From time to time a conservative pundit has suggested that John McCain choose a Democrat for his vice presidential running mate. That usually has been met with howls of derision from other conservatives who find the notion preposterous. But is it?
The main reason is obvious: the untimely demise of McCain would allow a Democrat to ascend to the White House, forfeiting his party’s victory and reversing the popular mandate for a Republican president. (Let’s leave aside for now whether a McCain victory would represent a Republican mandate or a miracle, despite his party affiliation.)
But let’s consider if one specific Democrat, Senator Joseph Lieberman, might make sense as a VP selection for McCain. McCain at times has fueled speculation about Lieberman with effusive praise:
“He’d be a great partner in any endeavor, including joining America together,” McCain said in response to a question on the Lieberman factor. “Let’s reach across the aisle, let’s work together for America. That’s what Joe Lieberman is all about.”
Indeed, Lieberman would benefit McCain in at least four ways.
First, just as Al Gore helped reinforce a certain image (i.e., the New South moderate Democrat) rather than balance the ticket for Bill Clinton, Lieberman would offer proof that McCain is a bipartisan maverick, willing to bypass the demands of his party for the sake of his country. This would be an ideal way to end the divide between the parties and return, especially in foreign policy, to a unified spirit by selecting a Democrat, and one who himself put country above party in supporting an unpopular war.
Second, Lieberman can help him win a critical group essential to McCain’s victory: Democrats. Will Marshall, co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, noted recently that Lieberman would help McCain “run a campaign that transcends the limited reach of the Republican coalition.” The Republican brand has been damaged in the remains of the Bush administration. Party identification is down, the money advantage has been lost, and the generic poll numbers are atrocious.
McCain therefore must garner not just independents but many Democrats to win in November. So, what better way than to put one on the ballot with him and run as a unity ticket, masking to the greatest degree possible that McCain is, after all, a Republican? And yes, Lieberman could help lure already wary Jewish voters away from Barack Obama — although Obama’s supporters insist his Jewish support is solid.