Posts Tagged ‘Vice President’

Thoughts on Combined Clinton/Obama Tickets

March 12, 2008

After the Ohio and Texas primaries and caucuses, the Clinton campaign floated the idea of a “dream ticket” that would combine Clinton and Obama and appeal to both of their constituencies.  Naturally, she felt she should be at the top of the ticket.  I think the Obama campaign was right to scorn this idea.  After all, why should the front-runner contemplate an offer from the second-place candidate to be her VP? It’s ridiculous.  In any case, it’s certainly premature.  That being said, would it make sense to talk about a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket after the Democratic presidential candidate is nominated?

As I’ve previously written in this blog, Hillary Clinton would have a hard time attracting a top-tier VP candidate since her VP will have to play second fiddle to Bill Clinton.  If she does win the Democratic nomination this year, offering the VP slot to Obama would make a lot of sense from her point of view since she would need him to help her turn out African American voters in large numbers.  But would it be a good thing for him?  Serving as Clinton’s VP for 8 years would help him build up his credentials and experience, making him an even better candidate in 2016 when he would be 54, far from too old to run for President.  However, it is likely that Hillary and Bill would completely marginalize him even more than they might some other person they convince to take the VP job; the Clintons tend to hold grudges and would not forgive him for making them fight so hard to get back in the White House.  He might take the job for the good of the Democratic Party, but I suspect that his 8 years as Clinton’s VP would be miserable.  He would probably be better off staying in the Senate for 8 years.  The only way I could see Obama accepting the VP slot would be if Hillary Clinton agreed to only serve 1 term and endorse and support him for President in 2012.  4 years of misery would be preferable to 8.

What if Obama wins the nomination? Would it make sense for him to offer her the VP job and for her to accept it?  I don’t think it would.  While having her on his ticket might help him with white women, Latinos, and other Clinton supporters, he could probably find another VP who would also appeal to these constituencies.  For instance, Bill Richardson would help Obama attract Latino voters and would add more foreign policy experience to his ticket than Hillary would.  Furthermore, picking Clinton might undermine his change agenda since the Republicans would claim that the Obama-Clinton team would just be an extension of the Bill Clinton Presidency.  Even if Obama did offer her the VP job, I don’t think she would want or enjoy it.  She would be extremely frustrated with the number 2 job when she had expected and felt entitled to the top job.  Furthermore, after 8 more years, she would be 68; not too old to run, but not young either.  She apparently does like serving in the Senate and would probably be happier staying there.  Alternatively, she has the opportunity to run for Governor of New York now that Eliot Spitzer has resigned.

Whichever one of them wins the nomination would probably be better off selecting someone else as their VP running mate.  While it might help reunite the Democratic Party if the winner offers the job to the loser, the latter would be smart to politely reject the offer while committing their support to the winner and encouraging their supporters to do the same.

What Hillary Clinton Needs to Offer a VP

January 31, 2008

In a recent post, I suggested that John Edwards and other high-profile Democrats would not be interested in being Vice President in a Hillary Clinton administration. I’d like to elaborate on that topic here.

The U.S. Constitution only assigns two significant responsibilities to the Vice President: he gets to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate and succeeds the President if circumstances require a new one before the next scheduled election. (He also gets to preside over the counting of the votes submitted to the Senate by the Electoral College but this is a ceremonial task with no real power.)

Originally, the office of Vice President was viewed as insignificant. John Adams described it as “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived”.  Other politicians have made similar comments; see the Wikipedia article about the Vice President of the United States for examples.  Vice President John C. Calhoun even resigned from the office in 1832 because he felt he would have more power as a Senator. (The funny thing is that he actually served as under two different Presidents, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson,  before figuring this out.)

The office of Vice President did become more important when FDR began the tradition of including the VP in cabinet meetings.  But it wasn’t until 1976 that the VP got his own office in the West Wing of the White House. The Wikipedia article mentioned above indicates that George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney were amongst the few Vice Presidents to wield extensive influence within the administrations they served.  So, we’ve gotten used to stronger VPs in recent years. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

While Hillary Clinton denied in an ABC/Nightline interview yesterday that Bill Clinton would be a “Co-President”, he would clearly be the most influential person in her administration even if he did not attend cabinet meetings. So, her VP could not really expect to have as much influence as Bush, Gore, and Cheney did.  This is the main reason why Edwards would not want to be Clinton’s Vice President. Given the recent animosity in the race, I think Obama would be even less interested.

Note that Hillary could pick Bill as her VP running mate if she wanted to; while the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution prevents Bill Clinton from being elected President again, it does not prevent him from being elected Vice President. In fact, he could even become President again if Hillary died or resigned during one of her terms. But given the fact that Hillary has indicated that America does not want a Co-President, it seems unlikely that she will pick Bill.

What could Hillary Clinton do to make the VP job attractive to potential candidates? I think she would have to promise her running mate some sort of special role within her administration beyond being a member of her cabinet.  Ideally, she would put her VP in charge of some specific issue that he cared about deeply or that allowed him to do something important and highly visible. For instance, she could offer Edwards the role of “Czar of Poverty Reduction” or Bill Richardson the role of “Ambassador in charge of Climate Change Negotiations”.  Alternatively, she could find someone interested in becoming “Czar of Energy Independence”.  However, if she does offer her VP a special role like these, she needs to be careful to not create a situation in which her VP ends up in a power struggle with some other member of her cabinet such as the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Energy.

Would Edwards Pursue the VP Spot with Clinton?

January 30, 2008

Some might argue that if Edwards wants to become Vice President so that he can ultimately become President in 8 years, then he would be better off working out a deal with Hillary Clinton.  After all, if he did endorse Clinton in exchange for a place on the ticket, then Clinton would almost certainly win the nomination.  In contrast, if he joins with Obama, Clinton might still win and then he would have alienated the Clintons.

However, I doubt very much that Edwards or any other high-profile Democrat will want to accept the VP spot on a Clinton ticket.  Why? Because everyone knows that Bill Clinton will be the “real” Vice President in a Clinton administration.  The official VP would have a severely diminished role even compared to the traditional pre-Cheney VP role.  Edwards is smart enough to know this and would probably rather follow the Al Gore model of focusing on the issues he cares most about outside Washington and the political system.  Of course, it is possible that he will decide to pursue the Al Gore model in any case and might not want to accept the VP spot on the Obama ticket even if it is offered to him and even if he decides to endorse Obama.