Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Winning Strategy, Redux

In November, before a single vote was matriculated, Global Review responded to a desperate letter from an undisclosed candidate for the presidency.
Dear Chops,

I have kissed babies and hugged grandfathers. I have lied glowingly about my love for ethanol. I have conducted push polls, opposed free-trade agreements with key allies, and pandered to the far *****. I have spent $50 per caucus-goer in Iowa. Yet I'm still mired in *th place in the polls. What do I need to do to really pull away from the pack?
As you may recall, Global Review recommended the ground-breaking step of picking a Vice President early - even before the primaries started. For the two candidates still competing, this remains good advice.
A well-balanced ticket is now far more valuable in primaries than in the general election. Vice Presidents have lost much of their cachet as "ticket balancers" in recent general elections, as polarity and national party machines overwhelm regional loyalty. It's possible that a selection from Ohio or Florida could swing a close election your way - but close elections are the exception, not the rule. Besides, the way you're going, you won't get the chance to run in the general election. But in the primaries, name-recognition is low and voters get to vote their hearts. Your VP selection will allow voters to swallow objections to your support for *****. It will also help them take your "change of heart" on ***** seriously. And if they're worried about your lack of ***** experience, a good VP has you covered.

Choosing a VP at this stage also signals electability and leadership. It's like an endorsement, but with real commitment. There's an old saw that in a ham-and-egg breakfast, the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. An endorser is involved, but a VP is committed. Voters who respect the VP will take his or her commitment as a strong signal that you are electable. Picking a VP - provided the choice is not silly - also shows that you are thinking about January 2009 as well as January 2008. While your opponents are trying to distill their policy proposals into soundbites, you can decisively make one of the most important and digestible judgments of your presidency and submit it to the voters.
Clinton and Obama are completely stuck in their relative demographics, says David Brooks. Obama outspent Clinton 3-to-1 in Pennsylvania, but barely budged the polls. How can he edge her in the crucial contests of Indiana and North Carolina? By picking a running mate: an older, whiter, more experienced party dean (not Howard) who can assuage rural Democrats misgivings about the pretty boy from the big city. Politico suggests Bob Casey, but possibilities abound.

Clinton could do the same, though perhaps her choice is less obvious. Picking a black running mate might be most effective - but it would appear craven at this stage, and few high-profile blacks will line up behind her. Bill Richardson is her obvious choice, but he has little cachet in the remaining states. Clinton loyalist Evan Bayh is oft-mentioned, but naming him before Indiana votes would be crass, and naming him afterward would be ineffective.

Neither candidate has complete rein to pick the party's VP nominee - but if the selection proves effective in the primaries, the party convention is unlikely to veto the choice. As I wrote in November, an early VP selection actually augments the electoral process: voters are making a more-informed choice.
The new system - which everyone will adopt in 2012 after you win this nomination - promotes positive aspects of democracy, like compromise and balance, instead of the polarity of the old solo-primary system.


cory said...

Chops! you're back! hooray!

Gandhi said...

A good idea. Only qualm is that waiting it puts more incentive on other candidates you knock out to support you. But your approach is a more proactive one.