Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun Times is reporting that the Obama campaign sees some urgency in the timing of picking a VP.

Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane flying from San Juan, PR to Chicago on Saturday, likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he will have to pick a running mate "quickly" once the primary and caucus votes are over.

One suspects the reasoning has something to do with the whole party unity thing, or perhaps they want to fuel the narrative that the nomination will be decided "when primary and caucus votes are over" but it should be noted that in 2004, John Kerry didn't announce his choice of John Edwards for VP until early July, a mere two weeks before the convention. A little amusing sidenote, the dailykos frontpage repeatedlyheralded the Edwards pick as "the people's choice." Wonder if they'll be calling on Obama to pick the people's choice this year. No?

Despite the near consensus view among the punditry class that Obama won't pick Clinton for VP, she is on all speculative shortlists I've seen. Marc Ambinder has her as last with Kathleen Sebelius at #1. Lynn Sweet (Ambinder says: "I trust her more than I trust myself!"), has the opposite view. The following is her first tier:

HILLARY CLINTON brings in supporters who delivered victories for her in key swing states; a female vote and instant Democratic "dream ticket" unity. Yet it will be hard for Obama to have a campaign for change with her as a partner. They have no chemistry. Obama would have to figure Bill Clinton would be part of the picture.

VIRGINIA GOV. TIM KAINE may bring in a Southern state, was one of Obama's earliest backers and Obama seems to enjoy being with him.

Obama, who has no military background, is looking for Republicans and independent votes. SEN. JIM WEBB, a freshman senator from Virginia, is a former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, a former Marine, speaks Vietnamese and comes from the South.

Several figures who backed Clinton from key swing states could fill the governing hole in Obama's resume and build a bridge to the Clinton supporters. They are Iowa Gov. TOM VILSACK, Ohio Gov. TED STRICKLAND and Indiana Sen. EVAN BAYH, a former governor.

As part of the hunt for those GOP and independent voters, Obama could look at Sen. CHUCK HAGEL (R-Neb.) and New York Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, now an independent.

Bringing up the rear:

Pro-Obama governors from swing states: Kansas Gov. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS and Arizona Gov. JANET NAPOLITANO. But if Obama passes over Clinton, it would backfire to put these lesser qualified women on the ticket.

I'm not sure in what world Kansas is a swing state, but this is not the first time I've heard this point made that Obama's picking a woman for VP who's not Hillary would be a really dumb move: if you're going to go with a woman, why not Hillary? It could piss more women off than it mollifies.

For me, the best non-Hillary choice is Jim Webb. Not only does he put Virginia even more in play than Obama himself puts it, but he shores up the whole foreign policy experience thing and, as a former Republican, Webb brings some thematic consistency to the ticket.

I'm intrigued by constant reference to Sam Nunn as a potential VP pick. Sweet mentions him among her choices. Nunn would be the equivalent of Bush's picking Cheney: someone from the old guard, chosen to mitigate fears about the candidate's lack of experience, but also someone who, presumably, would not run for president in 8 years (he turns 70 in September.) In a way, wouldn't the choice of Sam Nunn also be sort of a concession to Hillary Clinton, saying "I'm not picking you for VP, but you'll be the presumptive nominee in 8 years if you want it?"

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All Eyes Turn To Puerto Rico

The next primary contest is in Puerto Rico on June 1 and both candidates have taken their campaigns to the Carribean island territory this weekend.

During a one-day stop on the largely Spanish-speaking island, front-runner Barack Obama talked about veterans issues and his Republican rival Sen. John McCain before going on a parade-style walk through San Juan. [...]

She has one rally on Saturday and events on Sunday in the territory which is enjoying its moment in the political sun because of this year's prolonged Democratic primary season.

There are 55 pledged delegates + 8 superdelegates at stake in Puerto Rico. So far, according to DemConWatch, 4 supers have declared for Clinton and 2 for Obama. While, I agree with kos that the delegate tally does look absurdly hefty for a territory without general election voting rights, it should be remembered that PR was awarded 4 bonus pledged delegates for keeping its primary so late in the schedule.  

The most recent poll I could find, which was from April 10, showed Hillary Clinton leading 50%-37% with 13% undecided (h/t Talk Left.) Certainly Hillary is favored there, as would be expected, but if this is a baseline poll, then we're likely to see that margin close, especially since Barack is actually competing there, although one suspects Hillary will spend more time than he will in the territory.

But will it be enough for Hillary to gain enough in the popular vote to bolster her popular vote argument? A huge gain in Puerto Rico can probably put her over the top in the most inclusive of popular vote tallies, but lately there have been signs that she may not be able to count on as much of a net vote total out of PR as previously thought.

...Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, a Puerto Rican election expert who scoffed at the widely accepted estimate here on the mainland of a turnout of 1,000,000 voters in Puerto Rico's June 1 primary. [...]

...the one million figure is based on the astronomical turnout that marks some Puerto Rican elections that deal with the fraught issue of that island's status, and as Alvarez-Rivera told me, that sort of intensity probably won't spill over to a presidential primary. He suggested the real number would be around 600,000.

Add to this that...

Puerto Rico's Democratic Party has asked the Commonwealth Elections Commission to cut the number of polling places by 1,000, apparently due to a failure to find poll workers.

Hmm. The culprit, according to Alvarez-Rivera: the widely held belief that the nomination is all but secured and thus is merely a very expensive "irrelevancy." Perhaps visits by the candidates will reduce the level of apathy among the electorate there. Personally, I hope there's some real excitement regarding the vote n PR. I'll be in San Juan on the 31st & 1st to cover the primary in advance of the SEIU convention there, so here's hoping there's plenty to see.

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Is It Time to Write Off Obama?

I'm through.

Today's events have convinced me that I will not vote for Barack Obama.  Even though I have posted diaries since the North Carolina and Indiana primaries saying that Obama was the nominee, even though I said that I would support Obama in the fall, it was never enough.  Clinton continued to be painted as the Great Satan and her supporters his minions.

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Josh says "no context can save her" and maybe he's right, but I have to say that, while my first reaction upon reading the comments was "WTF?" after watching the video, I realized the point she was inartfully trying to make was simply that in 1968 the nomination fight was still going on in June. And indeed, the Clinton campaign's statement confirmed as much:

A Clinton campaign spokesman said Clinton "was simply referencing her husband in 1992 and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 as historical examples of the nomination process going well into the summer. Any reading beyond that would be inaccurate."

That context is important. Her intention is important. And it's not even parsing her words to come to the conclusion I did, nor is it some apologia, it was simply my honest reading of what she said as I heard her say them, as cringe-inducing as her choice of words was on the surface. The reason I feel it's important to make this point is that some in the diaries are saying "she was making the case that anything can happen." No, it would be inexcusable for her to raise that spectre in terms of 2008, she never would. Elsewhere I've seen it suggested that Hillary's comments demonstrate that she wishes harm to come to Barack Obama. And I'm just thinking to myself, wow, is this the point we've come to? In some corners of the blogosphere, the anti-Clinton derangement has risen to such a level that it's gone beyond the shit Republicans were peddling in the 90s? Truly amazing. Josh, of course, is making a much different point, one which I respect, although don't necessarily share.

For me, honestly, it was nothing more than an unfortunate choice of historical references and as her apology makes clear, she would agree (over the fold.)

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The Realignment We've Been Waiting For

Yesterday, Chris Bowers created a fascinating electoral map that shows the best case scenario of how an Obama/Clinton ticket would fare against McCain/generic running mate by assigning states according to the best performance by either Obama or Clinton against McCain in general election match-ups. As you can imagine, the result was...well...

The result is a blowout, where Democrats hold a statistically significant lead in states with 300 electoral votes, and McCain's "solid" states drop to under 100 electoral votes. If Democrats were to gain only five more points on this map, an entirely doable proposition given the overwhelming Democratic advantage among fundraising and volunteers, and this is a realignment map. At that point, Democrats would win over 400 electoral votes, something we have not accomplished since 1964.

This sort of realignment was always the promise that an Obama candidacy represented, transformation via building an "American majority," but so far it's just not manifesting itself in any meaningful way. Sure, it's still early and yes, Obama regularly beats McCain in national general election match-ups, but looking at the whole picture, Bowers today concludes Obama is not favored in the general election. It's not the way most Obama supporters saw it going down, but more and more it's becoming clear that the best way to fulfill that transformative electoral potential is to add Hillary Clinton to an Obama ticket. Doing otherwise is asking for another 50+1 victory, if that.

MSNBC made an interesting point yesterday. There's been a lot of handwringing lately about how many Democrats are threatening to vote for John McCain in the general if their candidate doesn't win the nomination. In Kentucky, for example, MSNBC exit polls show 32% of Democrats would vote for John McCain if Barack Obama is the nominee. On its face, that seems rather high but MSNBC took the next step and looked back to 2004 and found that actually 30% of Kentucky Democrats voted for George W. Bush against John Kerry. In other words, maybe Democrats aren't more divided than usual after all this year; at the same time, however, it suggests that Obama might really just John Kerry 2.0. On the other hand, only 17% of Kentucky Democrats said they would vote for John McCain if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. She cuts McCain defectors by 50%. That is pretty remarkable.

Not that Kentucky is going to go to the Democrats no matter who is on the ticket, but, as Bowers says:

...we are not going to achieve a realignment unless we win all of the states where one candidate or the other is strong. We need Obama's strength in Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington. We also need Clinton's strength in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia. If we are going to truly realign the country, we need to win all of those states, plus a few others like Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana, four seemingly red states where both candidates are performing reasonably well.

In other words, we need to combine the Clinton coalition with the Obama coalitions, rather than arguing over whose coalition is superior.

Indeed. And, how better to do this than to put both candidates on the ticket?

Chris also makes some points that echo some of my own sentiments from a couple weeks ago.

And really, when one looks over the conservative crop of names that are being floated for VP, like Strickland, Webb, and Bayh, isn't Clinton actually preferable to all of them, too? Not to mention that we are going to have to heal the party, and giving Clinton the VP slot is probably the fastest way to do so.

In order to get a real sense of the extent to which adding Clinton to an Obama ticket would prevent defections to McCain and solidify Obama's support in some of the states where she is strongest, every pollster that polls Obama v. McCain and Clinton v. McCain should also poll how McCain performs against the two Democrats on the ticket together. Why they're not already is beyond me.

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