Bill, Jim, Caroline? Readers Pick Obama VP

Could Caroline Kennedy be Barack Obama's running mate? Some readers think so. i i

Could Caroline Kennedy be Barack Obama's running mate? Some readers think so. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Could Caroline Kennedy be Barack Obama's running mate? Some readers think so.

Could Caroline Kennedy be Barack Obama's running mate? Some readers think so.

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If anyone thinks that the end of the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination will lead to a bit of a respite, a cooling down of passions, think again. Last week's "Political Junkie," listing the pros and cons of an assortment of potential running mates for Barack Obama, was our most widely viewed column since we resumed in January 2004. (We had previously been on the Washington Post Web site from 1998 thru 2001.) And the passions that came through in your e-mails — specifically those for/against Obama and for/against Hillary Clinton, as well as reflections on the entire Democratic Party struggle — showed that even though the nomination is settled, the emotions are not.

The next step is the choice of someone to fill the ticket with Obama. The list of potential running mates sent in by you range from the predictable to the far-fetched. But in fairness, given what we've seen this year, is anything really far-fetched? And so I've opened up this week's column to hear what you think.

Below are your thoughts on whom Obama should select, starting with the ones who appeared on our list:

Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY): Jaime Sanborn of Jacksonville, Fla., says she "will be furious" if Obama doesn't offer it to Clinton. "I have lived in this world for 31 years wondering why, throughout all of history, my gender has been considered less valuable than men. ... If Obama is smart, remember that old adage about hell having no fury. Hillary had better be Madame Vice President."

Gayle Owens of Orlando, Fla., is more adamant: "I will not vote for Obama unless Clinton is on the ticket. I usually support whomever is on the Democratic ticket, but I cannot in good conscience vote for Obama." Similarly, Margaaret Nichols of Cantonment, Fla., writes, "If Obama doesn't have Hillary as his running mate he might as well hang it up. I for one will not vote for him if she's not on the ticket. I have never voted for a Republican but will if he doesn't include Hillary. I know many who feel the same way."

Obama-Clinton is "more than just a dream ticket," writes Tim Correa of Denver. "It's a combination that tells the American people that voting for them is like having our cake and eating it too. Just think, an African American and a woman on the same ticket. A complete change of power!"

Then there were those who like Hillary but don't want her to be the VP. Delores Thompson of Portsmouth, Va., writes, "She has so much to offer us, and I feel that as VP it would hold her back." Pam Giangrosso of Omaha, Neb., goes further: "I wouldn't vote for Obama if Jesus Christ was his VP choice, because Jesus Christ would not run on the devil's ticket. Hillary Clinton is my choice for president. I can't see her running with this guy for any reason...."

And, to be fair, not everyone likes Hillary. Lynne Pettys-Roth of Alexandria, Ky., writes that although Clinton "seems the obvious choice, she isn't. She has too much 'baggage' from the past 15 years." Lynne, who says she prefers Colin Powell, adds, "The whole 'woman issue' is not the political force it once was. Get over it, Hillary." Keith Herrmann of Minneapolis insists Obama "can win without her. Hillary on the ticket would be a distracting presidency with her and Bill constantly usurping the spotlight." Jen Panhorst of Ann Arbor, Mich., writes, "Most candidates have no interest in picking someone who might be seen as a risky or controversial choice." Rhonda Franklin of Portland, Ore., wonders, "Am I the only Democrat that won't contribute any money to the campaign until I find out if Obama picks someone other than Clinton?" And Mary Corcoran of Laramie, Wyo., who would like Virginia Sen. Jim Webb on the ticket, says Hillary "would be a huge mistake. Too many lies and too much baggage."

Lee Barrett of Bethesda, Md., suggests offering it to Hillary as a tactic, making it "contingent on Bill first releasing his financial information, including donors to his library (which will probably be a non-starter), but the offer can be leaked to the media as 'at least we tried.' "

Peter Moo of Ottawa also likes Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. "As a successful Democrat from a red state, he reinforces Obama's message of post-partisanship. As a former governor and two-term senator, he has the experience and gravitas required to be a heartbeat away. His major downside is that he is described as dull. But if Obama is so good on the stump, this wouldn't really matter." Similar arguments on behalf of Bayh were made by Stephen Siegforth of Baltimore.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware: So says Maureen Hogan of Scottsdale, Ariz., "due to his foreign policy experience and straight-shooter mentality. He pulls no punches and will be a great complement to Obama." Also singing Biden's praises is Katharine Crosson of Kansas City, Mo.: "I'm a native Delawarean and have always thought my state was as fortunate to have Biden as we were to have had John Williams many years ago."

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark: That's the choice of Scot Roberts of Reedley, Calif., who writes, "With his credentials and an honorable character and reputation, he should appeal to those who question Obama's experience in foreign and military affairs." Bobi Lore of Seattle agrees: "He knows how to campaign. He is a very good friend of the Clintons and would appeal to many of her supporters. If we are ever to get out of Iraq gracefully we will need someone with extensive experience actually running the military." It's Clark "hands down," writes Cynthia Bazinet of Holden, Mass.: "He builds a bridge to the Clinton campaign. He neutralizes McCain's military experience. He's not an elected official with typical ties to D.C. He might appeal to Hillary's blue-collar constituency. He could hit the ground running." Also on the Clark bandwagon: Brian Dahill of San Diego.

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska: "If Obama is about change," writes Elle Jordan of Palm Beach, Fla., "then Hagel is it. He's informed, courageous, stands up for what he believes in, is not afraid or influenced by opinion polls and, oh yes, he's a war hero!" Hagel would be a "brilliant" choice, writes John Williams of Chester, Conn. "It could trump some of McCain's 'maverick' brand for Obama to reach across the aisle to embrace a fellow independent thinker. Hagel's public comments about the war have been more eloquent and intellectually lucid than many of the Democrats who don't go very deep in picking apart the illogic that marks this tragedy but who are happy to bash Bush as a matter of party opportunism." Others who would love to finagle Hagel on the ticket: Colin Owens of Atlanta and Stephen Belton of Seattle.

Andre Walker of Chicago asks me if I think a Hagel choice is realistic. I do not. Aside from the Iraq war, Hagel is a strong conservative and solidly anti-abortion. I don't think he'd take it, I don't think Obama would offer it, and I don't think Democrats would stand for it.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine: Shawn Goddard of Burlington, Vt., sees Kaine as a "moderate who will likely play well with working class whites," the "perfect" candidate "to be groomed to be the Dems' candidate in 2016." Charles Mayer of Greensboro, N.C., goes further: "The two men are close in age, which worked well for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Kaine has been a strong supporter of Obama's from the beginning. Note that after he went over the top with delegates, the first state Obama campaigned in was Virginia."

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano: Brooke LaFlamme currently lives in Ithaca, N.Y., but is originally from Tucson and thinks Napolitano "has done a great job as governor."

Former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia: Jeff Becker of New Hope, Pa., sees a perfect match: "He counters McCain's advantage in foreign policy. He has electoral advantages where he at least makes Georgia competitive, and would also help in North Carolina and Virginia." "I have learned from experience," writes Kimberly Chapman of Hinesville, Ga., "that with age comes wisdom. Being 70 should have nothing to do with it. Sam Nunn is a very wise man. In all the years I've known him, I have never failed to see anything but foresight, intelligence and integrity."

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: It makes sense to Jon Yuengling of West Norriton, Pa., who notes that Rendell was a "vocal supporter of Clinton, has strengths in the Northeast and with voters Obama needs to win over, and brings Pennsylvania to the Obama column with little expenditure of resources."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: Samuel Scheib of Thomasville, Ga., notes that "the Latino vote is essential, and with Richardson on the ticket it would help Obama in many Western states. His foreign policy credentials are simply perfect." Sherri Masson of Milford, Mich., sees him as "the total package: foreign policy experience, Hispanic, and from a swing state. He should be rewarded for his risk-taking endorsement of Obama." Clinton supporters, Sherri adds, "will get over it." Cynthia Johnson of Marietta, Ga., adds, "His persona/charisma makes a good match with Obama. He's stable and steady, but not so conservative or old-fashioned that he undermines Obama's call for change." His decision not to endorse Hillary despite Bill's pleas "says to me that he is strong in character and principle," writes Gloria Alee of San Rafael, Calif. Also on the Richardson bandwagon: Carl Williams of London; Paul Bocko of Bernardston, Mass.; Forrest McCollum of Dallas; Molly Frankel of Columbia, Mo.; Steve Martin of Vernon Hills, Ill; Michael Leary of Flagstaff, Ariz.; Leslie Barrett of San Francisco; Craig Christophersen of Kalispell, Mont.; and Natalie Randall of Ames, Iowa.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: Sheldon Laskin of Baltimore writes, "She is a highly successful, two-term Democratic governor in a Republican state. She has populist credentials, in that she successfully took on Blue Cross/Blue Shield in defeating an attempted merger, which would not have been in the public interest. She has guts, in that she defied the NRA by vetoing a concealed carry law." Also: Kenny Wohl of Craig, Colo., and Ricardo Claps of Fremont, Calif..

Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia: Jim Foster of Mechanicsburg, Pa., thinks Webb would be the "obvious" and "perfect" choice: "Choosing him puts Virginia in play for the Democrats. He is a former Republican and darling of Ronald Reagan. A military hawk who nevertheless thought the war in Iraq was a bad idea. And he fills in Obama's perceived lack of foreign policy expertise and gravitas." Zachary Hardy of Prairie Village, Kan., is a registered Republican who is "excited" about the prospect of Webb. "He is a fascinating character with tons of experience that has a history of not always following the 'party line.' " Also on the Webb cast: Graham Myers of Richmond, Va.; Theodore Miller of Phoenix; Jory Langner of Delmar, N.Y.; and Liz Reese of Okotoks, Alberta, Canada.

No way, writes Suresh Chitnis of Alameda, Calif.: "His controversial views about the Civil War and the Confederate flag make him a difficult choice."

Any of several women. So says Noemi Levine of Berkeley, Calif. "I like Sens. Claire McCaskill (MO), Barbara Mikulski (MD) or Patty Murray (WA). They all have foreign affairs/intelligence/DHS-type credentials. But if you want my DREAM candidate, it's our own Rep. Barbara Lee, who is just stellar on everything."

Afya Allen of Indianapolis likes McCaskill. "She is Clintonesque. She's older, tough and was an Obama supporter right out of the gate."

Kurt Fusaris of Boston lists Sens. Murray, Mary Landrieu, (LA) Maria Cantwell (WA) and Amy Klobuchar (MN). Kurt also likes the thought of Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. "She would be an intriguing choice, and with Obama coming off as somewhat Lincolnesque, how great would it be to have a bumper sticker that proudly reads, 'Obama-Lincoln 08?'" Count Harry Toder of Springfield, Ky., for Klobuchar.

Pastor Brent Campbell of Madison, Wis., also likes Lincoln. "An excellent choice — 10 years in the Senate, five in the House, and as a Clinton supporter she is one female candidate that Obama could choose without too much backlash from Clinton supporters. She would put Arkansas in play for Obama."

Add another vote for Patty Murray. Cyndie Merten of Corvallis, Ore., likes that Murray "voted against the Iraq war when she was in the Senate, and brings more years of experience than Obama."

And Laura Viau of Orlando, Fla., notes, "I'm quite excited about the fact that as the first generation of women moves on, there will be space for the next to come in. It's possible that the 'Obama' of 2012 is a woman who is flying under the radar today and will take the nation by storm."

But Andrea Carlson of Potsdam, N.Y., says it "would not be wise" for Obama to bypass Clinton to pick another woman. "Her supporters are bruised now — this would ensure he would lose those votes."

Some more names we didn't consider:

Joan Bartos of Napa, Calif., likes former Sen. Bill Bradley (NJ). "He's smart, knows Washington, and is well-liked and respected." Jeremy Cluchey of Durham, N.C., says he "practically [gets] laughed out of the room" every time he suggests Bradley, but doesn't understand why: "He's seasoned, and was an early Obama endorser. It wouldn't help much with Hillary supporters, but honestly, what would?"

Brian Walker of Boston has this "crazy theory" that Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island should be considered: "He's a former Army Ranger and West Point graduate who voted against the war in Iraq in 2002. He may be dull, but with Obama that shouldn't matter."

Sam Moffie of Youngstown, Ohio, agrees that Obama should pick a woman, but he's thinking of Caroline Kennedy. "She is a Kennedy. It will bring back Camelot. Most importantly, it goes against conventional wisdom, which Obama has done from Day One." Don Parker of Golden, Colo., and Jerry Zeiger of Philadelphia agree.

Another Kennedyesque choice, according to Gabriel Southerland of Richland Hills, Texas, is Maria Shriver. "If anyone embodies the act of cross-party politics, Shriver does. A daughter of the Kennedy dynasty, she has been married to a Republican for more than 20 years." She is also an "accomplished journalist," a "champion of women's issues," a "devout Catholic" and one who would be "insulated from Republican attacks."

Bill Bethke of Denver fears that former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana might be too old. "Is there a Lee Hamilton clone out there with a little less mileage?"

Allyson Olsen of Oak Park, Ill., likes Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida: "He's young, vigorous, passionate, born in New York, and has won in Florida by large margins. If he could help with Jewish voters and Florida ... what am I missing?"

Jim Hale, a former GOP county chair from Eugene, Ore., says Colin Powell is the one: "He would shore Obama up on national security, he has lots of high level executive experience, his selection would embody reaching across the aisle, he's not an ordinary Washington politician, and he's one of the country's most admired individuals. Such a ticket would be unstoppable." Jim Peck of Gayville, N.Y., thinks choosing Powell "would be dee-licious — the guy that Bush used as a good soldier and then cast aside being vindicated and given an opportunity to be a force for improvement. I know he has baggage — knowingly (or most likely, unknowingly) he lied to us and the world about WMD. But he is the ultimately qualified person." Others adding an exclamation point for Colin (sorry) include Corey Bush of San Diego, Chris Washington of Sonoma, Calif., Jeff Sweesy of San Diego and Jon Wroten, an adjunct professor of business and technology at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif.

Brian Engel of Yokohama, Japan, the young whippersnapper who wrote last week wondering how he could get my job, also looks at the GOP with the suggestion of former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. "I haven't heard her name at all, but look what you get: woman, executive experience, and bipartisan."

Kate McKinley of Grand Ledge, Mich., offers Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Here's another you-heard-it-here-first Republican: former Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is now an independent. Paul Moore of Denver writes, "He's certainly much closer politically to Obama than Chuck Hagel."

Stan Daniels of Istanbul, Turkey, says Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin would be "an excellent choice."

Cristie Young of Portland, Ore., wonders why no one is mentioning Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. "He fits Obama's 'new government' mandate and has the charisma and integrity to pass the vetting."

Nick Casey of Muscatine, Iowa, has heard all the talk about Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and agrees that "looking to Ohio makes sense. But I think Sen. Sherrod Brown is a better choice for a lot of reasons. He is young, a better campaigner, and would also make a good presidential candidate in eight years."

Herbie Taylor of Salado, Texas, votes for Rep. Maxine Waters of California: "She is the right gender, the right color, shares Obama's philosophy, and is a wonderful speaker."

Another Californian, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, has the support of Carol van Ahlers of Anaheim, Calif.

Stuart Jacobson of Fairfield, Conn., says my list of possible VPs in last week's column is "well reasoned but unimaginative." Stuart likes Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA) and Daniel Inouye (HI), or "maybe a career diplomat like Madeleine Albright." The "last thing he needs is Hillary Clinton on the ticket, and everyone knows it."

Add Allison Hart Lengyel of Shaw Island, Wash., to those fighting for Boxer: "I admire her so much for her early outspoken opposition to the Iraq war."

Rebecca Bartlett of Brattleboro, Vt., also likes Albright: "Obama needs to choose on the basis of maturity, executive experience and foreign policy chops. Not a life-long legislator."

(Note: Albright is constitutionally ineligible to become VP, having been born in the former Czechoslovakia. Similarly, California Gov. [and Austria-born] Arnold Schwarzenegger, the subject of a note from both Mike Weston of Bakersfield, Calif., and Kevin Rice of Elk Grove, Calif., would also be a nonstarter.)

Alan Olson of Carnegie, Pa., likes Ike, but not that one; he likes Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri. "I know this would never happen because of Skelton's views on abortion, gay rights, and maybe even gun control. And although Skelton was a bit of a hawk on Iraq, he asked a lot of the right questions along the way — questions the Bush administration did not answer."

Alice Powell of Cleveland thinks NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be "a great way of attracting independent voters."

Sheila McGuckin of Sanford, Maine, likes Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Elaine Ashley of Bluefield, W.Va., wants another Marylander, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The "dream ticket" for Jason Heitman of Glens Falls, N.Y., would include former President Jimmy Carter, who is "white, experienced, couldn't be derided by Clinton supporters, and if made to assume the office of the president would be the most ready of anyone in the country."

And what about Al Gore? That choice was submitted by Daniel Kryski of Ventura, Calif., and Pat Hall of Toronto.

Herschel Ducker of Salem, Ark., senses that he would never accept it, but he likes former Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Here's an offbeat thought from Joe Deal of Cape May, N.J.: former independent Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

I guarantee that Bonnee Wettlaufer of Pittsburgh will be the only one to suggest journalist/former presidential aide David Gergen. "He has served presidents of both parties for many years and has great political analytical skills. If nothing else, he should be on the VP vetting committee for Obama, now that Jim Johnson has had to resign."

And here's another name out of the hat: Joe Lieberman. That's the choice of April Jaeger of Spokane, Wash.: "He certainly has experience and would balance some of Obama's 'liberalism.' It would be an interesting mix."

(Quite interesting; after all, Lieberman has endorsed McCain.)

Let's leave this conversation with the "dream ticket" choice of David Ano of Whitmore Lake, Mich. He wants Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader, and I think he's serious. David Ogden of Walnut Creek, Calif., suggests Obama and Keith Olbermann, but I'm not convinced he's serious.

The length of this column forces us to hold off on readers' questions until next week.

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This day in campaign history: Paul O'Dwyer, a strong Vietnam War opponent and backer of the presidential candidacy of Eugene McCarthy, wins the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Jacob Javits. O'Dwyer defeats Eugene Nickerson, a supporter of the late Robert Kennedy who had the endorsement of the party establishment, and Rep. Joseph Resnick, a Hubert Humphrey supporter who had been a harsh RFK critic until his assassination two weeks earlier.

Notable New York primary results in the House: For an open seat on Long Island, anti-war activist Allard Lowenstein (D) upsets the choice of the party establishment; in a battle between two Democratic incumbents in Brooklyn, Emanuel Celler easily defeats Edna Kelly; also in Brooklyn, the Dem nomination for an open seat goes to state Assemblywoman Shirley Chisholm, who will face civil rights activist James Farmer (R) in November; City Council member Ed Koch wins the Democratic primary for an open seat in Manhattan; and in a Republican primary for an upstate seat, Hamilton Fish Jr. defeats conservative G. Gordon Liddy (June 18, 1968).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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