The Best Choice

With the two major parties having chosen their presumptive nominees, the attention is now shifting to the choice of their vice-presidential candidates. Both Barack Obama and John McCain were considered at best long shots for winning the nominations of their respective parties a year ago. Consequently, much of the attention was centered on their capacity to win the nomination. In the case of the Democrats, the closeness of the race between Clinton and Obama preempted any talk of a potential running mate. Occasionally, and with greater frequency in recent weeks the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket surfaced, but until the final outcome was determined, no one knew for sure who the nominee would be.

In the case of John McCain, it is clear none of his rivals within the Republican Party has a lock on being his running mate. As a result, a lot of emphasis is placed these days on the criteria needed to choose the vice-presidential candidate. Who can best help the presidential nominee? Who is best qualified to assume the presidency should a tragedy occur?

In recent days, names have surfaced in both camps and have become more persistent. When Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign less than two weeks ago, there was momentum building in her favor by many of her supporters. Meanwhile, Senator McCain was hosted a weekend with prospective running mates.

In the case of the Democrats, it is now becoming more likely that Hillary Clinton will not be the vice-presidential nominee for Barack Obama. It seems that the message of hope and change that Senator Obama pushed in his campaign fails to connect with the potential candidacy of Clinton. The not-too-subtle presence of her husband Bill Clinton only adds to the perception that the change is not as transformational as the Obama campaign promises. Add to this the acrimony that surfaced throughout the campaign, and we can understand why the Obama camp is openly moving to vet other candidates.

If not Clinton, then who else? It is still very early to anoint the frontrunner in the Democratic veepstakes. However, the most prominent names include former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, former candidate John Edwards, and Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Other names include Clinton supporters such as Ted Strickland of Ohio, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Kaine of Virginia, an early Obama supporter from a potential swing state is also being mentioned. Long shot candidates include Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

For the Republicans, the most prominent names include Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Crist of Florida, as well as former rivals Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Recently, the names of Governer Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Hewlett Packeard CEO Carla Fiorina, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas have surfaced. As is the case with Obama, it is unlikely that Senator McCain will rush to name his running mate.

Both candidates keep telling us in somewhat sanctimonious terms that “they will pick the best candidate to occupy the presidency should the need arise.” They would have us to believe that political considerations will be secondary. After all, both Obama and McCain present themselves as authentic and principled agents of change. The only trouble is that, in recent days, we have seen the more political side of both candidates. The last week has seen more flip-flops by both Obama and McCain than we saw in the previous twelve months. This blog has no trouble with politicians being politicians. In fact, it shows that along with their high rhetoric and idealism, they are able to admit error or modify their views due to circumstances. What is important is that they remain faithful to their basic principles and values; McCain and Obama have won their nominations on this basis.

It is fair to predict that each of them will pick the candidate that has the best chance to make victory possible. Talent will be important, but electoral considerations will probably be greater. McCain and Obama represent their own brands. They are stand alone brands and their respective running mates must address whatever perceived weaknesses they may have. Both McCain and Obama know that this is their first and most likely last chance they will have to be president. They will do their utmost to win and it is unlikely that they will chose a running mate that will detract from their own candidacies. The best qualified person? Not quite. Down to earth electoral considerations will dictate their choice. It is not surprising. Bottom line, whoever it takes to win will be the best choice.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.