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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Is Hillary offering Barack the Veep slot via a press leak?

It's always amazed and amused me how many times, in negotiations over settling a lawsuit, my opponents will say something like this: "We'd consider paying something in the $200,000-$250,000 range" or "We'd probably take something in the $250,000-$300,000 range." When given either of these statements, I immediately discard the over or under (depending on who's to pay). In both of these instances, I probably wouldn't even bother repeating the "range" to my client, but would just say, "Their current number is $250,000."

So if I were Barack Obama today, if I were able to confirm that the "Clinton aides" referenced in this news report really were Clinton aids speaking with their candidate's knowledge and authorization, I would immediately conclude that the Veep spot on a Hillary Clinton-led ticket is now firmly on the table (at least for now; perhaps not irrevocably):

Clinton aides have privately admitted that Mr Obama would only consider such a move [i.e., "standing down" voluntarily in her favor] if offered the position of vice presidential running mate, something Mrs Clinton has always been reluctant to consider.

What an odd locution. "We admit that our opponent would only consider quitting if we gave him a guarantee on the second slot." But isn't saying that equivalent, for all practical purposes (except face-saving plausible deniability if the non-offer offer is rejected), to making the offer?

Hillary Clinton    Barack Obama

Should Obama seriously consider accepting such an offer? I think not, unless he's more substantially more risk-averse than I read him to be. His chances of winning the Democratic nomination outright seem better than ever. His chances of winning the general election must likewise seem very substantial. His downside risk in the former case is that he'd have to wait until 2012 or 2016 to run again — a pretty acceptable risk, it would seem, given his age. If, as the article claims, both the Clinton and Obama camps are "scared" of running against McCain, and if he believes that they could only beat McCain via a combined "dream team" Democratic ticket, then perhaps he would conclude that he's minimizing his risks by taking a second spot behind Hillary Clinton (which she could never do, since Bill could never consent to being only a shadow Vice President). But at a time when the GOP base has still certainly not made its peace with McCain or vice versa, could this "candidate of hope" be so cowed by such early polls? And could he view what would effectively be the #3 slot (behind Bill) in a Clinton administration to be worth even as much as the proverbial warm bucket of spit?

I don't think so. This strikes me as a fairly desperate move by the Clinton campaign. It's as if, after calling the $500 all-in bet of the other last player in a winner-take-all Texas Hold'em tournament, the holder of the $600 stack, knowing that she's got only two pair (10s and 3s, with the 10s both on the board), offers to split the $1000 tournament pot 60/40 before the show-down with the other player. Yeah, she has the current lead, and yeah, 60/40 would be a pretty good compromise if the other player is really risk-averse. But would he have gone all-in without at least another pair? And isn't it likely to beat her two 3s in the hole? If he wins, thereby doubling up and gaining a 10/1 chip advantage, isn't he likely to be able to wipe her out in a few more hands anyway? Now that she's already called, why should he let her off the hook? I'd read it as nothing but a signal that she's feeling weak — and not about beating McCain, but about beating Obama.

Posted by Beldar at 05:30 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008), Trial Lawyer War Stories | Permalink


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(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 10, 2008 8:35:02 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Not to mention that the Veep is only what the President makes him (or her.) Hillary may Bill and coo in Obama's ear now, but he knows dam well that she could turn him into a Throttlebottom if she wanted. As you say, if he's out this time, at 47 he's got many more years to try again.

I think you underestimate the possibilities of Hillary as Veep. If Obama takes the nomination, he has a hard fight ahead of him. Should he lose, that would badly damage his chance of trying again. No loser has been renominated since Adlai Stevenson in 1956. Hubert Humphrey tried in 1972 after losing in 1968, and was stomped into a grease spot in the primaries. It is one thing for Obama to lose the nomination to Hillary. If she wins or loses the general, he's well positioned for another shot. Obama losing in the general election is another story. It makes sense for him to make the overtures. Even if he does lose the general, if she's with him, she'll be as damaged as he is, reducing his 2012 rivals by one. This isn't a guarantee that he would make it in 2012 if he lost this year, but it would help. It could also be used to destroy Hillary, in the manner of Lyndon Johnson under Kennedy. By October 1963, Johnson was politically dead and in the dissecting room. Only the random chance enabled him and Kennedy to switch places. Hillary might calculate that this would be her only chance. Bill can be kept in line by Hillary's leaving copies of "How To Do Your Own Divorce" laying around the houses in Chappaqua and Washington. In any divorce, Hillary would strip him clean. To be sure, each could try to blackmail the other, but what judge is going to want to rule against a sitting Vice President as opposed to an aged dirty old man who sells his country for contributions to his dam foundation? Assume Obama is elected and reelected with Hillary as Veep. That would leave Hillary the odds on favorite in 2016. She'd be 69, same age as Reagan when he ran in 1980. Could be. I am sure that are faults in this scheme, but there are strengths. Whoever gets the nomination is going to have to consider binding up party wounds. It won't be easy for either side. Obama would be nuts to be Hillary's Veep as Good Al will tell you. He can afford to wait. He's also got slightly better odds at the moment than Hillary does, assuming a fair fight. Which is not likely, given the Clintons. I still have my money on Hillary for the Dem nomination.

Finally I find it a bit odd that they would pick the TELEGRAPH to leak this in. Why a British newspaper?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 10, 2008 9:42:30 PM | Permalink

Mr. Koster, thanks, as always, for the thoughtful comment.

I don't know whether this appeared only in the Telegraph or whether equivalent versions appeared elsewhere. That's just where I read it, and I ought to have hat-tipped InstaPundit, from whose blog I followed the link to begin with.

I agree with you that Obama losing in the general election would be far more prejudicial to his prospects for a future run than merely losing to Hillary in the primaries. No Dem loser in the general election has been re-nominated since Adlai, but then there was Nixon (GOP top-ticket nominee in 1960 and, winningly, in 1968) — an aberration in this as in so many other respects.

Conventional wisdom says that either Clinton or Obama would need a candidate from the Old South, or at least the West, to add geographic balance to the ticket. Modern wisdom might restrict that to Florida from the Old South, the biggest southern state that might realistically be hoped to go blue in 2008, but I'm not sure who that would be. But it is indeed possible to get to a majority even after writing off all of the Old South states and those low-population western states that are reliably GOP. Cold-eyed pragmatists in both the Clinton and the Obama camps must be thinking hard about whether a "dream ticket" with the two of them would be the way to do that.

(3) nk made the following comment | Feb 10, 2008 10:42:23 PM | Permalink

Obama and Hillary are both proxies. Obama is Richard M. Daley's proxy -- Daley "endorsed" him for the Presidency in December, 2006, before Obama had even announced. Hillary is Billy's proxy.

Obama will win the Democrat nomination because no Arkansas hack can succeed in the Democratic primary without the help of, let alone against, the Daley Machine.

It's going to be McCain vs. Obama in November and I hope that McCain is already planning his strategy while Obama is still trying to stave Hillary off.

(4) DRJ made the following comment | Feb 11, 2008 7:41:05 PM | Permalink

If we're going on gut feelings, my gut tells me Hillary may be floating the idea of Obama as her VP for another reason than to open a back channel for negotiations. I think her message may be directed at the public, not Obama, and the point is to show how reasonable she is and how willing she is to work with others for the good of her Party. In other words, Hillary wants to win and is reluctant to consider offering Obama a VP slot, but she might do it if necessary to make sure of a Democratic win in November.

(5) David Blue made the following comment | Feb 12, 2008 3:51:04 AM | Permalink

Barak Obama's "Yes We Can" supporters might forgive him for a defeat, giving him another chance next time, but they would never forgive him for giving up his peak ambition, by which I mean their fervent hopes, in a back room deal, without a fight.

That means, if Obama deals, he's destroyed, and not in the long run but quickly, since once he burns his support base he's got nothing to offer and no club to enforce any deals.

If there's one thing that's absolutely clear about Hilary Clinton it's that she will not honor her pledges unless compelled to. Barak Obama would not in any meaningful sense become the vice-president and heir apparent whatever happened.

Barak Obama would be a fool to deal.

(6) steve sturm made the following comment | Feb 12, 2008 8:04:46 AM | Permalink

Following up on David Blue's comment, about Hillary Clinton not being trustworthy...

Your discussions on who would benefit and who would be hurt by Obama taking the VP slot misses a big point. Why would he ever agree to drop out, if all he had was her supposed pledge to name him VP?

Unlike in civil proceedings, where the courts will enforce the settlement agreement, how would Obama ever enforce this agreement with Clinton? March into court and demand that she name him her choice? Demand that the courts force the Democratic delegates to vote to confirm the VP nomination? And failing recourse through the courts, can anyone see him announcing that Clinton screwed up (figuratively, of course) and urging them to vote for McCain?

No, Obama, for all of his faults, is surely smart enough to know that it's never a good idea to get into bed with a Clinton (again, figuratively). He'd pass.

(7) kimsch made the following comment | Feb 12, 2008 10:24:44 AM | Permalink

Who would want to be Hillary's number 3 (because Bill would be #2). The position would be largely ineffectual, just backup in case of death or incapacitation and President of the Senate to break ties.

For a western VP, why not Harry Reid? Or Nancy Pelosi? They've both been proven ineffectual....

(8) Carol Herman made the following comment | Feb 12, 2008 10:38:35 PM | Permalink

Sorry, but I discount Obama being Hillary's veep.

Politics is a strange game. Primaries "invite in" voting players. And, if I had to bet? Obama is receiving a lot of "cross-over" traffic ... where the GOP is just hoping they get Obama as a "condendah."

Sure. We can go into a convention like the one Lincoln got. In 1860. Lincoln was in 4th place. Behind 3 "favorite sons."

Trouble was the "favorite sons did not have national pull. So the 3 front-runners faded.

This tends to happen in races. Front-runners fade.

Can Hillary fade? Sure. But she's the donkeys best bet. Competent. And, she'd win 52% of the vote.

We've been watching elections pretty much split down the middle, anyway.

And, "whose gonna be veep" is probably more important to McCain, right now. Because he still has to attract your average GOP voter. Then, he has to hope for cross-over votes.

And, I'm not so sure anyone can call future events.

One thing Hillary won't want is an Obama. Or a GORE. Her husband got stuck with Gore. he was a newcomer back in 1992. And, he won when Ross Perot came out of the woodwork.

We still have some of that crap ahead, as well.

As party's go, the GOP ain't "healed."

And, the democrats aren't as moderate as Hillary. The media is not enthused about Hillary.

The media wasn't enthused about Ronald Reagan, either. But people forget.

And, we won't know much until people actually go out and vote.

Guiliani faded, though.

(9) hunter made the following comment | Feb 13, 2008 1:00:32 PM | Permalink

Hillary is losing this race big time. Short of vicious dirty tricks by her machine, this is over by March 5th.
I think this leak is an oblique threat to Obama, and a bit of inside pool to shore up Hillary's flagging morale.
Obama would be the worst sort of VP for Hillary, and Hillary would be the worst for BHO.

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