Monday, August 25, 2008

Post Biden Reflections

I think my post from the other day underlined one particular feature about the Biden choice: a lack of enthusiasm. For me, the choice was the right one given the candidates under consideration (I still think he should have seriously considered General Wesley Clark) which meant I gave a great sigh of relief when the choice wasn't Bayh or Kaine or any of the other problematic candidates. That doesn't mean I'm thrilled with the Biden choice. It just means that, given the cast of characters, from where I sit, Biden was the best of a weak group.

A lot has been made in the last couple days about how VP selections are basically non-factors in presidential elections (see this Kevin Drum post at his new digs). And I agree with that reasoning for the most part. Vice presidents don't generally matter to the electorate - i mean, after all, it's the rare event that ever makes the Vice-President relevant.

Or it used to be. Now with Cheney's unitary executive theory, the VP has a whole host of expanded powers that are probably not constitutionally supported. But I won't pretend that the electorate has noticed. No, the reality is, the electorate is going to make a choice almost entirely based on the merits (or perceived merits) of the presidential nominees.

So, to the extent that poll and historical data shows that VP selections don't matter *directly* in voter choices, I agree. What is less clear, however, is how a VP selection can have an *indirect* effect on voter selection. This is particularly relevant this year as Obama seems to have staked his ground as a "different kind of candidate" meaning that he won't go too negative or really crack down on McCain BS. Hiring Biden as the VP means that Obama can continue that role (i.e. look presidential) AND have an attack dog go after McCain nonsense in an aggressive, effective way. And, call me an optimist, but that could affect voter selection in November.

So in the end, I like the Biden choice because I think that it a) allows Obama to maintain his Presidential appearance (i.e. the high road), b) employs an experienced, well respected, and articulate attack against McCain, by someone who is well liked and respected by the insider press (never underestimate the impact of a press corp that likes a candidate, see McCain, John and "maverick") and c) is more racially pleasing to white America (having a black man attack a white former POW, war hero isn't the type of thing that white America really goes for now is it?).

Anyway, we're in DNC week now. Which means lots of ridiculous coverage from CNN and Wolf Blitzer, hours of blowhard "analysis", and political theater. For anyone who is genuinely considering their presidential selection, I recommend they watch Obama's speech and nothing else. Because the rest is like a Broadway play for political junkies.

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