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Choosing the vice presidential running mate is one of the most important decisions a candidate will make before becoming president. It is most significant for Senator Barack Obama in this election year because thus far, the entire process has been ‘not’ what everyone expected. Sometimes the vice president is chosen from the field of candidates including those dropped out of the presidential race, state governors, current or former cabinet secretaries, businessmen, generals or none of the foregoing. According to many, the obvious choice for Obama is Senator Hillary Clinton (the dream ticket) and to many others, Clinton as a running mate will be a terrible mistake.
The Obama campaign has been careful to orchestrate a search that is thorough and secretive. His inner circle is taking extreme measures to assure that the Senator’s choice remains secret until he is ready to announce the decision. This election year more so than any other, the vice presidential pick seems to be as important as the nominee himself. First and foremost, the vice president has to be presidential material, because one of his/her most important posts is waiting to be president, if the president is incapacitated in any way.
Since the Democratic convention will precede the Republican, it puts more pressure on Obama has one chance to make the right choice. Senator John McCain is lying in wait and he has somewhat of an advantage because he would probably make his vice presidential pick after Obama makes his.
Here are the realities for Obama. Some of Clinton’s supporters are dissatisfied and they are making it known clearly, loudly and in no uncertain terms. So passionate are some of them, they have threatened to vote for McCain, a Republican, instead of Obama, a Democrat—who has out-campaigned the well-heeled Clinton—if she is not on the ticket. Others say they would stay home and not vote if she is not on the ticket. Either way Obama will most likely pick his running mate prior to or at the convention and if it is a woman, and not Clinton, her supporters will probably explode. However, if Obama picks a male running mate, McCain may want to outdo him by picking a female running mate, and that may get him the bulk of Clinton’s dissatisfied supporters, who are straddling the fence.
Obama has chosen Caroline Kennedy, the former president’s daughter, and Eric Holder, former deputy attorney general and top Obama advisor, to lead the search for his vice president. In addition to Clinton, the possible names that have been mentioned include former Sen. Sam Nunn (Ga.); Sen. Joseph Biden (De.); Sen. Evan Bayh (In.); Sen. Jim Webb (Va.); Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (Ks.); Gov. Tom Kaine (Va.); Gov. Ted Strickland (Oh.); Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M); Gov. Janet Napolitano (Az.); Gen. Wesley Clark; and former Vice President Al Gore.
They were the top tier possibilities; they all have political strengths and weaknesses. Many have since voluntarily taken their names out of the selection process. And the reality is that none of the above may eventually be the chosen one.
Some of the more pragmatic aspects in choosing the vice president have less to do with qualifications and more to do with voter desirability, location and the politics of winning. After all, the vice president will be an equally elected constitutional officer as the president.