You Must Be Joe-king
While I was taking a break from the relentless celebrity back-and-forth between John McCain and Barack Obama earlier today, I came across this head-scratcher of an item from ABC News reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg. She reports that top advisers in the McCain campaign, in their search for a transformative vice presidential pick, are looking toward…wait for it…Joe Lieberman. After I checked my desk calendar to make sure that today is indeed July 31st, rather than April 1st, I actually gave this scenario a few minutes of serious thought.
Given the criteria for running mate selection that I have set out in previous posts, a Lieberman pick works in one respect, but fails in at least two others, and thus would be problematic for McCain. As I wrote yesterday, a presidential nominee should pick a running mate for whom he has a genuine personal affinity. Lieberman certainly fulfills this requirement (as does Senator Lindsay Graham). His close friendship with McCain is well-documented, and he is often visible at campaign events just off McCain's shoulder, even stepping in to aid his buddy when circumstances require it.
But I’ve also made the case that presidential nominees should not dip back into the pool of failed party tickets for a running mate. I think this holds even with the novelty of having a non-Republican (unless Lieberman changes his affiliation) on the Republican ticket. Lieberman would draw voter focus back to the contentious presidential election of 2000, rather than to the future, in what by all accounts is a change election. Lieberman had his one good chance with Al Gore, and I don’t see him summiting that peak again.
Finally, for all the speculative talk of a cross-party unity ticket in the past few years, my sense is that voters would not know quite what to make of a former Democratic nominee for vice president joining the Republican ticket. The theory is that choosing Lieberman would shake up the campaign narrative and cement McCain’s standing with moderates and independents, without whom he is unlikely to win in November. But it would also roil conservatives mightily and further mobilize Democrats who are already highly irritated with Lieberman’s behavior over the past few years. So, while the idea was sufficient to take me away from cultural (and now political) reference points Britney Spears and Paris Hilton for a few minutes, I just don’t see it happening.
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