Now that the public has chosen their candidates for president, speculation has switched to whom the candidates will choose as their running mates. Barack Obama told his supporters that they would get a text message informing them of his choice. Par for the course, the media scooped him and announced it as Joe Biden on Saturday. John McCain is expected to announce his selection on Friday, his 72nd birthday.
Pundits were predicting Biden as Obama’s probable pick for weeks now, so it came as little surprise. The Delaware senator could help Obama shore up support among seniors, Catholics, blue-collar workers, and those wary of Obama’s lack of experience.
But Biden has drawbacks as well. He is known for being verbose and gaffe prone. For example, earlier this year he drew criticism for describing Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.” Biden also brings no additional home-state electoral votes as Delaware leans reliably Democrat.
The biggest worry for the Obama camp is still the one-in-five Hillary Clinton voters who claim that they will not back Obama if Clinton is not on the ticket. A recent Zogby poll shows that a Biden pick eases those tensions, with 43 percent of all Democrats calling Biden a good choice and only 25 percent saying the opposite.
John McCain finds himself in a sticky situation as well. The modern Republican party, generally speaking, is supported by an amalgam of corporate and business interests, small government libertarians, and social conservatives.
Few of these groups have traditionally backed McCain because of his “maverick” voting record, so his VP choice could prove crucial to his chances.
On McCain’s short list are primary rival Mitt Romney, Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman, former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, all of whom have as many risks as rewards.
Romney, who worked successfully in the private sector before entering politics, could boost McCain’s admitted disdain for economic issues. On the downside, his Mormonism and only recently recanted pro-choice stance could turn off evangelical Christian voters.
Since his defeat in the Connecticut Senate primary in 2006 as a Democrat because of his unwavering support of the Iraq war, Lieberman has become a darling of the neoconservative right wing. Unlike Romney, however, Lieberman is adamantly pro-choice. He is also Jewish, and that combination could hurt among so-called “values voters.”
This leaves Ridge and Pawlenty. Ridge, while pro-choice, is less so than Lieberman and helps McCain on what seems to be the primary Republican agenda: homeland security and the war on terror. Pawlenty, relatively unknown, is adamantly pro-life, anti-tax, and has worked to increase his foreign policy awareness in recent years. He could also bring votes from the swing-state of Minnesota.
Regardless of whom McCain selects, it is unlikely to match the excitement generated by the Obama campaign. McCain’s potential VP also faces a tough challenge in the debates going up against the scrappy, no-holds-barred Biden.
Of course this may be much ado about nothing. Polls old and new consistently show only around 20 percent of voters even factor in the running mate when deciding on which candidate to support. Because of McCain’s age and the order of presidential succession, this would seem to work in Obama’s favor.
Fortunately for those already suffering election fatigue, there are only two months left until we know for sure.