Overall, I wouldn’t put the chances of Obama replacing Biden at this stage very high, perhaps 25 percent on a good day.
If he emerged on the DNC stage with Hillary Clinton, though, it would produce web-busting headlines and rally both the Democratic base and the moderates who preferred Hillary in 2008. And Mitt Romney needs moderates.
But to avoid embarrassment and overshadowing a campaign with drama, Obama would have to ask Biden behind the scenes to step down for a reason other than his big mouth. There would have to be some illness or personal reason blamed, something for which Biden would have to swallow his pride. And I don’t see Biden agreeing, unless perhaps a crack hit squad was holding Scranton hostage, only to be spared upon Biden’s reluctant approval.
There’s the Dave option, where you secretly replace Biden with a lookalike temp-agency owner who fools the masses into thinking that the VP is normal. But the minute the not-Biden refuses to answer a knock-knock joke with a double-header about Irish and lubrication and a priest and rabbi, then his cover would be shot.
There’s also the matter of whether Hillary would want to jump on a ticket with Obama. Indicators are that she can’t wait to leave the administration, evidenced not only by rumblings that she’s had longtime policy partings with Obama in the State Department but by her Colombia dance party. Ego is not a foreign concept to the Clintons (can you ever have seen Bill being someone’s veep?), and if Hillary knows that she can helm a ticket and hears the excited Democratic “Hillary 2016″ chatter, she’d more than likely want to bide her time for the spotlight moment.
Every campaign has an Achilles’ heel, which is also in this case a Catch-22. To replace Biden at this stage would be an admittance of first-term failure by Obama and even a look of desperation considering this point in the election cycle. To replace Biden with Hillary would offer a jolt to a re-election effort that the president may find simply irresistible.
But a switcheroo would also require willing players, and this part of the equation could turn a strategic campaign move into a big public relations mess. The White House may be willing to just take the risk that Biden, who is well-received in his small-town Dairy Queen stops, can go out on the trail, make a few dumb comments, be a laughingstock, but not a deal-killer.
If they do go for a switcheroo and Hillary appears on the ticket, the Romney camp is in for heartburn.
In the meantime, Biden appearances will continue to be the most interesting transcripts to come out of the White House, breaking the monotony of Obama’s student-loan blather,Valerie Jarrett’s war on women, and Jay Carney’s briefings that make even conservatives miss Robert Gibbs.