With Mitt Romney's departure from the Republican primary race, the whole dynamic of this election season has changed.
Before I go further, let me make the following disclaimer. I already endorsed Barack Obama because I think he is the most inspiring candidate the Democrats have. So, any accusation that the following remarks are cold, calculating and Machiavellian, while it might be true, is also besides the point. I already gave my support to Obama for all the right reasons.
So, here goes.
If you are still an undecided, one of the best reasons to cast your vote for Obama this coming Tuesday - Potomac Tuesday - is because he is the least polarizing candidate and the one the conservatives, sorely disenchanted with John McCain, will not come out to defeat. If you need further proof, see here and here. Admittedly it's an extreme view getting much push back on Bearing Drift. But it is representative of other comments I've been reading and hearing from disgruntled conservatives.
As much as I personally admire Hillary Clinton and believe the whole cottage industry dedicated to hating the Clintons is pathological, it can't be ignored. Hillary is, if possible, even more polarizing than Bill and with far less reason. It is unfair.
And spare me the crap about how the Clintons brought it on themselves. He got a blow job, ok. He didn't lead this country into an illegal, immoral and strategically totally unnecessary war. He didn't wreck the economy. He didn't turn his back on residents of the lower Ninth Ward. In fact, under Bill Clinton, FEMA was one of the best run agencies in a largely efficient and effective government.
Nevertheless, Hillary even manages to divide Democrats. And she's the one person who will bring out the Republicans in droves no matter how much they dislike McCain.
It's not that those Republicans will vote for Obama as a protest vote. They won't. Nor will they necessarily reach across the aisle for bipartisan solutions to problems like health care reform or the subprime lending crisis. They won't do that either.
But if Obama is the Democratic nominee, many of them will sit out the election. Indeed, some are even looking forward to the Republican Party losing. They see this as much needed discipline for the GOP. From their point of view, the Republican Party has betrayed its conservative values and deserves to lose so that it can turn inward, reassess its ideals, purge the moderates who have taken it down this disastrous path, and then emerge as a smaller, purer and better party that recaptures the public's trust. Once it emerges from defeat, in four years, the GOP will once again deserve to be the party that wins. Right now, to many conservatives, it no longer deserves victory.
And tactically, conservatives want to illustrate graphically to the GOP insiders that without their support, the party cannot win. If they can't actually control their party, then at least they can be the spoilers who keep it from winning elections. Or, at least, that's their hope.
Unless Hillary is the nominee. Then all bets are off and they will rally to whoever the candidate is.
But equally important, regardless of whether the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I think the Democrats would do well to put up a vice presidential candidate with strong military credentials and credibility to serve as a counterweight to McCain. Especially if the presidential nominee is Obama, it would serve him well to eliminate any fear about his relative inexperience in foreign policy to have somebody of the stature of Jim Webb as his running mate.
Now in the past, whenever the topic of Webb as a vice presidential contender has come up, I've been a staunch naysayer.
Webb is too independent, too much of a maverick. Those have been my arguments. I don't think he'd be happy as the subordinate member of a team. But I hope that for the good of the party he'd be willing to put some of those tendencies aside.
The role of vice president has changed exponentially since the days when it was largely ceremonial. For example, Al Gore played a substantive policy role in the Clinton Administration. Gore did not simply attend funerals for heads of state or chair inconsequential committees in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building (as it was called back then). I don't, of course, want a vice president in Dick Cheney's mold. Nobody needs a co-presidency with a vice president who has overstepped his boundaries as the current VP has done.
But Webb could play an important role as a foreign policy and military advisor. In addition, Webb has an excellent grasp of domestic issues, especially on the economy and vetarans affairs.
Selecting Webb would send a signal to voters that Obama is serious about issues and policy.
The only downside would be replacing Webb and keeping his seat in the Democratic column. Mark Warner will probably win his senate race this year. Tim Kaine has only another year as governor and can't succeed himself. He's got high approval ratings so he could step up to another statewide race.
We've got a good bench with players ready to be put into the game at the state level and Webb would give needed heft to the Democratic presidential ticket in a match up with John McCain. And Obama is the one candidate that inspires enthusiasm and hope and who will keep the disgruntled conservatives from coming out to support of McCain.
I'd say it's a plan!