That Didn’t Last Too Terribly Long

The ones I really feel bad for are those Democrats who actually would have liked to have seen Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the same ticket.  In truth, I think a good chunk of the Obama and Clinton partisans would not have liked to have seen such an animal; the two sides having been polarized so thoroughly that the other candidate has become the enemy.

But for a lot of folks, Clinton/Obama, or Obama/Clinton was the dream ticket and for a brief glimmer of time, it looked as though that might come true.

It happened on the day after the March 4th primaries.  Something new was in the air.  After employing the kitchen sink strategy, Hillary Clinton had gone on the air and said of a joint ticket that, “that might be where this is heading.”

She then clarified who would be on top of that ticket would have to be settled first.

This was a marked difference from answers by both candidates regarding a joint ticket before.  Neither side willing to appear weak enough to be willing to accept a running mate invitation, both candidates deferred when they got the question.  “It’s a little premature,” they would say uneasily most likely with the hopes that they could knock out the other candidate and pick who they really wanted in that number two slot instead.

Big surprise, no one really thinks these candidate’s are on each other’s shortlists.

But we heard it from Hillary on March 5th, and just when you thought that maybe she stumbled off message for a few seconds, Bill Clinton started pushing the idea, saying the two on the same ticket would be unbeatable.

This was inconsistent and a little odd, though.  For one, it called into question Hillary Clinton’s charges that Obama wasn’t ready for the Oval Office.  Why on Earth would anyone pick someone as a running mate if they didn’t think they were ready for the top job?  The other point of curiosity was that it sounded an awful lot like Hillary was extending the number two spot to Obama, an offer that failed to make sense considering Obama’s still winning the race.

It’s like watching some ten year old with a slingshot saying “I await your surrender” to a Navy Seal armed to the teeth.

We’re talking cartoon land here.

While much of what Hillary has done over the past few weeks makes perfect sense to me, this singular move kind of baffles.  I mean, I can see the possible angles she would be trying to play, but it’s poor risk management in action.

The biggest risk, of course, is that this offer is an open invitation for Obama to remind people that he’s winning.  Also, as touched upon above, such an offer undercuts the narrative Clinton is trying to build about Obama that he’s not ready yet.

Both ideas are potentially damaging to the Clinton campaign, and the perceivable payoffs aren’t exactly goldmines.  The way I figure it, the desired effect could have been one or more of four possible things:

-She actually wouldn’t mind being the Vice President.  This one I find particularly unreliable.  Forget personal motives and feelings we can’t understand.  If Hillary truly didn’t mind being the running mate, she would have pumped Obama up as much as possible, and then dropped out.  Or, more realistically, she would have arranged a meeting and said, “Look, I give, you’re going to win.  Take me as your running mate, and we’ll end this whole thing right now.  Don’t pick me, and, well, the kitchen sink continues.”

-She actually wouldn’t mind Obama as the running mate.  It’s true, most analysts say that Clinton needs Obama far more than he needs her.  A Hillary nomination would not have the fundraising capabilities that Obama has, nor would it have the rapid fire grassroots machine, or the ability to mobilize the youth vote.  Indeed, Obama is a treasure trove of valuable political weapons that would be a boon should Hillary win the nomination.  Still, I also don’t think this rationale is plausible for Clinton either and for one simple reason above all others.

Imagine Denver.  Imagine all those speeches at a unified convention.  The ticket is Hillary and Obama.  Problem is, because of his far superior oratory skills, Obama far outshines Hillary during the event.

Overshadowing is not likely to end there either and the last thing Hillary wants to be is second fiddle to her own second fiddle.  She’s already got a husband who tends to absorb a lot of spotlight.

-Undercutting the unity concept.  Obama rebuking the idea that he would be the number two spot on the ticket is not exactly the most alien concept in the world.  Had he been the one in second, things might be a little different, but he’s on top with a great statistical advantage on his side.  It is quite possible that the whole point to this exercise was to try and call him out for not wanting to unify the party under a dream ticket.

The rundown goes like this.

“Obama can be my running mate…”

“Er… no.  I’m winning.”

“See?  All this unity talk is a lie!”

I don’t know if this is or is not what the Clinton team was thinking, but if it is, it failed miserably.

-The Big Hoodwink.  This is the scenario I think is the most plausible because it preys upon both a large desire among many Democrats to see both candidates on the ticket as well as the desire to put this primary contest to an end before it does too much damage.

People are exhausted and anxious regarding this race, and a lot of folks want this done and over with.  If we could do this without having to contend with Florida and Michigan, even better.

So here’s the trick, you give people a taste of hope for what they want, and then you tell them how to get it.  People want Clinton/Obama 08 or the other way around, but then you hint at the idea that the only way that’s going to come to pass is if Clinton wins the nomination.  As I mentioned above, Obama is less likely to pick Clinton as a running mate, so you turn a vote for Hillary Clinton into a vote for BOTH candidates such that even those who are leaning towards Obama don’t really feel as though they are keeping him out of the White House.  They’re just giving him the nod to be the presumptive nominee eight years down the road.

It’s plausible, but still a far-fetched scheme.

Whatever the case, it looks as though this charade is coming to an end as Joe Gandelman points out.  After a few days of teasing the party with hints of a joint ticket, Clinton now says that such talk has taken on a “life of its own”, and that voters are actually going to have to make a choice between one or the other.

As Gandelman further points out, though, of course this narrative took a life of its own, the Clinton campaign conceived it and breathed life into it and set it upon its merry way.  Now, it’s had a good long life (for a house fly anyway), and it’s time to put it out of its misery.

That Clinton is trying to retroactively wash her hands of the entire affair is particularly telling.  If she had just come out and said, “You know, I thought maybe, but now I think maybe not, we don’t know, this thing is still tough,” that would have implied that the motivation behind the drop in the first place was on the up and up.

But that she is now trying to remove her fingerprints from the storyline implies that her camp was trying to go somewhere very specific with it, and ended up way off course.

Where that final destination was supposed to be we may never know, but one thing is for certain; for Obama and his supporters, having the Clinton camp find themselves off target is not a bad thing at all.

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