Macro Tsimmis

intelligently hedged investment

Clinton-Obama: win-win-win

Posted by intelledgement on Wed, 30 Jan 08

Now that John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, we have a situation similar to the Reagan-Ford race in 1980—no matter how close it is, either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is virtually assured of a majority before the convention. The last mathematical hope of the Democratic “pragmatists” yearning for a deadlock at the convention that would open the door to a seemingly stronger general election candidate (e.g., Al Gore to the rescue) was that Edwards would stay in and hold enough votes to deny either of the frontrunners the nomination on the first ballot. So much for that.

Both Clinton and Obama are polling weakly in general election trial heats. Clinton has always had high negatives. Obama is less well known and his negatives are not be as solidified. There probably isn’t much Clinton can do to overcome her negatives. And a worsening of the economy or the situation in Iraq by November—which normally would be expected to help the challenging party’s nominee—might not work so well for Obama because it would highlight his inexperience.

Given that the Democrats seem locked into fielding an underdog ticket in November, they would be smart to double their bets here, and engineer a compromise Clinton-Obama ticket. This is a win-win-win proposition!

Clinton wins because landing Obama as the VP assures her of the nomination, and doing it now enables her to start moving to the center that much earlier than John McCain or Mitt Romney will be able to. And long-term, win or lose, her ground-breaking place in American history is cemented.

Obama wins because he can’t lose. If the Democrats pull an upset win in November, he gets four-to-eight years of experience that make him bulletproof when he runs again (presumably in 2016). If they lose, Clinton gets the blame and he gets the legitimacy of having been on the national ticket and is well set up for another attempt, if he so desires. And long term worst case assuming this is his one shot (as his wife insists), a losing VP candidacy trumps a losing bid for the nomination as an historical mark in history.

The Democrats win because they solidify their base not just for 2008 but beyond, by fielding an exciting, glass-ceiling busting unity ticket. And the next time it will be better (as it was for Al Smith and then JFK). And worst case, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad politically to lose in 2008 and let the GOP deal with the problems they have allowed to fester. If the Democrats are right on the issues, another four years of failed GOP policies could well set the Dems up for decades of ascendancy.

But how could it happen, given the growing antagonism between Clinton and Obama, and Obama’s repeated assertions that he will not accept second fiddle? Simple: Gore to the rescue!

Clinton should have someone approach Gore and ask him to endorse both candidates as a first step. Then as a second step, she can deputize Gore to initiate negotiations with Obama about the parameters of the VP job in a Clinton administration. This would ring true because Bill Clinton and Gore had just such a series of discussions in 1992, and Bill Clinton kept his word to share governing with Gore to an unprecedented degree. And an appeal to party loyalty would be apropos—clearly having Obama and Clinton articulating a duet from February to November would better communicate the Democratic message than having them sniping at each other for the next four months or so.

Effecting such an agreement would strengthen both candidates in ways that no other action could. It would raise Obama’s stock as a savvy and capable politician, and it would help soften Hillary Clinton’s image as power-obsessed and unwilling to compromise. The whole here would be greater than the sum of the parts…possibly greater enough to produce a win in November; certainly enough to constitute a win for all time!

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