Webb’s “Have Gun, Will Travel” Notice

As the presidential election shifts away from who the nominees will be, the next step of course is who will be the lucky folks to claim the title of “Running mate.”

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea who’s short listed on the Republican front. I know Romney’s in contention, as is Huckabee; recently there have been reports that he’s on top of the short list. Some have speculated Lieberman, though I don’t think Lieberman is liked enough in either Republican or Democratic circles to make him a useful running mate beyond a very thin veneer of bi-partisanship.

There are, of course, others, but what makes McCain’s decision tricky is that he has a lot of areas that he needs to shore up to make a strong showing in the fall, and thus there are a lot of prospective choices to filter through.

I’ve got a better grasp on Obama’s choices, though. Like McCain, Obama has some blatantly obvious weak areas that a wise veep selection can help patch up.

Obviously, whether she’s on the short list or not, Hillary Clinton’s name deserves to be on such a list without question. Advantages to having Clinton on the ticket would be obvious; she’s proven to be a vicious attacker which is typically a role the running mate seems almost designed for. And, surely, the quickest way to reunify the party is to have her on the ticket. Not everyone will go for it, if the denizens of the more heinous Clinton blogs are in any way representative of an appreciable portion of the electorate, but this would heal quite a few wounds.

The downside is that once the party is unified, Clinton doesn’t serve much of a purpose. Objectively, she doesn’t have the experience that she claims to have, certainly not the level of “experience” that McCain has. I’ve said from day one that this was a faulty narrative and that holds true; the key message-wise to winning this election is not offering experience, but instead downgrading the significance of experience while increasing the significance of other traits. Also, the two candidate’s campaign styles are completely at odds with each other, and I fear that it would be difficult for Hillary to find herself amicably assimilated into an Obama ran campaign. Plus, high negatives and low appeals to independents don’t provide much hope of bringing in new voters and swing voters into the fold.

There’s also Kathleen Sebelius, the heavily pro-Obama governor of Kansas. The benefit here is the potential to turn a notoriously red state blue, as well as further bolstering Obama’s credibility among women voters. On the downside, Sebelius I don’t believe has much red state appeal outside of her own Kansas, is relatively junior with low name recognition. Her response to the State of the Union received mixed reviews, and it’s questionable whether or not she is ready for prime time.

Then we turn to Virginia. Not to get a little over inflated on my home state, but Virginia is politically an exciting place right now. Two consecutive Democratic governors, one Democratic Senator with former Governor Warner looking to be the second Democratic Senator, and the congresswoman from a traditionally Republican district is very much vulnerable to her Democratic challenger, Glenn Nye. Va also happens to have two men that are definitely to be considered.

The first is Tim Kaine, a name I have backed for a very long time now. Simply put, Tim Kaine delivered Virginia for Obama, and in the fall, whether he is on the ticket or not, he’s going to repeat that performance. There’s a lot to be had from a Tim Kaine running mate. For one the two are perfectly compatible politically. Not only do they share very similar political styles, but as they have been campaigning for each other over the span of three years, they actually have experience sharing the spotlight. As a governor of a Southern red state, Kaine also offers up that potential back door to the South that Democrats have been looking for since they lost it with the Civil Rights act back in the 60’s. Unfortunately, Kaine has his drawbacks as well. Like Sebelius, Kaine is a relative newbie in politics, not well known, and not bursting with experience. He’s got a great stage presence, don’t get me wrong, but he also has a crazy eyebrow that sometimes makes him look like a b-movie villain.

I know that’s a crappy thing to base someone’s political prowess on, but little things can make a huge impact.

Which brings us to the man whom I believe is at the top of the ticket; Jim Webb.

Jim Webb has all the Southern and Virginian benefits of Tim Kaine, with the added benefit of some serious military creds that will be useful in facing John McCain who will likely flaunt his military career ad nauseum. Webb’s also tough as nails, well known, and moderate enough to balance out Obama’s perceived liberalism (after all, liberalism is very much a relative term–ask a real liberal if Obama’s liberal and you’ll probably get an interesting answer).

In fact, the only downside I could see in selecting Webb is that the liberal base may not embrace him. A liberal leaning moderate, Webb strikes the right chord with liberals on women’s rights and gay rights as well as Iraq and the Economy, but opposing stances on gun control and immigration will hurt his lefty creds.

Still, outside of this, Webb seems to be the best name on the list going into the general election.

Indeed, as Marc Ambinder points out, it’s very notable that tomorrow marks the release date of Webb’s new book, A Time to Fight. It’s possible he and I are both reading far too much into it, but it’s also difficult not to see this as something of a “Have Gun, Will Travel,” notice put up on the storefront just as the vp selection begins in earnest.

Supposedly his most political book to date, Ambinder remarks that the book has both a populist streak to it  and is critical of the Democratic party. Both I think are key add-ons that fit well with the core messaging of the Obama candidacy, and in and of itself could prove to be a handy campaign tool in the months to come.

I’m not going to stick my neck out on the line just yet to tell you who the Democratic running mate will be. It’s early in that race, and I expect there to be a lot more chatter before the announcement is made. Plus, Hillary as a running mate still holds a great deal of attractiveness right now considering the current level of dysfunction within the party. So the dynamics right now preclude educated guesses and predictions.

But with each new day I can’t help but continue to think that Webb’s the guy.

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