Before I head off for the weekend, let’s play some political “inside baseball!”
Resolved: Republican nominee John McCain would be incredibly silly not to choose a woman as his running mate. One of McCain’s biggest demographic targets this season are disgruntled Hillary voters, still bitter and still grumbling about (largely paranoid and self-serving) allegations of sexism during the primaries. A female running mate not only gives these fence-sitters a reason to vote for McCain, but it could even help to sour and upset them further.
That’s because Democrats are going to have to attack the Republican VP in some fashion. And no matter how fair and above-board these attacks are, they’ll still drudge up every bitter feeling about Hillary’s primary loss (ironically, those most eager to cry “sexism” are generally also those who treat women as so delicate that any attack on their character will be seen as sexist, despite the fact that male politicians rake each other’s character over the coals regularly). It’s a brilliant means of straight jacketing Democrats and dividing them against themselves.
Let’s also not forget that in a race against a young dynamic man who happens to also be America’s first African-American Presidential nominee (and potentially its first racial minority President) McCain desperately needs something to energize his own campaign: another historic “first.”
So unless McCain is incredibly foolish, someone like Alaska Governor Sarah Palin should be at the very top of his list. And I’m far from the only person saying so. Nobody thinks that choosing a “White-guy-in-waiting” will help McCain’s image much.
So how does Obama respond? Well, if he has to respond, it’s already too late. Obama’s best move is to preemptively select a female VP of his own: someone like Kathleen Sebelius (current Democratic Governor of Kansas). Doing so would dramatically blunt the appeal of McCain’s own pick: mostly because whomever chooses second will ultimately sound more of a pathetic “uh wait, me too” note than one of daring. A Democratic VP pick would also be able to attack her opposite with far more impunity, and with far smaller risk of being called sexist for doing so.
Don’t listen to all the noise about how a non-Hillary female pick on the Dem side will make the ticket look “weak.” Or even that it will just further disgruntle Hillary voters (most of them don’t actually care about Hillary in any case: they certainly aren’t listening to her opinions now if they aren’t supporting Obama already). The ability to neutralize one of McCain’s best VP strategies by far outweighs these already dubious fears.
Even if McCain ultimately ends up picking “White guy, Part #2” none of the potential female Democratic VP candidates are chopped liver in any case. And while I doubt that gender diversity would help Obama’s ticket as much as McCain’s, I don’t see a plausible reason to think it would hurt him any more than any potential problem that might crop up with any VP pick, male or female. Someone like Sebelius may not bring Obama any specific state, but then, none of the fellas seem likely to accomplish that either.
Here’s my bet: come mid-next week, there will be a lady on a Presidential ticket. It just remains to be seen who’s gonna strike first.