by Todd Beeton, Sat Aug 02, 2008 at 03:32:16 PM EDT
John Kerry announced his choice of John Edwards for VP on July 6, 2004, exactly 20 days prior to the first day of the 04 Democratic convention. If Barack Obama follows the same schedule, he will announce his choice on Tuesday, August 5. Certainly one suspects the announcement will come prior to the commencement of the Olympics on Friday, which means the likelihood is that the announcement will come some time in the next 5 days (just not on Thursday, Barack, OK?, I'll be on a plane.)
But who will it be? First let's look at the short lists. From The New York Times:
The Wall St Journal strikes Hagel, Nunn, Rendell and Richardson from their list and adds:
The latest buzz has been Tim Kaine, a prospect that has been just about universally panned throughout the blogosphere and one that has been picked up by the trading markets.
From Justin Wolfers:
"The vice-presidential shortlists are getting a lot shorter -- and, on the Democratic side, prediction-market traders are moving sharply towards a new favorite. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who rated only one-in-ten odds a week ago, is now given a one-in-three chance of winning the number two slot.
Even though Democratic operatives have floated a shortlist with seven possible picks (Senators Biden, Bayh, Dodd, Clinton and Reed, plus Governors Kaine and Sebelius), prediction markets suggest there are really only four serious candidates. Beyond Mr. Kaine, Mr. Bayh is the second favorite with a one-in-four chance, followed by Ms. Sebelius with a one-in-six chance, and Mr. Biden with a one-in-eight chance."
While the WSJ market gives "the field" -- in other words, anyone other than the top 4 -- only a 20% chance, I share Wolfers's skepticism about this CW top 4.
Even though I think the markets have the candidates in the right order, I would still be shorting the favorites, as it remains likely that someone pulls a rabbit out of a hat.
For my own gut sense, I have never been comfortable with the conventional wisdom surrounding Obama's VP pick. There's something nagging about it, and no hard numbers to support my feeling. Perhaps it's the "think different" approach to many aspects of the campaign - the next-level social networking, the unprecedented 50-state massive organizer approach, the generalized no-leak culture among decision-makers, etc. It strikes me that in multiple important key ways, the Obama campaign has made conscious departures from the conventional wisdom norm.
For me, my skepticism about the Kaine/Sebelius buzz is that I've never really bought into the "reinforcement" theory of VP choice. Some prominent bloggers have said, essentially, that Bill Clinton had it right when he chose another Southern young white dude because it reinforced his strength as opposed to shoring up his weaknesses. Barack Obama, the theory goes, needs to pick someone who reinforces his core message of change rather than worrying about using the VP pick to allay people's fears about his lack of national security experience. The problem with this is that Gore actually did fill a void in Clinton's resume; Gore had a ton of what Clinton lacked: Washington experience. I think the Obama campaign has calculated that he needs to do the same thing.
My gut tells me a couple of things. First of all, Barack is not going to pick someone who needs to be introduced to the country. He has enough of an uphill climb introducing himself to the nation, is he really going to pick another unknown quantity for the ticket? So that leaves us with a different list, which, let's say for argument, looks like this: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Sam Nunn.
Among these possible picks, some are known thanks to their extensive Washington, DC resumes (Clinton, Biden, Nunn, Dodd), some are not (Clark, Edwards, Richardson.) So, which list will Obama pick from? You'll recall that in the primary, Barack ran against Washington experience and turned what Hillary thought would be her top selling point into an albatross around her neck with one very effective line: "are we just going to keep sending the same people to Washington and expect a different result?" In other words, if you've spent a lot of time in DC then how can you expect to change it? He could and should be using the same line against McCain, but he's not. The other day I noticed him almost say it at one of his townhalls, but he caught himself. Why? My gut is that he's leaning toward picking a Washington insider for his VP. My guess is it's Biden.
So if I were a betting man -- actually I am, but I'm not betting on this -- I'd short the top 3, buy up some Biden and not count Clinton out just yet. I'm not holding out some real hope that she'll be picked, mind you, I'm just not convinced that the signs of her demise as a possible VP pick -- e.g. her speaking on Tuesday at the convention, the shuttering of VoteBoth -- are dispositive. But contrary to CW I'd put her as more likely than Kaine or Sebelius at this point but I really don't expect it to be any one of the three of them.
What's your gut telling you?
Update [2008-8-3 4:23:10 by Todd Beeton]:I'm realizing I should have included Evan Bayh on my Washington insider list but he strikes me as really not well known and, well, a really boring pick. I've also always thought the psychological benefit of simply putting a Hillary supporter on the ticket was overblown. But two strategists on CNN tonight are predicting Bayh.