Every once in a while (by which I mean rather commonly), there is an op-ed by a prominent political pundit about how President Barack Obama should dump Vice President Joe Biden and replace him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (or, in extreme cases, that Obama should drop out of the race altogether and let her become the presidential nominee).
They do this to point out that Obama will have trouble winning the presidency again this November, and he needs help. They say that Clinton’s over 60 percent popularity with Americans will allow Obama to transcend partisan boundaries and win over everyone. All he needs to do is dump Biden, that supposedly mediocre, gaffe-prone man.
First of all there is nothing wrong with Biden. He is a brilliant man who has handled many problems behind the scenes. And, more importantly, people must remember that vice presidential nominees do not matter, for better or for worse.
Almost no election has been determined by the vice presidential selection. The only possible exception was Lyndon Johnson in 1960, who helped Kennedy narrowly win some southern states. But geographic polarization is far larger than it once was, so such an event seems less likely today. It may have some effect on the candidates’ home states (though even that doesn’t always happen), but certainly not on geographically scattered swing states.
Hillary Clinton’s home state is New York. Does Obama really need help winning New York? The state has voted for every democratic nominee since the 1960s — except in GOP landslides. If the GOP does have a landslide, Obama won’t be saved by anything. Hillary could possibly claim Bill Clinton’s home state of Arkansas as well, but that state has trended Republican faster than almost any other state. I doubt Clinton would help Obama win it.
Second of all in what universe is Hillary’s supposed popularity across partisan lines happening? Yes, she is popular, but that is because she is the secretary of state, doing a good job and not making many divisive, ideological decisions. But wasn’t she very divisive and hated by conservatives during the Clinton administration?
I was young during the Clinton administration, but what I have heard is that public remarks about the Clintons were uncomplimentary, to say the least. So I am sure it would come back if she were on a presidential ticket. In fact, it came back when she was running in 2008.
A few want Hillary back because they say that the Democrats need a good candidate in 2016, and the vice presidency is a step up. But presidential elections are won mostly by political climates, so we have no idea what a “strong” candidate will be in 2016. And everyone already knows who Clinton is. She’s not coming out of nowhere. She’d go from her prominent role as secretary of state to vice president, which is a demotion in many ways.
Finally, let’s look at the reason why Obama is possibly in trouble: the economy. Are people going to forget the economy when they vote because of Hillary? Some claim that Obama cannot win the white voters that he needs, so Hillary can help them with that. But Obama won enough white voters in 2008 without her. Why would they abandon him for a non-economic reason? If he already lost them because of the economy, Hillary won’t bring them back.
No Democrat wants to admit that if the economy stagnates or falls Obama will lose, and no Republican wants to admit that if the economy booms, Obama will win. But with basic fundamentals of how elections work, this is the system we have. And who is Hillary going to bring to the democratic ticket that Obama wouldn’t bring alone, or with Biden?
Remember, 90 percent of Democrats voted for Obama in 2008. If he does not get a similar number in 2012, it will not be because of the running mate.
As for independents, another supposed “target” that Clinton would bring to the democratic camp, almost all have a predetermined partisanship and vote predictably for a certain party. The small number of true independents are less informed and do not usually vote based on candidacies alone. In other words, they vote based on political climates. It all goes back to the economy, and not the running mate.
Dawidowicz is a member of
the class of 2012.