Sizing Up the Running-Mate Race

Republican Sen. John McCain's choice of a running mate is shaping up to be a significant issue for his presidential campaign. On the Democrats' side, is a ticket including both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama likely?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Joining us now for some analysis about the general state of the campaigns is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's begin with what we were just hearing about, the prospect of a Clinton-Obama ticket or, I mean, for that matter, an Obama-Clinton ticket. Is it at all likely to happen and if it is, what would it mean for the Democratic Party?

ROBERTS: Oh, it could happen, I think. I do think that Bill and Hillary Clinton are talking about it now for a couple of reasons. One is, obviously, in Mississippi, Barack Obama is likely, a, to win and, b, is got a lot of support, as you've just heard. And so it's sort of a sense of you can still get us both.

And I also think that they're trying to somehow break this - what's essentially a tie now. I mean, Obama is somewhere depending on the count between 50 and 100 delegates ahead of Clinton. And as you said at the beginning, the, you know, the remaining primaries aren't going to give either one of them the delegates necessary to win the nomination, it appears. So it is, you know, there's - something has to break this free, and I think that that's part of what's going on here is that the Clinton team is hoping that maybe if they start talking about Obama as a vice president, that people will start looking at it as a ticket.

As one of your voters said - one of the voters in Mississippi just said, and as Tom Daschle speaking for the Obama campaign said on television yesterday, it's the first time that the second - the person running second has offered the person running first the second spot. So, the - you know, this is - there's a lot of talk going on here.

I think that, you know, you've got the question of what effect it would have on the party if they did get together and you have sort of two calculations. One is the traditional one which is - says this would be a mistake, these are two senators, they're both from states that would go Democratic anyway, they're both from the liberal wing of the party, and neither one is the traditional candidate, which is a white man, which is all we've ever had for president or vice president, but then that - that is balanced against the fact that so many voters like both of these candidates and that has been clear in contest after contest.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Which, of course, translates to some people's minds as a dream ticket. But turn…

ROBERTS: In some people's mind as a dream ticket.

MONTAGNE: Turning to the Republicans and their nominee, their presumptive nominee, you've been looking at some polls that once again show John McCain's age could be an issue for some voters.

ROBERTS: Yeah, about a quarter of the people in a recent ABC poll say that that is a real negative and of course, there's nothing John McCain can do about that. He is 71 years old. He - what he tries to do is he shows up as often as possible with his 96-year-old mother, Roberta McCain, who is in excellent shape, to show that there's a lot - there's longevity in the family. And Mrs. McCain, senior, has a book coming out before the election, so I think that she'll be out on the circuit and reminding people that it's a family of age. But I think talking about running mates, that that - that the fact that people are looking at McCain's age and maybe calculating that he might not make it all the way through a presidential term, makes his choice of a running mate more significant.

MONTAGNE: And would that translate also to a younger running mate?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it could translate in all kinds of ways. What it doesn't - what it doesn't allow him to do is the strict, traditional thing of going to, for instance, a Clinton-Obama ticket, you know, you take the two people who ran best. The person who ran second to him was Mike Huckabee, which would be something of an obvious sop to the Republican base. The problem there is that the prospects of a President Huckabee would turn off a lot of the independents who have been so important to McCain's success so far. So, I mean, he has to be much more careful in picking a running mate than I think most presidential candidates do and you know, there are a lot of choices out there, but - including people like Governor Sanford of South Carolina or Kay Hutchison from - senator from Texas, but he's got - he's - this is going to be a tougher choice than normally a running mate would be.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

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