Friday, August 22, 2008

Can Do, But Won't

Barack Obama could quote that John Cleese line from Monty Python's Flying Circus as he declines to comment this morning on his choice of a running mate. Obama says he has made his decision, but is not ready to announce it, yet. Tomorrow morning is a pretty hard deadline for making the announcement, with a joint appearance reportedly planned for tomorrow in Illinois. There is some speculation that the announcement will be made later today.

Many pundits seem convinced that the choice is Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Biden, 65, was first elected to the Senate in 1972. Two noteworthy events occurred between that election and the convening of the new Congress on January 3, 1973. One was that Biden turned 30, and therefore met the constitutional minimum age requirement for senators. The other was that his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident.

Biden is now completing his sixth term in the Senate. He is number six in seniority in the Senate, and number four among Democrats. He chairs the Committee on Foreign Relations, and formerly chaired the Committee on the Judiciary.

An odd scandal ended Biden's candidacy for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. His offense was plagiarism, which seems like small potatoes compared to other Washington scandals, but he withdrew from the campaign. He ran for president again this year, but failed to get any significant support in the primaries.

If Obama has indeed settled on Biden, I think it points up a flaw in much of the speculation (by me, as well as others) about potential vice-presidential nominees. Much of that speculation has centered around which states will be pivotal in the electoral college, and whether a running mate could deliver his or her state for the ticket. Chances are that Delaware will vote for Obama anyway, and in any case it offers only three electoral votes.

Obama may be concentrating more on which candidate can best play the role of presidential advisor which, as I noted here, is a relatively new role that has become increasingly important over the last few decades. The notions of ticket balancing and/or delivering a key state may by now have become historical relics.

Biden, with his long Washington experience, and his committee work involving both foreign and domestic issues, seems like a good candidate for the advisor role.

UPDATE: In an odd twist, the name of Texas Congressman Chet Edwards has surfaced as this day has gone on. He has more Washington experience than Obama, having been in the House since 1991. But he does not seem to belong near the top of the list in terms of being a potential senior advisor to a President Obama, or bringing an image of gravitas to the Democratic ticket. If Edwards is chosen, then perhaps the days of ticket-balancing are not, as I speculated above, over. He is said to be a favorite of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Edwards's district includes President Bush's ranch at Crawford, Texas.

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