Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"I love Kathleen Sebelius" - Barack Obama, July 1, 2008

Kathleen Who?

The 44th Governor of Kansas is a post-partisan Democrat in deep red Kansas whose deft political skills and low-key operating style has delivered on liberal goals like education reform and women's rights. Sebelius opposes gay marriage bans, supports gun owner rights within the context of gun control laws and has vetoed efforts to expand coal power plants in her state. She was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of America's five best Governors. All of this fits perfectly into the frame of Obama's campaign themes of change and unity.

But where's the chatter?

The Fix kicked off this year's Veepstakes by ranking Sebelius in the number one slot in the Veep field. What's more, Sebelius is considered enough of a threat to provoke a pre-emptive strike by retiring Prince of Darkness, arch-conservative Bob Novak and is held in high esteem by no less a Clintonista then James Carville and indeed, former Presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, who publicly supports her joining the ticket.

And let's not forget the all-important chemistry that is needed between a Presidential candidate and their Veep pick. Here we can let Obama speak for himself: “I love Kathleen Sebelius. I think she is as talented a public official as there is right now. Integrity. Competence. She can work with all people of all walks of life."

What about the nice, safe, white males?

Obama's campaign is about change. And his bet is that the election is about change. That alone argues against a conventional pick as an African American and a woman would symbolically lock up the change mantle in such a way as to make it irretrievable for McCain - no matter who he might pick.

On the flip side, it is possible that that's too much change in which case an N.S.W. male would be in order, but Kathleen's top competitors aren't a match for her appeal to the Barack-star.

Biden: too mouthy and showy. His foreign policy heft if needed can be better brought in by making him Secretary of State (where mouthy-ness and showey-ness is vital when facing off against the Pentagon). Besides, the whole purpose of the Obama world tour was to demonstrate to the electorate that Obama is in and of himself a credible Commander-in-Chief.

Bayh: He might help in the cause of turning Indiana blue but the demographics and economics of Indiana this year are so similar to those of Ohio that if Obama wins the Hoosier state he is likely to have won the Buckeye state (and thus the election) anyway. Fatally, however, As The Fix has noted, Bayh could well prove to be "a charisma drain. He would break up the logic of the ticket, turning Obama into a conventional candidate in a year when out-of-the-box appeal is the hot commodity."

Kaine: As I previously suggested in my definition of potential results, I think the Kaine buzz is a feint. Could he help with Virginia? To some extent although his lack of major accomplishments
and 46% approval rating (with 30% disapprove and 24% undecided) would curtail his VA bounce. Beyond that, Kaine continues to compare unfavourably with Kathleen as she has more years of public service then him (6 years as a Governor compared to 3) and a real record of gubernatorial accomplishment (see above).

So when's the big day?
If I'm right, then tomorrow will be a grave disappointment for Bayh-fans. The Washington Post's tea-leaf reading Dan Balz (who probably had a tip from the Obama campaign, as evidenced by the story's subsequent headline treatment on The Page) suggests that Obama's Veep pick will likely come in about a fortnight's time, after he has returned from his Hawaiian holiday and as the Olympics are drawing to an end. This gives Obama a good week's run-up to the Convention and a chance to spend the bulk of his $5mn in Olympic advertising to control the speculation just enough whilst on introducing his Veep to the nation. The Balz and Halperin trailing of a later Veep pick is important as it allows Team Obamasimultaneously building up the Indiana coeverage, much like that which occured last week with Kaine. Thus, they get good press in Indiana and don't burn their bridges with national political reporters.

Am I right? Is Kathleen the best choice? Will Obama announce her in two weeks time? Do weigh in!

1 comment:

John said...

I wholeheartly agree. The fact she is the still popular governor of a red state is highly significant. Not only does Kathleen represent Obama's message of change and movement beyond the last 15 years of partisan war but the fact that Kansian are still happy with her after 6 years combined with the her down to earth personality should help to reassure conservative/moderate voters who are worried about too much change.
If she is chosen I would imagine it would be after the olympics, there is just too much risk of being drowned out by a large olympics story, otherwise.