IF YOU DO PICK HER, WAIT UNTIL LATE

I've long been an advocate of candidates running together as a presidential and vice presidential slate through the primaries, something only I and Chuck Todd in this town seem to think makes sense. (I wrote a piece in 2005 advocating this strategy. He did too but the link is broken.)

Anyway, now that Barack Obama has won the nomination, my initial reflex is that he ought to choose quickly—not rashly, of course, just quickly—and build a shadow cabinet of sort outward from there. Today the Obama campaign announced that Caroline Kennedy will join former Clinton Administration aide Eric Holder and Democratic strategist Jim Jordan  Johnson the vice presidential search committee. However, I would add one very important qualifier: If Obama is leaning toward picking Hillary Clinton, he ought to wait as long as possible until Denver, whereas if, as I suspect, he's not going to pick her he ought to move much quicker.

Here's my water-tight, don't-even-try-arguing-with-me logic:

If he is leaning toward picking Hillary, Obama ought to make her wait--not as some comes-around-goes-around, spiteful move, but rather as a courtship period in which she (and, of course, husband Bill) have a chance to show just how much they meant it all those times they promised that they would help unify the party and do everything in their power to defeat John McCain. I'm not advising they jerk her around, but merely give her a trial period and then, if Bill continues to be a problem or whatever, have a fallback candidate or two in mind.

If, on the other hand, he is not really leaning toward her, Obama ought to do it sooner rather than later because (a) as a few commentators on TV have suggested, correctly, it just allows the "dream ticket" discussion to continue to dog him and steal headlines from him for the rest of the summer; and (b) relatedly, the worst thing Obama could do, in the interest of party unity, is to appear to have strung her along all summer and before pulling the rug out from under her. Perhaps the better metaphor is the removing of a Band-Aid: It’s gonna hurt either way for Clinton supporters, so better to do it quickly. (You don’t want die-hard Clinton fans all fired up in the airports on the way to Denver when word leaks out that Obama has picked somebody else.)

But again, if he’s not going to pick Hillary, he ought to move quickly: Having a second candidate (and spouse) to run around the country, raise money, earn media nationally and locally, and start taking shots at McCain is a good idea. And though announcing the week of the convention gives that event an extra boost, convention week gets ample coverage anyway.

--Tom Schaller

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