Clinton – Warner Ticket

Bob Novak reports that some Democrats are looking past the primaries and arguing that Hillary Clinton should bypass Barack Obama for Mark Warner as her running mate.

Anticipating that Sen. Hillary Clinton will clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, some supporters are beginning to argue against her choosing her principal rival — Sen. Barack Obama — for vice president. They maintain Obama provides no general election help for Clinton. As an African-American from Illinois, he represents an ethnic group and a state already solidly in the Democratic column.

This school of thought advocates a Southerner as Clinton’s running mate. The last time Democrats won a national election without a Southerner on the ticket was 1944. Prominent Democrats from the South are in short supply today. The leading prospect: former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

While I think Clinton the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, this is certainly premature, what with her thus far having zero delegates in her column.

If the primaries somehow shape up to look like the current national polls — there’s a first time for everything — it would be awfully difficult for her to snub the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.

It’s true that Jesse Jackson did quite well in 1984, coming in third and getting over twenty percent of the primary votes. And the number two vote getter, Gary Hart, had long since withdrawn from the race after an embarrassing sex scandal. But Jackson was a strident candidate with virtually no appeal outside the black community. And he was passed over for a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, taking away much of the backlash that might have followed if Jackson had been snubbed for a white guy.

By contrast, Obama seems to be popular across a wide swath of the party. Passing him over if he’s the number two vote getter would quite likely alienate a sizable number of Democrats. If, as I suspect, this election once again comes down to turnout, that would be a huge gamble for Clinton to take.

Correction: A former colleague reminds me that the Gary Hart-Donna Rice scandal broke in 1988, during Hart’s second bid for the White House.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DM says:

    Consider this: The Dems are having a hard time coming up with a reasonable (i.e., qualified) name for the VP slot. How the hell is a Hillary administration going to find a CABINET that isn’t a group of complete idiots? There are no grownups left in that party! Who’s going to be Secretary of Defense, for God’s sake? Who’s going to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? And don’t even get me started on Secretary of State. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I think that Barack Obama would have to be insane to take that job. It has all of the risks and none of the benefits of the presidency. I also think that Hillary Clinton would have to be crazy to want him as a running mate. Who wants a costar that gets more applause than the lead? It would make her look even more harpyish and humorless than she already does.

  3. M1EK says:

    DM, it’s like you posted from Bizarro World. Me am impressed.

    Dave, I’d argue that the party needs Obama to take the job, if Hillary ends up winning the nomination, because he’s the long-term hope, and if Hillary wins it’ll be because of Obama’s short term of national office. They’ll need to season him for runs later on – he is the real deal, I think. (He’s quite a bit more experienced and obviously more capable than W was, but I don’t see the Dem leadership having enough control to install him prematurely like the Reps did W).

  4. spencer says:

    DM — you think maybe the dems should follow the republican example and look for a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs among the numerous career generals and/or admirals?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Dave, I’d argue that the party needs Obama to take the job, if Hillary ends up winning the nomination, because he’s the long-term hope

    I certainly think that’s the appeal that would be made. The question remains: is he willing to forego his own presidential ambitions to secure an HRC victory?

  6. NoZe says:

    I think you’re confusing your election years. Hart dropped out of the race due to his “Monkey Business” scandal in 1987, then later got back into the 1988 race so as to qualify for federal funds to pay off his campaign debts. He didn’t have a sex scandal in 1984, when Jesse first ran and Ferraro was the VP candidate.