The polls have stalled. As of today, there is no clear leader in the race to be the next President. Voters are ready for the next big thing in this race, the VP picks.
In previous elections, the choice of VP was seen as mostly insignificant. What did Al Gore bring to the table? Did Kerry take North Carolina with Edwards on the ticket? Who thought Cheney was on the short list? But this election is different and the VP choice WILL affect the outcome of this election.
John McCain will benefit from his choice of VP much more than Sen Obama. For voters, Sen McCain’s choice is more about who will balance the ticket. For voters on the right that means a candidate with more conservative views than McCain. For independents that means a candidate who shares most of McCain’s views but can also add something, such as experience or knowledge in economics, to the ticket. And for Democrats unsure about Obama, it is a candidate who will not go too far right on issues important to them. And let’s face it, no matter how healthy McCain is, all voters are looking at the number 2 guy as a possible replacement.
For voters looking at Sen Obama and his VP choice, it is more about who will add the most to the ticket without highlighting the inexperience of a first term Senator. Independent voters are looking at Obama’s choice as their key. Independents who like his message of change and hope want a VP with the same wide eyed view of the world but has been around politics longer than the top name on the ticket. Independents who are undecided because of Obama’s inexperience and worry about his message of hope and change are looking for a VP who will keep Obama grounded in reality as he tries to run the nation, possibly someone they feel will hold him back a little. Those on the left who are unsure about Sen Obama will be looking for a candidate who will be able to keep Obama focused on the issues important to the party. And everyone is looking for a VP who has seen and experienced the world for longer than 9 days.
Obama will have a harder time choosing a VP that will help him win as well because he has placed himself on such a high pedestal. With soaring speeches infused with whimsical rhetoric, Sen Obama has captivated audiences and the media. His VP choice will have to bottle some of this magic as well if he or she wants to be an asset to the Democratic ticket. He or she will also have to be able to explain Sen Obama’s policies, a task not many surrogates can do on the talk show circuit without resorting to talking points.
The influence of Dick Cheney will be felt in this election as both candidates struggle with the VP choice. Just as Hilary wandered into politics as First Lady and redefined that role, Dick Cheney (for better or worse, depending on your thinking) redefined the role of the VP under Bush. Both candidates need a strong choice to motivate voters to cast ballots in their favor. For Sen Obama that task will prove to be more difficult as he tries to find someone who will not upstage him or his message. For Sen McCain the task is to find someone to compliment him and his message. The advantage is clearly with McCain as the Veep Stakes continues.
(It’s going to be Romney for McCain!, and Clinton is a huge risk for Obama that won’t help him in the end)