Don't Expect an Obama-Clinton Ticket

Barack Obama's lopsided victories in the Hawaii and Wisconsin primaries have made him the almost certain Democratic presidential nominee. Most of the states have voted, and most of the states that haven't yet done so are small states. The last plausible chance Hillary Clinton will have to catch Obama (or at least slow him down) is on March 4, when Texas and Ohio have their primaries. Once those contests are finished, the last major states will be Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana. North Carolina is essentially off the table, given Obama's strength in the South Carolina and Virginia contests. And Indiana's demographics are quite similar to Wisconsin's, so that might be tough sledding for Clinton too. Pennsylvania seems a bit more doable, but if Obama takes Ohio first, Pennsylvania will be off the table as well. In short, barring some unforeseen event, it's looking increasingly obvious that the general election will come down to Obama vs. McCain.

Because of how long and divisive this primary has been, no matter who emerges as the Democratic presidential nominee, that person will be charged with healing a severely fractured party. The Obama and Clinton camps simply don't like each other, and it seems that Democratic voters are pretty much set in terms of who they support. In other words, don't expect many Obama and Clinton voters to defect from one campaign to another at thie stage. If you're not a Clintonista by now, you never will be. And if you aren't an Obamamaniac yet, no one will hold their breath.

In light of all this, there has been increased speculation that the best way for Obama and Clinton to bridge the gap and unite the party is to choose their rival as their running mate. Some people have refered to Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton as the Democratic dream team.

Before I go any further, it would be prudent for me to offer these three words: Not gonna happen.

Proponents of the "dream team" say that any combination of Obama and Clinton on the same ticket would unify the base and be a fundraising juggernaut. You could have the star power of the Clintons augmented by the star power of Obama, which would translate into incredible fundraising. And these same proponents say an Obama-Clinton ticket could lock up the women vote, the Black vote, and the Latino vote all at once. Seeing that those are three solidly Democratic constituencies, this presidential ticket would theoretically enter the general election with a high floor of support. This would allow them to make a play for swing voters, particularly independent or moderate suburbanites who might be more ideologically receptive to Clinton and/or Obama.

That is the conventional wisdom. However, the reality of the Clinton-Obama dynamic would suggest that pairing them up on the same ticket is a really dumb idea.

To start, Clinton needs Obama far more than Obama needs Clinton. After the scorched earth South Carolina campaign in which the Clintons offended a large chunk of Democrats, including most Blacks who subsequently left her campaign in droves, Clinton has been branded as an overly politicized, race-baiting opportunitist. Black voters in particular were quite offended by Clinton's South Carolina campaign and will have long memories regarding it. Sure, some of them will "come home" should the race come down to Clinton and a Republican. However, more of them will also be likely to simply sit this election out because they aren't enthused by her candidacy. So she will need to fortify her street cred among Black voters. Obama could help her do this, obviously, but even if he were to campaign for her, a lot of Blacks may mutter to themselves that Obama would have been the nominee had it not been for Clinton's dirty campaign tactics.

While Clinton may need Obama to help ameliorate relationships among different Democratic constituencies, she offers comparatively little to Obama. Clinton is a walking contradiction of the crux of Obama's message: change. How can he claim to be the candidate of the future if he is teaming up with someone he has referred to as the candidate of the past? Why would he risk neutralizing the potency of his Iraq message by having his vice president exhibit "the mentality that got us into war in the first place?" Why would he put himself in a position to have to abandon his message of the triumph of hope over cynicism? Clinton is too antithetical to Obama's platform for her to be worthy of serious consideration as a vice president.

Simple political geography also enters the equation here. Seeing that Clinton and Obama both hail from solidly blue states, neither candidate really expands the electoral map. Obama certainly has more appeal overall, but he does not put any new states in play by virtue of being "from there." With Obama at the helm, a Tim Kaine vice presidential nod, for example, would turn Virginia into a competitive state that Republicans could no longer take for granted. Evan Bayh could potentially do the same with Indiana and Clinton. Pairing Obama and Clinton up would only serve to make already blue states even bluer. Winning 75% of the vote in New York or Illinois might be good for running up the score in terms of the popular vote, but it won't count one iota in terms of the Electoral College.

Obviously, both candidates have tremendous egos and are loathe to risk being overshadowed by their vice presidential nominee. Obama and Clinton are both political superstars. And throwing Bill Clinton into the mix only further complicates things. Bill and Hillary Clinton may serve as too much of a distraction for Barack Obama, just like Obama could take the limelight away from Clinton. Too much dischord and no center of gravity are a volatile mix that both candidates should be aware of.

Should Obama become the nominee, he may come under increased pressure to select a woman as his vice presidential running mate. And Clinton may come under pressure to select a "Black" running mate (note my use of quotation marks). However, this would reek of identity politics and further buttress my argument that Republicans and conservatives may be better on issues of race and gender than so-called "open-minded" Democrats and liberals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Obama choosing a woman as his vice presidential pick, but if he is doing it only to placate women, rather than add heft to his ticket, then Republicans would be able to argue that Obama is merely pandering. Potential politically attractive female picks include Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Kathryn Sebelius of Kansas, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, all of whom are less polarizing than Hillary Clinton with the added bonus of hailing from red states. The only bonus Clinton adds to Obama is galvanizing Republicans and allowing them to run against their favorite nemesis even though Obama is at the top of the ticket. Obama would be wise to take a pass on that.

People who consider an Obama-Clinton pairing as a "dream ticket" are definitely dreaming. However, the clock struck midnight on this idea a long time ago. Given the reality of the overall political situation involving both candidates, these proponents should not be taken seriously. As initially attractive as they may appear, they would only serve to drag their ticket down and make it harder for them to appeal to a wider swath of the electorate. And should that happen, this dream ticket will quickly become a one-way ticket to four more years of being locked out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

14 comment(s):

Schenck said...


Nice post, Palmer.

The first time I heard the idea of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket, I puked in my mouth a little. The second, third, fourth, and fiftieth times I heard it, I puked in my mouth a lot. Out here in the blogosphere, the only people I see pedaling this nonsense are Clinton supporters trying to look unifying. Granted, if Hillary wins the nomination and somehow could convince Obama to join her on the ticket, I would vote for her because of him, and she would draw a few other left-leaning 'Anybody But Clinton' voters reluctantly back to her side because of her veep. If Obama were to choose Clinton for his VP, on the other hand, I'd lose all hope in him as this would completely contradict his entire campaign, and I would probably vote third party. I think Napolitano is a decent choice for Obama, not just to 'heal' gender issues, but it has encompasses some geographical strategy as well. Wes Clark is the obvious choice for Hillary. Hey, I've seen some Repubs pushing for Condoleeza (sp?) Rice for VP; Dems aren't the only shallow ones here.

What about a post on who McCain's vice president will be and the conflict between his pandering to hard righties and centrists?

brasscupcakes said...

"Should Obama become the nominee, he may come under increased pressure to select a woman as his vice presidential running mate. And Clinton may come under pressure to select a "Black" running mate (note my use of quotation marks)."

Kindly explain, for us regular folk, what you mean by '"Black," (note my use of quotation marks)."'

Is this a jibe at Sen. Barack Obama for being of mixed racial heritage, as most of us are, whether or not we admit it? Does anybody honestly believe he hasn't lived his life as a black man?

I'm really fed up with this racial infighting, a la Stanley Crouch. Don't diss Obama for being a relatively light-skinned black man, just because you are dark-complected and faced discrimination in your own community. All you're doing is reinforcing that prejudice by setting yourself apart.

Anonymous said...

too bad there are too many men out there who hate women too much. women will never be in power, because men just hate them too much. I hate Obama. if he wins the nomination for democrats, I totally think that McCain will win the presidential nomination. I heard that from so many people that if Hillary does not win they will vote for McCain. It is unfortunate that we wil have republicans once again and 100 years of war in Iraq. too many men hate Hillary and women in general and they will not allow them to be in power. it is unfortunate.
oh and one more thing, have you thought that the people who give money to Obama are the ones who hate Hillary and also the millions of health insurance companies who do not want Hillary to reform the health care because that means they will lose money? So I bet Obama has too much support from the men who hate Hillary, from the African-Americans, from stupid young people who haven't even work yet and they have no idea what life is about, and from the health inssurance and pharmaceutical companies who do not want Hillary plan. This is where he gets his money from too. So sad to see such a big scam in this world.

Anthony Palmer said...


I encourage you to read the following posts I've written:

Obama and race

identity politics


It's not about dogging Obama because of his race. It's about dogging the media and those who buy into the media storylines about why race even matters. Ironically, the largely White Republican Party seems a lot more progressive on racial issues than the Democrats because identity politics aren't as big a deal there.



I also agree that a lot of voters will swallow their disgust and vote for the Democratic presidential nominee in November. I just fear that enough of them will stay home in places like Pennsylvania and Missouri to help throw the election to the Republicans. And sadly, I think a lot of Democrats are already bummed out by the two remaining candidates right now. What's the harm in angering anymore Dems?

As for McCain, I'll write a post on his veep choices soon. His veep choice will probably be more important than Obama's because he has some serious base issues.


I don't think there's necessarily a hatred of Hillary Clinton among men. Well, some do, but I think most don't. And for those who don't like her, it's because she's Hillary, not because she's a woman. I'd happily vote for a woman, but I don't want to vote for someone who uses underhanded campaign tactics. Clinton's South Carolina campaign is what did it for me. It's hard to respect that. And it has nothing to do with Clinton being a woman. I hope that my criticism of Clinton doesn't make me a "sexist." If it does, then I encourage you to read the links I listed above about the folly of identity politics.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Bernard said...

I agree about the last post about hatred towards Hillary because she's a woman. I was on the fence at the start of this election...leaning toward Hillary because of her experience. But like the post above, I didn't appreciate the dirty politics. New Hampshire did it for me, when she sent mail to voters one day before voters took the poll criticizing his "present" vote in the Illinois Senate on a Planned Parenthood bill. During the Nevada debate, she accused him of coping out on a vote to protect young girls from sexual predators...but that turned out to be untrue. Obama said he voted "present" to stall the bill because it contained language that would have made it D.O.A if it wasn't fixed, and the director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois corroborated his story. She twisted the truth to score political points. Then of course the crying, the interjection of race, the insinuation that Obama is trying to leave out 15M people with his healthcare plan. It has nothing to do with her gender...it has everything to do with her character. I was partial to Hillary at the start...she earned the withdrawal of my support with shady politics.

Anonymous said...

Hillary is our only hope for change.
Hillary is our only hope to reduce the deficit
Hillary is our only hope for an economic future for America.

A vote for Obama is a vote for a deep recession.
This is no time for Obama, a Jr Senator, to experiment at being President of the United States.

Perhaps VP to gain experience first, but otherwise I can not in good conscience vote for him. He is already in way over his head making promises there is no possible way even God could keep if he were running for president...

He's simply saying what you all want to hear.

I remember another very good public speaker that could control the crowds and make people cry and feel false hopes... Remember a man named Hitler?

So you see its not a leader your looking for if you vote for Obama, it's some one who's going to be able to convince you that everything is OK while your facing eminent doom.

So if all you want is to be patted on the head and sent outside to play while the world is falling apart around you, then Obama is your man because that is his most reliable skill.

If you want it fixed so you don't face doom at all them Hillary is the correct choice. You make the call.

And No I am not comparing Obamas reasons for manipulating the public to Hitlers reasons...I'm only comparing his public speaking skills so that you know not to be swayed my such nonproductive nonsense as a flowery speech when what we really need is a leader (Hilary)

Anonymous said...

Who cares who McCains running mate is going to be. It's not like he has a flys chance in hell of winning.

Bernard said...


How can you say the promises he's making have no way of coming to fruition, and in the same paragraph say Hillary is the only one with the right answers, when 90% of their policies are basically the same? Also, I believe Hillary has suggested that she has the answers...just trust her and she'll get the job done for your. On the contraty, Obama has said he can't fix it by himself, and that you and all of us will need to get engaged with our nation politically, in our education system, in our public service, and become more responsible to our children and our neighbors to bring about change. You're reacting emotionally, and you're reacting with a gender bias.

Anonymous said...

Anybody but Obama!
Are we going to elect a leader to the most powerful nation on EARTH who in every other speech says that's not what I meant, that's not what she meant?
Are we going to elect a leader stating to other world leaders "that's not what I meant" "I didn't meant ffor it to come out that way"?
THINK! THINK! This is not about color! this is about stupidity.
Europe a 27 nations strong with 500 million people headed by chancelor Angela Merkel would love no more that making the Euro as the currency of exchange.
Would you think for a minute She would accept " I didn't mean it that way"? HUH? I garantee you she would send him to the moon where he, his wife and supporters are from. "The deal is done. You signed it buddy. That is what she would and will say.make no mistake about it. The world is watching us fighting over words like children over a candy bar.laughing saying is this the superpower they aretalking about?
When are we going have candidate who say what they mean and mean what they say? We the voters want to know. Let's not elect someone whose inexperience could earn us a silver medal in global politics and he the gold medal just just so that he can selfiAnybody but Obama!
are we going to elect a leader to the most powerful nation on EARTH who in every other speech says that's not what I meant, that's not what she meant?
Are we going to elect a leader stating to other world leaders "that's not what I meant" "I didn't meant ffor it to come out that way"?
THINK! THINK! This is not about color! this is about stupidity.
Europe a 27 nations strong with 500 million people headed by chancelor Angela Merkel would love no more that making the Euro as the currency of exchange.
Would you think for a minute She would accept " I didn't mean it that way"? HUH? I garantee you she would send him to the moon where he is from. "The deal is done. You signed it buddy.
what political medal will America receive with Obama's leadership, Silver, bronze, chocolate?
if his campaigning rethoric is any indication "open mouth insert foot" and too busy being a super star locally with an issueless campaign. Well, my friend I say
he will miss the starting block at the global issues race.
Angela! babe I didn't mean it Common you kwon what I'm saying!
Ok! Ok!i'll take it all back.

Angela Merkel: Take what all back?


Brett said...

If you are going to spam, Anonymous, at least do it in proper grammar so the rest of us can properly mock you for it instead of just ignoring you.

Personally, the Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket always struck me as incomprehensible. There is, of course, the "neither brings states the other might need in potentially competitive areas" issue, but another issue is that the Vice President spot is really a bad place for either of them. Obama in a VP spot would be overshadowed by Bill Clinton, much like Al Gore was frequently overshadowed by Hillary Clinton.

Obama, in turn, gets - what exactly, from Hillary Clinton as his VP? Experience? There are plenty of good Vice Presidents with more useful experience who aren't so offensive to the Republicans.

Nikki said...

WHOA!! Anthony.......lots of action tonight. You know I don't like coming on your page and NOT seeing my name at the top of the comment box. Yes no Hill and Bill and Obama ticket. And no Obama and Hill and Bill ticket. two's company and threes a crowd. I am guessing Obama will try to reach across party lines to a more moderate candidate. If not then there is always Oprah!! :)N

Curt Monash said...


First of all, the campaign isn't over. Obama is clearly the front-runner, to be sure, but it's not a done deal.

Second, if Clinton somehow is the nominee, of course Obama will be the VP candidate. At age 47, you don't turn down a chance to be VP candidate. Since 1976, every major-party VP candidate except Dan Quayle (idiot) and Dick Cheney (health, general evil) has gone on to be presidential candidate. 4 of our last 8 presidents have been VP first. He's not turning it down.


Brett said...

Oh, I'm definitely not ruling Hillary Clinton out until after March 4, just to be sure. People were waving the bloody shirt of her demise back before February 5th, yet she hung on. I don't think she could actually win the primary season outright at this point barring an EPIC mistake by Obama during the rest of the campaign season, but she could force it into the Convention, then extract favors.

Anthony Palmer said...


Should Clinton win the nomination on the basis of superdelegates, that would destroy the Democratic Party. I don't think there are enough pledged delegates left for her to overtake him there. Her biggest problem is that she no longer controls her own destiny. She needs a HUGE mistake by Obama that would make him seem unacceptable, and she's running out of opportunities for this to happen. I've been quite impressed with his campaign discipline so far.



You are right in that a particularly potent line of attack for Obama to use against Clinton would be to ask what the role of the VP would be in a second (third?) Clinton administration. But I fear that such a question might be a little too "in the weeds" for average voters who are more concerned with personality and gravitas.



Do you really think Obama would be Clinton's VP? I guess he would if he wanted to advance his own political aspirations, but I really think he'd return to the Senate and serve as a peoples' advocate there. I think he'd be a VP for any other candidate, but not Clinton. There's too much in the way of contradictions involved there. He'd have to reconcile his differences in political campaigning, the war, etc. if he paired up with her. And I don't think Clinton would risk being upstaged by her VP. So I don't know. But you are right in that it is still too early...but not for too much longer.



I don't see why the promises Obama is making are any different from the promises Clinton or any other candidate make. There's a debate tonight, so perhaps Tim Russert and Brian Williams will press him on the economy and other issues more specifically. But making unsubstantiated claims that Obama would cause a recession that only Clinton could fix aren't particularly credible. Also, there were many other more qualified candidates in the Democratic race, but the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire rejected them. So it would seem that more voters are interested in "less" experience in that regard. I don't know.

Thanks as always for the comments everyone.

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