If he wins, might Obama choose a different running-mate in 2012?
I posted a comment about a month ago raising a question that has been asked by several people on here, and that becomes more pertinent with the selection of Joe Biden as his running mate:
Might Obama choose ‘an old hand’ in 2008 to allay fears about his inexperience, but then (if he wins) choose ‘a potential successor’ when running for re-election in 2012?
The initial premise has been supported by the choosing of Biden, who with 36 years in the Senate, and the Chairmanship of the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees under his belt, is one of Capitol Hill’s seasoned veterans. He has been selected to bolster Obama’s perceived weakness on foreign policy and his relative inexperience of federal government.
This may be precisely what is required to re-assure voters, ensuring Obama is elected President in November. There can be no doubt, either, that Biden is more than qualified to act as Vice President and preside over the Senate. However, in eight years’ time, Joe Biden will be almost 70, and unlikely (in my opinion) to win either his party’s nomination, or the Presidency. Democrats have struggled to win two consecutive terms (only Wilson, FDR and Clinton have done so) and the record of two-term Vice Presidents winning the Presidency is not great either (I believe only George HW Bush has ever done so).
Biden is, in some senses, an excellent choice for a 46-year-old candidate who needs to affirm that his administration will not suffer from a lack of experience. However, Obama will not need that ballast once he has served four years as President. I cannot see that Biden adds anything in particular to a re-election ticket, nor do I think he would be a successful candidate in eight years’ time. Does this imply that, if Obama wins, he might be replaced in 2012?
There is a fair track record of Presidents considering changing their VP when running for reelection (being elected ‘separately’ in the Electoral College means they alone in the Executive Brach cannot be fired by the President – all POTUS can do is not include them on the ticket next time). FDR had no compunctions about doing precisely that – he dropped two VPs before Truman was chosen – but other Presidents have been more squeamish. Wilson kept Marshall for reasons of party unity (the man was considered a buffoon), Eisenhower considered dropping Nixon in 1956 but didn’t, and Nixon himself considered replacing Agnew with former-Governor and Treasury Secretary John Conally (D-TX). Reagan apparently never considered that he would retain GHW Bush, but after they won in 1980 was sufficiently content not to make any changes.
If Obama wins, and is successfully re-elected, then there are only four paths for Biden’s future. To be replaced after one term (joining such luminaries as Aaron Burr, Schulyer Colfax and Henry Wallace), to not be even the nominee of his party in eight years (John Garner, Thomas Marshall, or Dick Cheney), to become the nominee and to lose the General Election (Al Gore, or Richard Nixon in 1960), or to win the Presidency after two terms as VP (George HW Bush). The fourth being so unlikely, I think the first is by far the most attractive option unless, like Cheney, he makes it clear that he will not even seek his party’s nomination. The Democrats, however, cannot afford to surrender incumbency so readily.
If Democrats want to start dreaming about a third term, there might be pressure placed upon Obama to consider Mark Warner, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, or Harold Ford Jr on the ticket as an investment in the future. If Obama-Biden proves to be a winning ticket, one of these might prove a great value investment for ‘next Vice President’ some time in January 2009.
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