Who will Hillary Clinton pick to fill out her ticket? Brace yourself for my fearless prediction, which will undoubtedly be wrong.
But hey, that’s the fun of playing the Veepstakes game. Every four years it’s a spring season obsession, even though running mates rarely if ever tilt the election results. And the guessing game tends to be worthless anyway. Screenwriter William Goldman’s famous observation about Hollywood — “nobody knows anything” — could easily apply to those of us, scribes and citizens alike, who try to guess right.
We don’t even know what criteria to use. Years ago we assumed that a nominee would balance the ticket geographically — but Bill Clinton won in ’92 with fellow southerner Al Gore. Years ago we assumed that a nominee would pick a partner who’d deliver a swing state — but George W. Bush tapped Dick Cheney of tiny Wyoming (Cheney actually tapped himself), and Barack Obama won with Joe Biden of tiny Delaware.
So what the heck, we’ll make up our own criteria. Someone has to serve a heartbeat away, and veeps do sometimes ascend to the top, either via natural succession (most recently, George H. W. Bush) or tragedy (most recently, Lyndon Johnson). That’s why attention must be paid.
And to play this game, we can make up our own rules. Mine are simple. I plan to proceed by process of elimination:
Julian Castro or Tom Perez?
Some guessers think that Hillary will pick an Hispanic running mate — Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, is currently the secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Perez, a former civil rights enforcer at Justice, is currently the Labor secretary — but I don’t buy it. Hispanic turnout will be huge anyway, thanks to the racist demagogue heading the Republican ticket. Clinton can win Hispanic-heavy Colorado, Nevada, Florida, and New Mexico without Castro or Perez. Besides, neither guy has the seasoning to weather the national freak show – or step into the presidency at a moment’s notice.
Liberals pine for Clinton-Warren. The assumption here is that Warren would help Clinton mend fences with the vanquished Bernie wing. One pundit argues today that Warren could “erase” Clinton’s woes with the Democratic base: “She has spent her Senate career becoming known as the scourge of Wall Street. No political figure is more closely identified with efforts to curb the excesses of the financial system.” I say no to this scenario, for two reasons: Clinton is too politically cautious to risk an all-female ticket (which also rules out Sen. Amy Klobuchar), and Warren is an independent soul who likely has no interest in sublimating herself to the role of Clinton surrogate.
Al Franken or Sherrod Brown?
Some Democrats think that Clinton should team with a midwestern or Rust Belt liberal, like maybe one of those lefty senators. Franken’s long entertainment career has been trumped by his Senate tenure, and nobody cares that he did some drugs in his youth as a “Saturday Night Live” staffer. One pundit wrote an entire piece plugging Franken for veep. Sherrod Brown, a blue-collar populist, would fill the same niche. But if Brown became veep, his Ohio Senate seat would go to a Republican, chosen by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Clinton won’t risk that, because Democrats will need all their existing seats in their ’16 bid to retake the Senate. (Which also rules out Cory Booker as veep, because his seat would be filled by a Chris Christie appointee.)
Besides, I question the need to pick a bridge-builder to the Bernie wing. As I said here a few weeks ago, ticked-off liberals have four months to lick their wounds and acknowledge — this won’t be a big mental stretch – that they loathe and despise the unhinged Republicans, and Trump in particular, far more than they hate Hillary Clinton.
Which brings us to my fearless prediction. A white guy from a key state. A seasoned guy — executive and legislative experience — who can do the big job if necessary. A guy with strong ties to the Democratic party at all levels. A guy who reportedly works well with Clinton – with both Clintons, actually. And that last criterion is important, because you know that the Big Dog would be roaming the West Wing at will. Ladies and gentlemen, and I give you …
First of all, he said today that he’s “not looking for another post.” That’s a yes. He’s popular in his home state of Virginia — which went blue in ’08 and ’12, a state that Republicans dearly need to win back. He’s an ex-governor and lieutenant governor. He’s currently in the Senate, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. He’s a former Democratic National Committee chairman; hence his ties to the party grassroots, an important factor in an election year. He can handle the campaign freak show; he triumphed in his ’12 race despite the largest attack ad barrage in Senate history. He has blue-collar roots (his dad was a welder), and he’s fluent in Spanish, which he learned while working as a missionary in Honduras during a break from law school.
And if you question my credentials as a seer, let me remind you that when Mitt Romney was veep-hunting four years ago, I confidently wrote that his choice would be Senator Rob Portman.