A few weeks ago, some of my fellow conservatives were happy that Vice-President Joe Biden said something stupid, and gleefully spreading unsubstantiated rumors that Obama had considered replacing him with Hillary Clinton. That was never going to happen, if only because of the bad media that would ensue if he had to resign for political reasons. Tonight, he will give his speech as the 2012 nominee for Vice-President.
But that led me to wonder, if he had to be replaced, for health reasons or whatever reason, who would be the best running mate?
Hillary Clinton’s the most prominent choice, and she would be probably the first person the Obama campaign goes to. She claims to be interested in retiring from politics, but this would be one hell of a victory lap. Obama remains the favorite for 2012, so it would also mean that there’s a tremendous possibility that a woman would be elected to national office. If she’s still ambitious, this would also prevent someone else from getting additional name recognition. There also might not be time before the election to introduce the new Vice-President to the American people, so it would help to pick someone with universal name recognition.
Aside from Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, the leading contenders for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination are widely considered to be Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York Senator Kirsten Gilibrand and Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
Cuomo has the best resume as a former New York Attorney General and Clinton cabinet official. But choosing him for national office now would make him an overwhelming favorite for the 2016 nomination, so there might be some opposition from the party. I don’t know if he wants the increased scrutiny that would come with a loss.
Mark Warner comes from a state with a Republican Governor, and he seems to be eyeing another run for Governor. So that could be problematic. There’s currently a tough gubernatorial primary between the Lieutenant Governor and the State Attorney General for the 2013 nomination. A Senate appointment would give Governor Bob McDonnell a solution to the problem. Due to some Republican screw-ups, the Democrats have a chance of keeping the Senate, so despite Warner’s value on the ticket as a popular guy from the ultimate swing state, he’s probably going to stay in the legislature.
John Hicklenlooper wouldn’t really help Obama govern. Neither would O’Malley, who has one more term as Governor. Kirsten Gilibrand would excite women, and have the support of a lot of New York Democrats eager at the possibilities of a new open Senate seat.
Bill Nelson of Florida and Sherrod Brown of Ohio might otherwise be chosen as Swing-State Senators, but both come from states with Republican Governors and both are up for reelection this year, so it’s probably not going to be them. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist is an Obama supporter who isn’t currently serving in the statewide office, although I don’t know if Obama trusts him. He might also have issues getting confirmed. As a former Republican, he’ll have upset Senators from both parties.
I think the strongest potential Biden replacement lies elsewhere, with candidates unlikely to run in 2016. I suggested earlier that Angus King would have been an amazing running mate for Obama four years ago, and it remains true now. Obama would suddenly have a prominent Independent as a top spokesman.
But it would be tough to beat Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He has much in common with Biden, as a Catholic in his early 70s who was first elected to Congress in the early 1970s. Presumably, he’s less gaffe-prone.
His resume is perfect. Before he joined the cabinet, he was CIA Director, presiding over the operations that resulted in Obama’s greatest foreign-policy accomplishment: the death of Osama Bin Laden. He has a lot of Washington ties as a former Congressman and Clinton Chief of Staff. The ambitious members of the party would be happy with a nominee unlikely to seek the nomination in 2016. Before the election, he’s someone who could be introduced to Americans quickly. After the election, he’s someone who would quickly pass congressional muster.