A Clinton-Obama Ticket?
Every weekday, members of the Washington Post political team take your questions on politics. Here are highlights from today's chat with Peter Baker.
Washington: A lot of people are predicting a Clinton-Obama ticket on the Democratic side; I think Giuliani is the latest to say this. Do political reporters out there have any sense of how Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama view each other personally? I assume there is at least mutual respect for one another, but would it be accurate to characterize them as friends?
Peter Baker: It's a good question and one I'm not sure I know enough about to answer. From what other reporters have told me, I get the sense that they certainly started off with respect for one another, but any campaign will usually inject some bitterness into the relationship. I think you can see that in the comments of their staffers. That doesn't mean they won't be able to team up if it comes to that. John Kerry and John Edwards clearly had no love lost for each other and yet formed a ticket together. Having said that, maybe their ticket would have been more successful if they did like each other a little more.
New York: I was really struck by your story about the former Bushies -- I got the impression that most of them are more tortured by the slower pace of their post-White House lives than they are by the messy situation they're leaving behind (Iraq, Justice, poor GOP prospects, unpopular president, etc.). Is there anyone who actually questions the substance -- as opposed to the style -- of their work for the administration?
Peter Baker: I think there's a mix of emotional and intellectual reactions. Some of them probably question the substance more than others, but remember, most of them still feel very loyal toward the president (particularly while he's still in office) and many of them are very invested in what they've done. Like anybody in any White House, you want to believe that all the hard work you've put in was toward some greater purpose. And the history of this White House ultimately will not be written in its seventh year but long after it is over, although we can certainly guess at how it will look given what we know now.
Washington: Who do you think would be on Gov. Romney's short list for vice president? I figure he must balance the concerns of social conservatives -- which points to, say, a Mike Huckabee -- but also could use some foreign policy heft since he is a one-term former governor running for president in a post-Sept. 11 world. Who fits that bill?
Peter Baker: Fascinating question, but obviously a little premature, don't you think? He's got a ways to go to win the nomination first. But as long as we're playing the parlor game -- and no one loves the parlor game more than we do at the Post -- then I'd say appealing to the right may be less of a concern if he has already won the nomination. Particularly so because if he does win the nomination, it will be by positioning himself as the more conservative alternative to Rudy Giuliani. The usual pattern is to pick a vice president who broadens your appeal rather than microtargets it and you're right that he might want to pick someone who gives reassurance in terms of foreign policy experience in a time of war. But you and I could map a hundred different scenarios for how things will look by the time we get to next summer.
Roseland, N.J.: An odd side effect from the rumblings of Dobson and the religious right threatening they might back a third party candidate if Giuliani were the nominee: Is it possible this provides an opening for billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg? Not to run as a third party- but as a fourth party! He'd have fewer qualms about throwing the election one way or the other, and he'd have a much lower threshhold to actually winning some states.
Peter Baker: Speaking of parlor games! We all love to spin out scenarios, to be sure, and this would be a fun one. The best race I ever covered was the 1994 Senate race in Virginia when we had four major candidates for much of the campaign -- Democratic incumbent Chuck Robb, Republican nominee Ollie North, former Democratic governor Doug Wilder running as an independent and former Republican attorney general Marshall Coleman running as an independent. (Wilder eventually dropped out just before election day and threw his support to Robb, ensuring his reelection). But as much as we might think a multi-candidate race would be interesting and open up American politics, the Dobson scenario assumes Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination and if Hillary Clinton hangs on and wins the Democratic nomination, it's harder to see room for a third New Yorker in the race.
Washington: What are your thoughts on whether tomorrow's GOP Debate could be a make-or-break for Fred Thompson?
Peter Baker: I don't know about make-or-break, but it's certainly an important moment for his campaign. It will be the first time he participates in one of these debates and the first time many Republicans get a real look at him. Expectations are high enough given the Hollywood buzz he brought to his candidacy that it may be hard for him to meet them. And a lot of candidates aren't very good their first time out in one of these debates, but in this case, all the others have had quite a few under their belt to polish their performances while Senator Thompson will be coming in cold. So it's a challenging and critical moment for him.
South Bend, Ind.: Mr. Baker, this presidential election has a lot of people asking "are we ready for a woman president" or "are we ready for a black president." But there are also questions about Gov. Romney. My question to you is, do you think America is ready for a president ... whose first name is actually Willard?
Peter Baker: Question of the day! At least Willard is better than Millard and we had one of those, right?
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