It seems now that Obama is facing a tougher general election fight than many people thought. Conventional wisdom dictated that whoever wins the Democratic primary will be well poised for a decisive win in November. No one disputed it-- with high energy prices, the mortgage meltdown, a really really dumb asshole in the White House, the War, and a Republican candidate who admits to not knowing much about the economy, while appearing very trigger happy and excited to fight other wars.
Obama is in a funk. The recent Saddleback faux debate exposes the weakness of our Democratic nominee. While we all agree that he is more nuanced and thoughtful, low information idiot undecided voters like black-and-white distinctions and declarative sentences. The problem with being "cerebral" (and I hate that being cerebral is ever a problem, having a Ph.D. myself, thinking for a living) is that the kind of passion that it involves isn't the visceral type. Like Kerry before him, and Gore before him, his ability to see grey and to be intellectually honest isn't winning the sectors that the Democrats need to go over the top.
Obama needs help. Apart from African Americans and the liberal base, no other group seems genuinely excited about Obama. In fairness, McCain ain't doing well among the traditional Republican interest groups either. But what will ultimately hurt us is the weakened support for the Democratic nominee among older women and among women in general:
Of special concern are women, particularly older ones, whom in the past could be counted on to vote for whatever Democrat was running for president. Many remain scandalized by the sexist attacks on Clinton during the recent campaign. A stubborn 18 percent of Clinton's female voters vow to back McCain, according to a poll for Lifetime television networks. Another 6 percent plan to support neither major-party candidate.
In close races, this shift can prove to be decisive for the Republican.
We need a boost of excitement in the Democratic ticket. In a poll of Democratic delegates, Hillary Clinton's name has come up far more often than any other name as their choice for the VP:
More than a third of Democratic delegates offered no opinion about who they want Mr. Obama to choose as his vice-presidential nominee. But among those who did state a preference, Senator Clinton was the overwhelming favorite, with 28 percent of Democratic delegates (including about as many men as women) saying they would like her to be on the ticket.
Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, placed a distant second, with 6 percent of those surveyed backing him. No one else garnered more than 5 percent support; Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina (presumably in interviews conducted before his public acknowledgment of an extra-marital affair) were each named by 4 percent of delegates. Other mentions included Senator Jim Webb of Virginia (3 percent), Gov. Tim Kaine (2 percent) of Virginia and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (2 percent) of Kansas.
Sebelius? Kaine? Webb? Bayh? If Obama picks these lightweights, there shall be no change in the level of vigor and excitement. And if things continue to be the way they are, we should say goodbye to Ohio, Florida, Missouri, and Virginia. And oh, by the way, the White House too.
Hillary Clinton is a fighter. She is the roll-up-your-sleeves problem solver that we like, a tireless advocate, an inspiration to many women and men. She can also sling mud with the best of them. Republicans fear her. She is single minded in a fight, and you betcha she'll be the toughest person on John McCain than anyone else. She's very effective when talking about our economic anxieties. She gets it. More importantly, she appears to get it. She will bring back those disaffected Democrats, the older women who passionately voted for her in the primaries. The Democratic party will begin to restore their reputation among women, which if left languishing in its current state, will be the most damaging effect of this election that will reverberate in many election cycles to come.
Clinton baggage? Bill Clinton? Paradoxically, the best way to solve Obama's "Clinton problem" is to name Hillary as her partner. This will galvanize the Clintons and their ardent supporters and fundraisers to work for the ticket, thereby turning off any real and perceived divisions among factions and among personalities.
We need a united party to win in November. What's the best way to achieve this? I challenge you to come up with a better solution. I believe that naming Hillary Clinton as VP will instantly change the dynamics of the race, and will heal the rifts that have torn our party apart much faster than any other act. Victory will follow the Obama/Clinton ticket.