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August 8, 2008 8:32 AM CDT

Thoughts on Obama's Veep Choices


As a follow up to my previous post on my picks for John McCain’s running mate, here are my thoughts on the contenders on the Democratic side. First the likely choices:

Evan Bayh – Probably the most well-rounded top-tier candidate to be Obama’s Vice Presidential pick. Served two terms as Indiana’s governor and ended his governorship with an 80% approval rating. His post-partisan, Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)-style views firmly mesh with Barack Obama’s message of ‘Change’ and post-partisanship. His youth coupled with his popularity in Indiana and his hawkish views on China could help Obama win over Indiana and other Rust Belt states hit hard by the forces of globalization. Downsides include that he is a pro-life Democrat, which would be an anathema to the radical pro-choice wing of the party. His resume is so strong that people would wonder why he is the Vice President and Obama is the President.

Tim Kaine – A recent addition to Veep list, fifty year old Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has ridden a rising Democratic tide in Virginia that has seen a Democratic takeover of the state Senate and gains in the House of Delegates. A devout Catholic, Kaine opposes both the death penalty and abortion but has presided over executions and opposes overturning Roe vs. Wade. His position as governor of a rapidly changing swing state and as a beltway outsider boost his chances. In addition, his pro-life Catholic credentials may help Obama with the 77 million-strong Catholics in the United States. Collectively they would have little over four years of collective experience. His approval in Virginia hovers at or below fifty percent and his list of accomplishment is weak.

Joe Biden – The most experienced out of all the Vice Presidential aspirants, Joe Biden would bring twenty five years of Senatorial experience to the ticket. Biden brings a wealth of foreign policy experience to the ticket having chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for eight years and served as ranking member for eighteen years. However, his repeated verbal gaffes during his Presidential campaign may hurt his chances. No executive experience. Would be the safest of all picks, but electorally he doesn’t help Obama. If Obama is continuing his ‘play it safe’ strategy, he’ll pick Biden.

Kathleen Sebelius – Although much of the Veep speculation is centering on Tim Kaine, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius would be an equally formidable candidate. Helped turn eliminate a $1.1 billion debt and balanced the state’s government in her first year in office. Combined with Obama, they would have about five years of experience. Picking a woman besides

Hillary Clinton – Given the bitterness of the primary and the cold peace between her and Obama since the end of the primary, Hillary seems at this point an unlikely pick. Her speaking slot at the DNC convention seems to indicate that she isn’t under consideration. However, the recent move by her and her supporters for a convention vote may indicate that something is brewing behind the scenes. I think she is the strongest pick for Obama. He’ll only pick Hillary if he thinks he needs her to win. Currently he isn’t running his campaign scared, and I think he won’t pick her.

Here is what I feel are the ‘long shots’:

Chet Edwards – An extremely dark horse choice, Texas Congressman Chet Edwards has been recently pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi for his centrist record and his work with veterans. Would strengthen Obama’s relationship with the House if elected. His setbacks include almost no national name recognition, executive experience, or the ability to swing Texas to the Obama column.

Ed Rendell – Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell would be a viable choice if Obama wants to bring Hillary and her supporters back into his camp. Has executive experience as the Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania. His downside is that he has been enmeshed in old-style machine politics, which would clash with Obama’s “Change” message. Persistent rumors of possible personal issues. He can move Pennsylvania out of the tossup column, a state that Obama has to win.

Claire McCaskill – A female swing state senator that could help Obama tilt Missouri in her column. Has been a vocal Obama supporter since the early Democratic primaries. Publically claims to not have been asked to undergo the vetting process.

Chuck Hagel – Has recently accompanied Obama during his visits to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Has been a vocal critic of McCain’s attacks on Obama. His service in Vietnam would provide a competing narrative to McCain’s.

Bill Richardson – Brings an impressive resume and from a swing state. The persistant rumors of personal issues damage his chances.

Other long shots are Senators Mark Pryor and Bill Nelson. They are from southern states and moderate, which would add to his ‘change’ appeal.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts!

About the Author

Matthew B. Keelen, founder and President of the government affairs firm The Keelen Group, is a widely known and highly regarded lobbyist and political strategist with experience building relationships with key figures and a reputation for consistently delivering hard-earned victories. Acknowledged for his innate ability to establish and develop long lasting political relationships, Keelen has dozens of time-tested relationships with Members of Congress, including many who are in positions of considerable influence today. To learn more about The Keelen Group, visit


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