Why Barack Needs Hillary
Many Democrats still see the pair as the ultimate dynamic duo — and the best shot at victory in November.
July 3, 2008 - 11:10 am
Does Obama need Clinton? Or do they actually now need each other? Or maybe it’s the Democrats who need them both.
After all, not long after the journalistic stories started popping on President Clinton’s “kiss his ass” line, you had Hillary’s former campaign director Terry McAuliffe on CNN saying Bill and Barack would talk within “24 hours.” The next thing you knew, the Democratic nominee reached out in a call to WJC, then released a statement to calm the clattering.
“Senator Obama had a terrific conversation with President Clinton and is honored to have his support in this campaign. He has always believed that Bill Clinton is one of this nation’s great leaders and most brilliant minds, and looks forward to seeing him on the campaign trail and receiving his counsel in the months to come,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
Can’t have the only two-term Democratic president in modern history seen to be dissing the current nominee, especially since the former’s wife not only finished in a virtual tie for the nomination battle, but now is the strongest female political vote getter in Democratic Party history, having far greater importance today than when she began running in 2007. Hillary Clinton’s star has not stopped rising after losing the nomination, especially in the demographics battle Obama is looking at in order to reach 270 electoral votes. Obama’s “new” map to win in November is still far from certain. It’s just one reason some are saying Obama may need Hillary to seal the deal. He certainly cannot do it without her.
The question remains, in what way would the Obama — Hillary team work best? Some clearly believe it’s in the vice presidential slot, part of what Gail Sheehy reports in her Vanity Fair piece for August. As an aside, I bumped into Ms. Sheehy at Clinton’s big generational women’s event in Washington, D.C, when she was talking to people about the pending outcome of the race. Her piece touches on all sorts of elements, including the inevitable swirling veep rumors:
Later that month Bill Clinton let it be known, through anonymous friends who talked to Time magazine and The New York Times, that “if she’s not going to be the nominee, then [Bill] wants her in the second spot.” ABC News’s chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, reported that Bill believed his wife had “earned the offer of vice president.”
Anonymous friends of Bill Clinton? Having covered Clinton for the last eighteen months, I learned long ago to not buy into any blind, anonymous, once removed, an adviser said, a close Clinton confidant told me, on condition on anonymity quotes that reveal anything at all revelatory, let alone something as important as “Bill believed his wife had ‘earned the offer of vice president.’” No matter the respect of the reporter writer the tale, most of this stuff turns out to be untrue.
That said, there is a huge amount of truth in the substance of that particular Bill quote, anonymous or not, because many Clinton supporters agree with it, so how could WJC not? After winning 17 million votes, finishing stronger than the nominee, with a voting base he doesn’t have, why wouldn’t Senator Obama seriously consider Hillary Clinton as his top choice as running mate?
When you look at Obama’s electoral map, the supposed new road he intends to draw to 270, the hill is a hard one to climb, with no proof even Barack Obama’s 50-state strategy will do it, regardless of his die hard supporter’s delusional dreams about “winning without Ohio and Florida.” Thomas Schaller, someone I’ve interviewed a couple of times on the Democratic folly of courting the southern vote, recently wrote that regardless of what Obama’s team thinks, The South Will Fall Again to Republicans.
… Mississippi, the state with the nation’s highest percentage of African-Americans in its population, illustrates how difficult Mr. Obama’s task will be in the South. Four years ago, President Bush beat John Kerry there by 20 points. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Mr. Obama could increase black turnout in Mississippi to 39 percent of the statewide electorate, up from 34 percent in 2004, according to exit polls. And let’s assume that Mr. Obama will win 95 percent of those voters, up from the 90 percent who voted for Mr. Kerry four years ago.
If that happened, the black vote would yield Mr. Obama 37 percent of Mississippi’s statewide votes. To get the last 13 percent he needs for a majority, Mr. Obama would need to persuade a mere 21 percent of white voters in Mississippi to support him. Sounds easy, right?
But only 14 percent of white voters in the state supported Mr. Kerry. Mr. Obama would need to increase that number by 7 percentage points – a 50 percent increase. Mr. Obama struggled to attract white Democrats in states like Ohio and South Dakota. It strains credulity to believe that he will attract three white voters in Mississippi for every two that Mr. Kerry did….
I’ve never been convinced of Obama’s “new” map, worried that even though Senator Obama’s strengths are real, he could win the popular vote down south, but still leave the majority of these states to McCain, which would have our side falling short electorally in a year that is the Democrats to lose. So if Schaller is correct and Obama can’t turn the south beyond popular vote, one becomes even more convinced she’s the one. See West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio… and Florida.
Obama’s got to be asking himself who can deliver what he cannot? A national security veep is important, but what state can he or she deliver? Bill Clinton can certainly coax out rural voters who love him, making them more comfortable with a President Obama. But as good as Bill is he’s no Hillary, whose star has now risen to equal status of any other, especially since the race has opened out on to Hillary standing very much alone, without Bill, having found her voice, her stride, and full political independence from her president husband. Finishing at the top of her game with her power base still intact, not to mention grumbling, instead of dimming, Hillary’s influence and importance is considerably greater than when she started. Nobody can talk middle class economics like Clinton who can attach a voter’s concerns to real solutions she understands and can explain, something Obama can’t yet match, with John McCain still hopelessly befuddled on the subject.
Clinton’s recent speech in Unity, New Hampshire not only reminded everyone of what these two candidates bring separately, but how they stack up side-by-side as a team. It also re-electrified and reinvigorated her supporters, drove home to ambivalent Obama supporters what her substance adds to his star power, making it clear that even though each are strong in their own right, equals even, they look and sound unbeatable together.