The Main Attraction and The Supporting Act

Each day—on the blogs, in Op-Ed pieces, on television, and on the radio—we are privy to another expert or strategist's opinion as to whom Barack Obama and John McCain should choose as their respective running mates. Should it be Jindal, Romney, Richardson, Snowe, Clinton, Edwards, Webb, or none of the above? Should the Vice President make up for a lack of foreign policy experience? Youngness? Oldness? Should they counteract ambivalence or doubt from a certain demographic, like women, Latinos, or the working-class? Can they appeal to Christian Conservatives or Independent voters? And, most of all, can the VP choice in and of itself represent and convey a gravitas, a prescience, and a manner befitting of a President?

With that in mind, I'll now propose a new, albeit unscientific method for deciding the best Vice Presidential choice and I hope you'll join me in making suggestions. Let's view the candidates as bands or musicians. Who would be the best supporting act in order to woo the most diverse group of concert-goers or fans? For instance, if Barack Obama is The Who—with grandiose ideas, a penchant for risk taking and rule breaking, and a somewhat flashy demeanor—then maybe the supporting act should be steadier, someone like CCR, who convey a different sense of tradition. And if John McCain is Lynyrd Skynyrd—attempting to walk a fine line between mass appeal and rebel stance, less eloquent in phraseology but not lacking in intelligence—maybe Modest Mouse should be the opener; a band with more finesse and artfulness, but one that still conveys a sense of workmanship.

Anyhow, you get the point. The bands can both be old, new, or one of each. They can be broken up, deceased, or still playing. The bands' own politics don't have to represent the political views of the candidate, the bands merely need to capture the candidate's essence or something about them that is likely appealing to voters. And your choice of bands/musicians doesn't need to represent your own political views, though for some it will be difficult for them not to. No matter who you're voting for, the goal is to find the best line-up possible for both the Democratic and Republican tickets. So, please decide which band or musician each Presidential candidate is and then pick their supporting act.

We will vote at the end for the two pairings that seem most likely to succeed.



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McCain: absolutely youth: I am feeling country, as well. Something that plays well in redneck Florida, and Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Running mate: A young, unbloated Elvis Presley. Everybody loves him

Obama: A different liability: Not so much his skin color as the bamboozlement of patriotic jibes that are currently on pause: The Perfect Vice: Frank Sinatra.

Sent by Dustin | 10:27 PM | 6-18-2008

Obama is U2. Charismatic frontman, dependable if anonymous behind-the-scene support staff, sometimes surrounded by controversial, oppositional figures (i.e. Bush & Helms), yet genuinely acclaimed and loved for clarity, plain-spokenness, archangelic aura and charm.
Running mate: G.G. Allin.

McCain is Rod Stewart. Initial career of unquestionable devotion (patriotism), easy slip into mainstream after rough-and-tumble early period. Maintained talent but lost focus upon superstardom, allowed himself to be compromised by commercial/corporate (endorsement) interests. Generally well-regarded or at least well-remembered, but also depicted as a very eager sell-out when revenue/election is on the line.
Running mate: The Replacements.

Sent by Paul Pearson | 12:07 AM | 6-19-2008

Obama is the Fresh Prince - charismatic enough to woo the mainstream, edgy enough to interest them, corporate enough to be marketed to them. He needs the Boss to bring some old man, blue collar gravitas.

McCain totally is Skynyrd - used to be a convincing outlaw, but is now just a bundle of Republican cliche. Jordin Sparks would be the perfect antidote to old white guy overload and play to the Bible belt at the same time.

Sent by zebabrt | 12:45 AM | 6-19-2008

McCain is Johnny Cash, or any member of the Highwaymen, with a reputation as an a outlaw but perfectly connected to the establishment. He needs youthful energy that won't offend the fanbase, so someone like Big & Rich would do.

Obama is about the future and the promise we have yet to see from a genre that is gaining more mass appeal then expected which makes Kurt Cobain a possible choice. He needs someone that attracts the audience unready for his style, but doesn't clash like Oasis

Sent by Tripp | 2:17 AM | 6-19-2008

As Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) frontman John Fogarty opened a 727's overhead bin & dropped his briefcase on my head--back when airlines neither warned you about them shifting during flight nor charged to bring them along--I am disqualifying him.

Obama may need the Allman Brothers to help draw some segments of the South. And, since they're the opening band, no uncomfortable or inebriated requests that he conclude early to make way for them; after the Allmans wrap up, their fans may seceede if they insist. But they'd be more than welcome to stay for the rest of the show, too.

And to round out McCain the band? Devo! I can't really explain why this is. As to who ea. candidate is? Blimey...I'm stumped in Stumptown (but a java might help, if not Ginko biloba)

Sent by fiddla | 8:36 AM | 6-19-2008

Obama as The Talking Heads. Thoughtful, articulate, well-reasoned, whose popularity comes from his lack of sameness to everything else out there. His opening act should appeal to older working class people. . . maybe Neil Diamond...simple songs about simple feelings but with enough earnest emotion to get everyone off their feet.

For McCain. . . once considered a maverick and now just making nice with as many parts of his party as possible, maybe the late 80's and 90's version of the Rolling Stones. Nothing new to see, formulaic, trying to please as many people as possible while offended none. For the opening act, something new and popular but not so predictable...Gnarls Barkley.

Sent by Dynadin | 8:42 AM | 6-19-2008

Im thinking that each candidate needs an opening act that both makes them look more attractive as a main act, but also compliments each candidates message. In a way, I think that each candidate deserves an opening act that embodies what they "wished" they were.

Obama (I know this is a stretch, but I just can't get over his incredible speeches, which remind me of the greatest lyricist I've ever heard, Leonard Cohen), with his stoic liberalism, youthful vibe, and hopeful message, needs an act that makes him look responsible and centered, but which highlights his roots and energizes his following with a kick of leftist angst and radicalism. Two words. The Clash.

McCain, who over the years built a reputation on being a "different" kind of Republican, needs to try to remind people that he really isn't just a Bush stooge. This will be difficult, given how he has spent the last 4 years sucking up to all things Bush, but not impossible; recent cronyism can perhaps be forgotten if people are reminded of his somewhat unique legacy and admirable military career. However, it is going to take a loud, unrelenting voice to get that message across. So if McCain is our Liz Phair, we're going to need something completely bats*** to scare the audience into believing our main act is the best thing that ever happened to their lives and currently is at the top of their game (even if all of the evidence is to the contrary). BRING ME TED NUGENT!


Sent by Ryan | 9:17 AM | 6-19-2008

Obama as Vampire Weekend. Hyped by hipsters, pretty good debut, has friends of yours who don't even listen to music ask you if you've heard of them. Running mate: Coldplay, proven, professional, wide appeal and won't steal any thunder.

McCain as Skynard: So apt I couldn't get past it. Running mate: Thin Lizzy, a little more pep and showmanship.

McCain running mate runner up: Paul Simon. For my eight year old impossible dream ticket of McCain/Leiberman.

Sent by Brian A. | 10:13 AM | 6-19-2008

Obama is Pearl Jam: leftist politicos who try to hide in a populist message -- "Army Reserve" was co-written with West Memphis 3 "leader" Damien Echols on the same record as "World Wide Suicide," their biggest radio song in quite a while. Energetic, charismatic and attractive front-man hiding a very talented yet largely unheralded support structure. They both appeal to the young and old alike -- not to mention the Chicago connection: Eddie was born and raised in Evanston, IL.
Obviously they need Neil Young supporting -- someone to appeal to people who have questions about experience, but also someone who can throw down and appeal to the kids/leftists. Plus, Mirrorball! Although given his Canadian roots, we may have to settle for number two: Sleater-Kinney. Women (obviously that's an issue within the democratic ranks), very talented, from a potential swing state, diverse in style and delivery, yet relatively unknown in the mainstream so there's not "the Clinton baggage." But once you hear the message and policies, you want to go tell all your friends about them, much like Jim Webb, Jon Tester or even Ron Paul who may sound crazy, but once you hear specifics, he really makes you think.

McCain is totally Skynyrd: was once rebellious with a big f-you to the man, but has turned into a sad cover band solely out there to hear itself talk. And make money to fund their nine houses. Obviously they need someone to draw in a younger crowd, but still keep the base happy: Toby Keith.

Sent by Tom W | 11:18 AM | 6-19-2008

Obama is Death Cab for Cutie - funny name, coming out of a progressive and left-of-the-middle world, pleasant and appealing to the mainstream in a way that surprises and occasionally alienates the indie kids. For his opening act, a "reinforcing" pick - likewise indie and smart, but also pleasant and appealing in ways that break through: the Shins or the Decemberists (who, coincidentally, have opened for Obama before!)

McCain started out kind of enjoyable, but keeps coming back more bloated and corporate and cynical: the Eagles on a fifth-time-around reunion tour. For his opener he needs somebody with a mix of hip cred and proven album sales: the White Stripes, maybe.

Obama/Shins would play an outdoor set with lots of cheap lawn seats. McCain/Stripes would do a $2,300-a-ticket small-theater show.

Sent by SDM | 1:07 PM | 6-19-2008

McCain is less Lynyrd Skynyrd than the Rossington Collins Band. I mean I used to assume he was a man of integrity, though I disagree with him on pretty much everything I can think of. But that integrity went up in flames in his supplication to the plane crash that is the Bush administration. Sorry my metaphor's out of control, but you get my point? Running mate is probably someone who'll rectify his problems with the Christian right, which means some band that I (and most Americans) have never heard of, but is hugely popular with a certain segment of the country.

If McCain is some Skynyrd descendant can Obama be their sometimes nemesis Neil Young? Eclectic to a fault, beloved by intellectuals, empathetic to workers, staunchly antiwar but oddly conservative at times? Folks are suspicious of Obama's origins and Young's from Canada. As a running mate how about James Taylor? Melodic, unthreatening but genuinely good. Beloved by women who might be upset that Neil's not picking Joni Mitchell.

Sent by piggy | 2:46 PM | 6-19-2008

Obama is Wilco - young, hopeful and innovative, became media darlings in the early 2000's but now have to fight to maintain that 'can do no wrong' shine they once effortlessly possessed. In a bold move, they split the ticket with Neil Young - also innovative and anti-establishment, but appeals to the older crowd and bolsters the experience cred Wilcobama lacks. For every "Living in War" he has a "Cinnamon Girl" to put that smile back on the moderates' faces. Might be overshooting to label him 'support,' but Neil sees Wilco as possessing the 'time and place' credibility he lacks to take the rock he birthed that much further.

McCain is Pat Benetar - loved among the older crowd, seen as a rebel based on songs alone, but is as establishment as they come. To draw the crowds, Benetar needs to tap the youth appeal, which is why she has chosen Maroon 5 as her support for this tour. Young, and also seemingly rebellious but establishment to the bone, Maroon 5 draws the youth and still pleases the adults.

Sent by ljc | 3:38 PM | 6-19-2008

McCain = Aerosmith. Just like "Amazi-Crazy-Cryin" everything he puts out these days sounds the same. He's super corporate and obliviously out-of-touch with the millions of people who "make music" because they love it. He would need a running mate that scares people into believing that anything new in "music" will make your life less safe. But they have to fill an arena. From the pyro accident to the Napster controversy, Metallica is that band.

Obama = Shostakovich, with a lighter delivery. He is widely dismissed by the current government. He isn't afraid to point out what's broken. His thoughtful, intelligent arrangements will be remembered as masterful during a dark historical period.

He needs Patty Griffin. She writes dependable, sincere songs; doesn't need a huge backing band to get it done; isn't in it for glory; and has a broad Americana appeal that can make most people think her ideas are theirs [her music has been covered by the Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Kelly Clarkson].

Sent by J.A.R. | 4:18 PM | 6-19-2008

Obama is Pearl Jam: Fighting for the people! (Ticketmaster, keeping ticket prices low, providing songs to benefit soundtracks, bringing attention to environmental problems and other countless acts of charity and humanity.) They are the definition of a band with integrity. Standing up against the war in Iraq from the beginning no mater how unpopular it was and never changing their stance. A good running mate would be The Flaming Lips: A band from the Midwest who has been around for over twenty five years (experience). They are extremely hardworking, innovative and resilient. Over the twenty-five years they have metamorphosed and adapted to change in the musical climate. They might not be main stream but through their engaging stage presents/antics they win over new fans at every festival they attend.

McCain is Metallica: a once great band that once stood for something, then they sold-out. They quit caring about "justice for all" and started caring about justice for themselves. In the late 90's they started putting out mediocre album after mediocre album taking advantage of the "base" of their fans just for the money. Now it seems they are just trying to hard to act like they did not sell-out. A good running mate would be Kenny Chesney, a country singer with a little excitement behind, but young enough to bow to the elder statesman.

Sent by Chris P | 5:02 PM | 6-19-2008

McCain - clearly Prince, circa Purple Rain.. dripping with urban sexuality.

Needs an older, populist presence to make up for his youth and inexperience, possibly late period Moody Blues or Chicago.

Obama - A mix between Lawrence Welk and John Philip Sousa, the embodiment of a Caucasion Polka Marching Procession. Needs MIA on the ticket to bring home the Sri Lankan vote.

It would be interesting to make a count of every Obama=cool/progressive combined with McCain=lame/flippityflopper

I would bet the count is close to 90%

Sent by Chad - Hungary for Turkey | 5:20 PM | 6-19-2008

For some reason I'm thinking of a 1970's summer tour. Barak Obama is Bruce Springsteen; rock's rising star - charismatic, touted by every major magazine as the next big thing for years. He's seen by some as a savior, breathing new life into a dying genre. Others miss his populist message and see him as an elitist, the favorite of the media and artist types. He'll have to add someone with working class bonifides to fill the stadium seats throughout the South and out West. He needs a rock 'n roll workhorse like BTO.

McCain is McCartney -- the old war hero. Still popular among loyalists, he's losing ground with independents who've been looking for something different after eight long years. Some see him as a dinosaur who's out of touch. He's still a little bitter from his time in jail and from constantly coming in second to that other guy, the guy everybody wants to have a beer with. If he wants those independents he'll need someone who appeals to both camps, the punks and the rockers. He needs The Cars.

Sent by John McAteer | 5:45 PM | 6-19-2008

I'f Ralph Nader is Fugazi good ideas a bit complex and a relatively smaller fan base. Maybe he should choose someone who was radical but is now a bit more well known and a bit more mainstream. How about Tom Hayden as The Clash. He Was part of the chicago 7 helped start the S.D.S and later became part of the california state assembly. Just like the clash started and maintained radical punk ideas but also now your not completely shocked if you hear them in a car ad. God Bless Joe Strummer

Sent by Salvadore | 5:50 PM | 6-19-2008

Paul Pearson is spot on.

Sent by bc | 10:01 PM | 6-19-2008

Obama is Coldplay - Wildly popular but no one can say exactly why. His VP needs to be someone with more experience, but not to overshadow - Bob Pollard.

McCain is the old hero who has given up (or had taken away) any credibility he once had - Will.I.Am. His needs for a VP are obviously someone who can pull the strings - The RZA.

Sent by erik | 11:05 PM | 6-19-2008

Might Be an odd choice, but here we go:

Obama is The Flaming Lips. Huge show, something we've never seen, and with a message of upbeat optimism & hope in the face of insurmountable odds. The VP can't out do a show like that, so why try? Go with someone just as strong, but understated.
The Opener: The National.

McCain: While I like the skynyrd connection, McCain is more Garth Brooks trying to pull his Chris Gaines transformation - so obviously trying to appeal to those who don't like him. He needs someone who CAN hit all the bases, Country, Rock, Soul, Blues. Because, even despite his best efforts, he's Not the chameleon he thinks he is.
Opener: The Raconteurs.

Sent by gcn | 10:07 AM | 6-20-2008

brian a = best obama

erik and gcn = best mccain

paul pearson = best overall

Sent by brett | 12:37 PM | 6-20-2008

Another vote for McCain being Metallica. They began their career selling their authenticity, and ended up being corporate shills. Each subsequent time they release an album fewer and fewer people notice or care. An opening act, could be somebody like Ry Cooder. He would give authenticity and a rootsy feel, and NPR listeners might be swayed to vote for somebody so down to earth.

Obama is Radiohead. Lots of people like him, but it is more difficult to put a finger on why. His distribution model seems to be his largest strength. His message contains a lot of big ideas and it sounds so smooth, yet if you look at the details you wonder if he will be able to make it work. A good opening act would be Bob Seger. Salt of the Earth, working man's friend, presumably a pickup truck driver that will make Obama a lock for Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

Sent by mikeyj | 1:44 PM | 6-20-2008

I quite like SDM's Obama.

As clever as Mr. Pearson's thoughts are, pre-campaign and personal tarnishing, I'd say U2 was more Bill Clinton (worldwide superstardom and all that).

Sent by Tim F. | 4:00 PM | 6-20-2008

A run through the music resident on my IPod has left me feeling rather...unwilling (unable?) to associate any of these bands to either candidate. I can only assume this means that I don't feel a particular connection to either candidate.

Sent by Jack | 6:09 PM | 6-20-2008

(A) Many thanks! Wow, you guys are nice!

(B) I like Dynadin's.

(C) Piggy: McCain is less Lynyrd Skynyrd than the Rossington Collins Band. I did a spit take at that line. Very nice.

(D) Tim F.: I see what you're saying. I still think the modern-day Bono is a pillar of altruism and an undefinable charm. (Nothing is wrong with either.) And maybe it's 'cause Obama's camp plays "Beautiful Day" at rallies, but I see him as possessing all the charisma Bill Clinton has -- actually a lot more. You cannot question Obama's motives (at this point, anyway), and you can't question Bono's motives in Africa. (Well, I take that back... you can. But I don't. To do so would require an amount of cynicism I'm afraid my guileless optimism prevents.)

But you got a good point. I personally would have thought Bill was more like REM, though.

Sent by Paul Pearson | 6:15 AM | 6-21-2008

How about Obama as Nirvana? Went from nobody to superstar with one single (his 2004 convention speech), but soon showed he could do more great things. Has a lot of devoted fans, but almost everybody at least likes him. The press are calling him the voice of a new generation.

His supporting act should be the Clash or the Pixies: a great band that inspired him but didn't get all the success it deserved. George McGovern? Howard Dean?

Sent by Laurens | 10:08 AM | 6-21-2008

McCain: Nugent. VP: Sharon Osbourne
Romney: Beck. VP: Kevin Federline
Giuliani: 50 Cent: VP: Kid Rock
Fred Thompson: Michael Bolton. VP: Billy Joel

Obama: Eminem. VP: Norah Jones
Clinton: Dave Matthews. VP: Win Butler
Edwards: Ben Harper. VP: K.D. Lang
Kucinich: Jackson Browne. VP: Conor Oberst

Sent by Nick Nack | 5:18 PM | 6-21-2008

obama: arcade fire. vp: the decemberists
mccain: aerosmith. vp: the backstreet boys

Sent by jehan | 1:51 AM | 6-22-2008

Brian A. Nailed Obama!
Perfect running mate!

Vampire Weekend/Coldplay 08

Everything he said, but he didn't mention the influence of bloggers and made more popular because of the internet.

McCain as Skynard: YES
to open

All bands playing in small venue (500-), but well advertised. On a Sat. night.

Obama: $0
McCain: $60

Sent by TheArquebusier | 1:23 AM | 6-23-2008

Obama: The Decemberists. Overhyped, far from my first choice, but inoffensive to mainstream audiences. Multigenerational wild card Patti Smith to open.

McCain: Hootie and The Blowfish. (Why do I know that name again?) Opener: whoever is passing for The Turtles these days. I don't care, because I'm not going to that show under any circumstances.

Sent by maro | 7:21 PM | 6-23-2008

Obama = Cat Power (soulful, good-looking, slightly enigmatic, pleasing to all kinds of folks, inspires heartfelt adoration and crazy obsession, weirdly likened to Mohammed Ali); his VP = Bob Dylan (someone whose identity and career encompasses everything from radicalism to born-again Christianity, a conduit for our own projections and desires--political and otherwise)

McCain = John Cougar Mellencamp ("R-O-C-K in the U-S-A," "Jack and Diane," "Little Pink Houses" -- need I say more? These songs represent the same tired, old mentality of the white, small town American dream whilst beckoning us to forget the past--"oh yeah, life goes on..."); his VP = Ricky Martin (he needs the Latino vote, and some young blood to spice things up)

Sent by Mia Joon | 9:19 PM | 6-23-2008

Wow, this is really hard! A number of the McCain suggestions could work, but Obama is much more difficult.
I like the Arcade Fire suggestion. New band, only a few albums, came out of (seemingly nowhere) to become immensely popular, on Merge thus not beholden to big-time corporate interests, their music is an interesting amalgam of old ideas combined in a new refreshing way. Although there is a clear "alpha couple" in AF, the band almost resembles a hippy commune/collective in it's dealings. While Barack/Michelle are clearly the stars of their campaign, they have a large diverse team of advisers/workers whose opinions are clearly taken into account and a good "group culture" in the campaign. Both AF and Obama have the support of famous luminaries from the left of their respective professions (Bowie for AF....Ted Kennedy for Obama). There is also a international flavor for both (AF= Americans and Canadians, Barack= grew up in Indonesia, has a Kenyan dad). And finally, nobody knows what the future holds for either. Will Arcade Fire keep churning out great music, or stagnate into boringness? Will Obama win the nomination, and if so, can he deliver on the expectations?

Sent by BTH | 4:36 PM | 6-24-2008

Obama- I like the Pearl Jam analogy. Started out embraced by those wanting change (PJ from Hair Metal, Obama from cronisim) and after a closer look people realized that there really is something to both PJ and Obama. Running Mate: Sleater Kinney (Sorry, I am not just trying to kiss your butt, I have to say you 3 were my favorite opening act I ever saw with PJ, and I have seen them 8 times).

McCain is totally Green Day to me. Basically had good roots to start with, worked hard to earn his position. Now he spends all his time trying to act like a rebel while he is actually as main stream as any American Idol Alumnus. Don't get me wrong I still liked Green Day's American Idiot, and I do agree with some of McCain's bills he proposed. Opening act: Presidents of the United States of America. I think that would follow Bush's presidency perfectly. With his "Law Making Man" and "Income Tax Man".

Sent by Eron | 4:48 PM | 6-24-2008

I voted for obama as Radiohead only because it's the first thing that popped into my head when i thought, hmmm, what band has a verbose and overly inflated progressive ego... then I really though Pete Seeger would be a great running mate to sort of, you know, add a homegrown political swing to things. But alas, I went for Patti Smith--equally revolutionary and perhaps could be the write-in for Nader?! That's also where I'd fit Cat Power in the mix.

As for mccain, um, where's Danzig? That would be my write-in and it fits because mccain's 'tone' could be compared to something a little bit more hard core... like, sabbath bloody Black Sabbath. So, I'd go for Ozzy for prez and Courtney Love as VP (no offense Love).

Cheers, and thanks for making this election cycle feel like fun for once!

Sent by erica | 4:44 AM | 7-2-2008