Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Devil’s Advocate

Now that Obama’s going to be seen with Evan Bayh today in Indiana, raising all sorts of speculation, here’s a good as time as any to debate something his potential as VP. Clearly, the netroots is no fan of Evan Bayh (although some may have been swayed by Nate Silver’s semi-defense of Bayh).  We’re all familiar with the arguments against Bayh, as well as the primary arguments in favor of him.

I’ve met Evan Bayh in person, and he’s not much different than he is on TV.  Smooth-talking, moderate-sounding, not particularly interesting (much like his appearance today on Morning Joe in which he still seemed hesitant to grasp the role of attack dog).  When I met him at a Democratic activist breakfast in New York, he was spouting off a lot of inside-the-Beltway orthodoxy, including one statement that I challenged him on in which he said, “If Democrats are going to win, we’re going to have to be stronger on national security.”  This was 2006 and I pointed to people like Jim Webb who strongly opposed the war in Iraq and asked him how that wasn’t “strong on national security” and whether statements like his undercut Democratic efforts to explain why our position IS “strong on national security.”

His response was to point to polls that show that Americans don’t think Democrats are strong, so we have to improve that position.  It was an unsatisfying answer to say the least.

But, in that talk, he also clearly sounded like a traditional Democrat in the positive sense – lambasting Bush and his policies, upset about economic conditions for working people, and most interestingly, he seemed genuinely upset about the Iraq War, calling it the worst foreign policy blunder in modern history.

What makes that interesting is that he was a vocal proponent of the war, and, as TPM has aggressively pointed out, was an honorary co-chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (although Bayh has since said he never participated in any activities).  Bayh’s team has also said this:

“A lot has changed since 2003,” Bayh communications director Eric Kleiman told TPM’s Eric Kleefeld. “And Senator Bayh has acknowledged if we knew then what we know now, he wouldn’t have cast that vote.”

A step, but not nearly a strong enough one.

And yet, I still find myself much more open than others to the notion of Bayh as VP.  Does it excite me?  No.  Do I have problems with Bayh?  Of course.  But there’s still something to be said about him on the ticket.  He’s not my first choice (or even my second or third), but there is logic behind his choice.

But, before we get to that logic, I’d contend there is one over-arching condition that has to be met: Evan Bayh must strongly and openly admit he was wrong about the Iraq War from the beginning, explain why he was wrong, concede that Obama’s judgment was better, and explain that he’s learned his lesson and he’ll never fall for that again. If he does that, then I think that paves the way for him to be considered for the ticket.

Ultimately, we’ve all heard the pros and cons in favor and opposed for Bayh, so no need to re-hash.  But the reason I’m open to him is the notion that he could really deliver Indiana (and perhaps help in neighboring Ohio and Michigan as part of an all-Midwest ticket).  Even his harshest critics admit his popularity in Indiana and that presence could be worth 3-4 points for Obama in Indiana, and this year that might be enough to deliver the state.

Again, he’s not my first choice, and I don’t believe in the “ability to deliver a state” as the primary reason for picking a VP.  But I also really want to win, and if a VP could do little harm AND deliver a battleground state, it’s hard not to consider that candidate.  Not to say that Bayh would guarantee an Indiana victory, but it would help, and I don’t want to be a “purity troll” for a VP candidate (a slot with otherwise matters little to me) if that candidate could legitimately help us win – and I’m sure the Obama folks are polling the hell out of this.

Which raises my next question: which other candidates could deliver battleground states as a VP?  It doesn’t seem to me that Obama has that many choices which could do that.  The options out there as I see ’em are:

1) Mark Warner – I know, he’s off the table, just saying, he’s the only guy in Virginia who could really deliver that state.  Kaine, I think, would make little difference.  Virginia will be a battleground anyway, but Warner would be a game-changer there that would tip the scales.  Ah well, a boy can dream.

2) Bill Richardson – would undoubtedly lock up NM (which I think we’ll win anyway), and help a great deal in Colorado and Nevada.

3) Joe Biden – this might be a stretch, and I think we’ll win Pennsylvania anyway, but Biden is Scranton-born and comes from the classic PA profile of working-class Catholic that could help lock up that state for good (although part of me doesn’t mind McCain spending a lot there – I really think we’ll win it anyway).

4) Brian Schweitzer – Montana’s got a measly 3 electoral votes, but hard to see how their governor doesn’t make a significant impact there.

Who else?  I can’t really imagine anyone else from another battleground state making a big difference?  McCaskill in MO?  Nunn in GA?  Graham in FL?  Edwards in NC (although I think 2004 disproves that theory)?


August 6, 2008 - Posted by | Battleground States, Uncategorized, Veepstakes | , ,


  1. I like Schweitzer or Dean. Both fit the bill. Gore would be an impossible hope.

    But a thought occurred to me. An evil one, but I’ll say it anyway. One explanation for Bill Clinton’s petulance is that his wife has been chosen and part of the deal is that she will be forced to make the kind of admission you want against the war and Bill is going to be sent to Upper Selesia for the duration. I’ve only had half a cup of coffee, so take my craziness with a drop of Half & Half.

    Though I note the problem you point out, I guess I can live with Bayh. I don’t like the sound of Obama/Bayh (Obama Bye-Bye, whatever). He’s boring and that hurts. I know that’s not important.

    Comment by ksh01 | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. First of all, as the folks at have shown, the “locking up a state” meme is largely a myth. I think the two most important rules of Veepstakes to keep in mind are:

    1. VPs don’t affect the general election (two words: Dan Quayle)
    2. To the extent that they do, it has much more to do with what they say about the presidential nominee (two words: Al Gore).

    I think Bayh definitely passes the Hippocratic test of VPs, in that he probably wouldn’t do any harm. So I don’t have a big problem with him. But I don’t think he helps much on No. 2.

    All of my favorites seem to be pulling themselves out of the running (Gore, Warner, Reed), but the folks over at The Field seem to really like Schweitzer, and I have to say, I see a lot of upside to him. Here’s the definitive case for him.

    Comment by GDH | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  3. Check out this article from Newsvine on Evan Bayh, astrologist’s prediction. She’s been right on every presidential election so far.

    Comment by SharonAustinTX | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  4. I like Evan Bayh as a choice for two primary reasons: Indiana and Indiana.

    Indiana I is that he could deliver that state which I think is a toss-up and for some reasons is becoming more like Ohio and Illinois than Kentucky. I think IN is closer than the polls I’ve seen — some of which put Obama ahead — but the state has been so solidly GOP for so long, the pollsters haven’t caught up yet.

    Indiana II is that Bayh exudes ‘Indiana’, and people around the country have a natural affinity to those laid-back Hoosier personality traits and values. The transitive property may therefore attach to Obama in all the positive ways that many fence-sitters don’t seem to get. This must ONLY be because Obama is ‘exotic’, to use the polite term, to the ‘average’ American (used in the polite way). Obama’s background is decidedly lower middle class and his professional career was built on guts and perseverence. That people somehow don’t think that Obama shares their values, even though his family life is so similar to most Americans’ experience, has to be attributed to something other than the facts. (Except for one indisputable fact.)

    Hence the transitive property in action with Evan Bayh. People will naturally feel they share Evan Bayh’s Indiana values. Evan Bayh, with his wife and two school-age children (boys) will stand next to Obama, his wife and two school-age children (girls) and talk about how they are so similar and want the same things for their families and every other family in America — all of it true. Then how can someone STILL believe that Obama doesn’t share their values? Only if they focus on the one fact that makes Obama’s family different from Bayn’s. And Obama won’t win those votes, anyway.

    Comment by Dan L. | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  5. I think the loss of a popular senator in usually red-state Indiana is too much of a price to pay, considering that Bayh isn’t someone to get fired up about.

    And just a thought on a VP dark horse.. i’m surprised i haven’t seen any talk about whether Gov. Bill Ritter of CO would be a good choice. He has a pro-life position, so that might be the deal-breaker, but I think as DA he’s worked to uphold choice providers. But as a Dem Gov from what was a red state, I’d think we would have heard more about him.

    Comment by Deric in LA | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  6. I think Evan Bayh would be a very strong selection for VP. He potentially puts Indiana into play for the Dems, he had a great “audition” for Veep/Attack Dog when announcing Obama in Elkhart, IN on Wednesday, and most importantly he might be just the ticket to smooth out the still lingering tensions between the Obama and Clinton camps.

    It is reported that Hillary is planning to put her name into nomination at the convention, which would just stir back up all the bad blood from the primaries. Here’s the story:

    With Evan Bayh on the ticket, he may play the most important role of all in uniting the party behind Sen. Obama.

    Comment by DJ | August 7, 2008 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: