Who’s more of a threat to Hillary?
According to a recent article, Clinton supporters will be outraged if Obama picks a woman other than Hillary for VP. As Geraldine Ferraro says, “”If he picked Claire McCaskill or (Janet) Napolitano (or Kathleen) Sebelius, I think it would annoy women.” Meanwhile, NOW president Kim Gandy (who, bizarrely, seems to be under the impression that Obama is considering Bob Barr), says, “It seems like the smart choice will be to pick Hillary Clinton because she adds so much to the ticket but the second choice should be a nominee who supported Hillary Clinton, to try and bring the sides together.”
If you believe the latest rumblings, Obama may end up following the second part of Gandy’s advice and picking Evan Bayh, a prominent Hillary supporter from the primaries. But would that really be a better scenario for Hillary than if Obama were to pick Sebelius? Consider three potential outcomes of an Obama candidacy:
1. Obama loses the ’08 election. In this case, it won’t matter who his running mate was. The party will return hat-in-hand to Hillary, who will likely waltz to the ’12 election uncontested. (I know, I know, but she’d have to be the worst politician on the planet to blow it again). Besides, whoever Obama ends up picking this year is unlikely to be much of a threat; the losing VP candidates in the last two elections have gone nowhere in the subsequent primaries.
2. Obama wins in ’08 but is defeated for re-election. Not sure if Hillary would be as automatic in ’16 — it’s hard to know what the political situation will be eight years from now — but Obama’s VP would still be a long shot. As both Mondale and Quayle learned, it’s not easy to run for president when you’re associated with a failed one-termer.
3. Obama wins two terms. This is probably the most likely scenario (Obama is likely to win this year, and presidents generally get re-elected). It would also probably be the worst-case scenario for Hillary. She’ll be 68 by 2016 (and if you thought the first major female candidate faced a lot of sexism this year, just wait until she’s the first older female candidate). If Obama has a disastrous second term, any Dem will be in trouble that year. If he remains popular, his VP will instantly become the frontrunner — and again looking at the historical record, incumbent VPs are rarely denied the nomination.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Sebelius will also be 68 in 2016. Now, I don’t know enough about her to know if she really wants to be president or if she’d play more of a Cheney role. But what I do know is that Bayh, who will only be 60, certainly does, and is far more likely than Sebelius to spend the next eight years laying the groundwork for a future bid. (The parallels between Bayh ’16 and Gore ’00 would be downright spooky.)
So, to the extent that Hillary supporters should be worrying about the effect of Obama’s VP choice on her political future, they should be far more concerned with Bayh than with Sebelius. To put it another way, her biggest threat isn’t estrogen; it’s youth and ambition.