, government affairs manager, software executive, and now as author of The Sex Ed Chronicles. Visit his blog, Educated Quest.
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