Obama-Webb 2008

Obama-Webb 2008 I’ve mentioned in passing several times, both here and on OTB Radio, that Jim Webb would be the Democrats’ smartest choice for Vice President, particularly if (as seems exceedingly likely) Barack Obama is their nominee. Alex Massie makes the case in detail. Some excerpts:

The political considerations first: the Democrats have no other plausible candidate with anything like Webb’s military experience. At the very least one might think Obama could ask Webb to be a Shadow Secretary of Defense in advance of nominating him to the post after the election. Sure, Webb was a Republican until recently, but in addition to the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts he won in Vietnam he served as Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration. He also, and vitally from a Democratic point of view, opposed the Iraq War for reasons that, alas, look more cogent than ever.


Secondly, even allowing for the truth that Webb could probably not have won Virginia without George Allen’s self-immolation it remains the case that Virginia is trending Democratic and Webb’s presence on the ticket could conceivably help Obama win the Commonwealth’s 14 electoral college votes. Pinching states from the opposition is no small thing.

But really Webb’s appeal as a running-mate is greater than that and greater too than the prospect of his being able to compensate, to some extent anyway, for John McCain’s appeal to working-class white men. It’s not hard to imagine Webb helping the ticket in virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, to say nothing of the benefits his populism could potentially have in states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. He may, in fact, be just the sort of culturally conservative and genuine Democrat Obama needs to balance his ticket.

The main downsides to Webb, are that he’s a bit of a loose cannon and might not be the ideal guy to have out in the hustings to deliver a scripted message and, as Dave Schuler has noted, that having two first-term Senators on the ticket might be problematic from an “experience” standpoint.

I’m not sure how much these matter. As McCain has demonstrated, a certain cantankerous candor charms the press, so he’d get something of a pass for minor gaffes. And this might be a year when experience is a disadvantage, as in Ross Perot’s famous 1992 debate rejoinder, “I don’t have any experience screwing up the country.”

Photo: MyDD via Google

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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. I take the Karl Rove approach to VPs: they can’t win you an election, but they can hurt you. Webb would be a solid choice. He puts Virginia in play, a must-win for McCain; and he helps keep Reagan Democrats out of McCain’s grasp. Webb also gives Obama gravitas–yes, we’re back to using that again.

    The real question is how Clinton-supporting women would react.

  2. Anderson says:

    Webb has a fair bit of experience before being a senator, no?

    But yeah, I’ve been hoping for a Webb VP slot for some time — he’s the good ol’ boy George Allen fantasized about being, with his Confederacy fetish & all.

  3. Bill Adams says:

    Aside from Iraq, Webb is a conservative Republican (who named his son after Robert E. Lee, for instance). Would Obama’s left-liberal constituency really not notice this? And if they didn’t, and the ticket did succeed, it would just take one guy with a sniperscope to essentially reverse the election. I don’t think Obama will go for that, and I don’t blame him.

  4. GK says:

    The very best choice for Obama would be Bill Richardson.

  5. Beldar says:

    I think my trackback got hung in your filter, Dr. Joyner, because I’d originally mangled the link to this post, but my bemused reaction is here.

  6. chsw says:

    If Obama wins the nomination, he would have to firm up Dem support in the South and Midwest, as well as someone from the less leftist wing of the party. Nelson, Nunn, Richardson and Bredesen come to mind. He could also try for the angry feminist crowd by picking Feinstein or Boxer from CA, but CA is already Democratic, as are most Jews.

    My guess would be Bredesen of TN.


  7. Jim Addison says:

    Great! A ticket of two guys who have NEVER successfully run ANYTHING, and who have a combined . . . 4-5 years in the US Senate. Both of whom have demonstrated mental problems – Obama being unable to remember anything from the past clearly, and Webb being a borderline psychotic. Yeah, that’s the ticket, all right.

    Don’t mind Beldar. People from Remulak always screw up trackbacks.

  8. A.F. Cook says:

    Obama-Webb is THE ticket. I live in Virginia, a bellwether red-state-going-purple, and bet Webb would help not just Obama but Dems as a whole put space between themselves and McCain. Check out my interviews on http://www.redzonepolitics.com with white male Independents, crossover Republicans and military men at an Obama town hall meeting in Alexandria just before the “Chesapeake Primary” (he won VA by a landslide). If the “real men” of Virginia like Obama, the “real men” in other states will be hard-pressed not to jump on his bandwagon with VP-nominee Webb aboard.

  9. Maritza says:

    I think that an Obama/Webb ticket could not only help with Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia but it may even put such states as Montana, West Virginia, etc in play.

    No other possible Vice Presidential candidate will help with Reagan Democrats the way that Webb could.

    I just don’t think Richardson adds anything to the ticket. The only state that Richardson helps that Obama may have more difficulty with is New Mexico. Webb would add so much more.