The Key to the Right V.P.

Linking the Democratic or Republican nominee with the right vice president could help swing states

As the Democratic and Republican national conventions draw close, all eyes will not only be on the parties’ nomination for president but who is going to be the vice presidential candidate or running mate. Political analysts note many factors influence a candidate’s ideal running mate, although the common thread among party delegates is to balance the ticket. So, a particular running mate may be chosen to appeal to a certain geographic region, ideology, or voting constituency—or even to help restore party harmony after a bitter campaign.

But any intelligent prediction about who the presidential candidates may choose as their vice president in the 2008 general election should begin with an assessment of strengths and weaknesses, say party insiders. The vice president is expected to bridge the gap between what the public wants and what that candidate possesses.
Here’s how potential vice presidential candidates stack up to the presidential hopefuls:

BARACK OBAMA
Obama has many advantages: He is a fresh face, young, energetic, eloquent, and very charismatic. He proposes change and is not associated with the Bush administration. His challenge, however, is being viewed as lacking foreign policy and military experience. Also, many polls show that if Obama were to run against McCain, several swing states could turn Republican.

“If Obama is looking for someone to help him with the experience issue, he might look at former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, an elder statesman like former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, or former NATO Comdr. Wesley Clark,” says David Johnson, a Republican strategist and pollster who worked on Bob Dole’s 1988 campaign. “Clark or Jim Webb stands out if he is looking for someone to bolster the national defense issue.”

Obama is also having a hard time with working-class Reagan Democrats in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, who are responding more to McCain at this point in the campaign. Add to the fact that Obama is polling very poorly among Jewish and Hispanic voters, who traditionally vote Democratic. Wesley Clark, along with governors Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, and Ted Strickland of Ohio, would fit that role as running mates with a strong record of being pro-Israel. Additionally, these governors could potentially help him carry any one of those swing states where polling shows McCain slightly ahead of Obama, Johnson says.

Strickland, however, endorses Clinton and has made less than flattering comments about the Obama campaign. “Rendell and Strickland also have strong appeal to Reagan Democrats or blue-collar Democrats in the Northeast, identified as Catholic voters and members of labor unions who are very socially and culturally conservative on issues,” Johnson says. Reagan Democrats voted for the candidate in 1980 and 1984 and for George H.W. Bush in 1988 because they felt the Democratic Party was too far left on social issues.

As the former ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson has a great deal of foreign policy experience that could benefit Obama. Additionally, his being Mexican American could help Obama with the Hispanic voter block.

Other vice president potentials who might help

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