Could Clinton and Obama Team Up?

With both candidates in what appears to be a dead heat, speculation of a possible dual ticket is heating up. The inconclusive results of Super Tuesday have made the notion even more attractive. Is it realistic or just a pipe dream?

The Democratic Party base can’t decide who it likes better: Obama or Clinton.

New Yorkers are inventive people, with a nose for new trends. Take, for example, the West Village, a bastion of intellectual culture where people were hanging anti-Bush posters in their windows at a time when the rest of the country was still cheerleading its way into a war. For the past few days, a prophetic campaign poster has been hanging on the door of a townhouse on West 12th Street. There are two names on it: “Clinton-Obama.”

Clinton-Obama — a duet instead of the duel that we’ve seen in this election up until now. Clinton-Obama as the Democratic Party’s dream team. The realist and the idealist, the pragmatist and the utopian, hand-in-hand in the White House. A dream, a nightmare, a wish or fantasy? Or could it be the Democrats’ true ticket to an election victory?

The only thing certain right now is that Super Tuesday, the date that was supposed to end with a clear candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has not provided any conclusions. At least not in regard to who the nominee will be. The only clear thing is that the Democratic Party base can’t decide who it likes better. Forty-nine percent are for Clinton and 49 percent are for Obama. Whites, Latinos and the working class are standing behind Clinton. And African-Americans, young people and the bigger breadwinners are behind Obama.

Two against McCain

Together, they could be unbeatable. They could create a united front not even John McCain would stand a chance of beating — even in a Republican dream ticket together with Mike Huckabee.

Either way, these are historic times. The Democratic Party’s next candidate is either going to be a black man or a woman. And those two factors alone are already a sensation. So why not attempt a ticket that includes both? Or would it be too much for Americans to have representatives of two “minorities” leading the country?

Of course, there’s nothing novel about the idea. It’s been making its rounds in the media — at times the idea is naively ridiculed, at others those who cite it are brimming with hope. Talk-show host David Letterman became the first to raise the Clinton-Obama specter, to an audience of millions, when he had Obama as a guest on his show last April. Obama at the time hadn’t yet risen to his current popstar-like status.

“That would be a powerful ticket,” Letterman said, describing a Clinton-Obama match-up. Obama’s cool reply: “You don’t campaign to become No. 2.” End of discussion.

Of course, that was before Iowa, South Carolina and Super Tuesday. In state-by-state elections, American Democrats have been unable to pick a frontrunner. Instead, they seem to have their eyes set on two. At first, Clinton and Obama bickered terribly with one another, but when they stumbled into palpable resistance from the party base, both put their kid gloves back on again. During Thursday’s debate, Obama pulled Clinton’s chair out for her and even whispered, perhaps conspiratorially, into her ear, prompting both to laugh.

And the Oscar Goes To …

Has the whole thing been a show? After all, it’s in Hollywood where the scenes between the two have become less tense — in the dream factory on the occasion of the CNN debate at the Kodak Theater. On the Oscar stage, where many a brawling couple has whispered away its private disputes. And the Oscar goes to …

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer thinks there’s a chance of a dual ticket. At the most recent Democratic debate, he asked the candidates: “Would you consider an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket down the road?” That would depend, Obama said, on who would lead the ticket. Clinton didn’t answer at all.

Of course, there could only be one sequence: Clinton-Obama. Clinton, 60, would never allow herself to become Obama’s subordinate. So the only remaining question is whether Obama, with his message of healing, would be willing to subordinate himself to acerbic Hillary, who once supported him as a freshman senator but would later abandon him in an insulting manner after he announced his candidacy.

“If Obama wins almost as many states as she does,” Democratic campaign strategist Tad Devine correctly predicted before Super Tuesday, “there will be tremendous pressure for the two of them to combine their considerable resources and forces.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that political enemies have buried the hatchet in order to attain a common goal — with mixed results. Just look at John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (1960) or John Kerry and John Edwards (2004).

The celebrity audience in the Kodak Theater clearly loved the idea. Blitzer could barely pose the question before singer Stevie Wonder sprang out of his aisle-side VIP seat.

The notion of combining Clinton’s pragmatism with Obama’s charisma, her success in the cities with his in the rural areas, thrills Democrats — and it makes the Republicans nervous. They suddenly see themselves confronted with a democratic version of the Reagan coalition. “That would be precisely the kind of ticket that would cause their side to sweat,” says a conservative advisor.

“Not a dream ticket,” retorts Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s former campaign manager. “A fantasy ticket!” But this would fly in the face of all accepted wisdom on how these tickets are filled.

‘A New Chapter in History’

For one thing, vice-presidential candidates are supposed to offer political and demographic balance: liberal-moderate, doer-thinker, old-young. Particularly in the first category, the Clinton-Obama combination would be a bit of a stretch.

And secondly, they should strike a geographic balance. Here one could argue that Clinton represents the Northeast, but in fact she’s from the Midwest and lived for a long time in the South. Obama comes from the Midwest, but as an African-American, he has greater emotional resonance in the south.

Thirdly, the strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates should complement or cancel each other out. Clinton’s one great weakness is her tendency to polarize: She provokes hatred in many. Obama could counteract that. Her other major weakness is her hunger for power, and that’s something that Obama, if we’re to take him at his word, can neither negate nor accept. So, is it all just a dream?

In fact, it seems to be Obama who is teaching many Americans to dream again. Especially the younger generation, for whom the old rules of society and politics have long since ceased to apply: black versus white, right versus left, pragmatist versus visionary. If there’s ever been a time for new thinking — about the chances of certain tickets among other things — it would be now.

“We must write a new chapter in American history,” Obama said on Tuesday in a speech that was full of digs at Clinton. Because for the time being, it’s all about winning the next primary. Even if only in a bid to be co-author of this history book.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s not a good idea. She is a micro manager and he is a dreamer. His messy desk will drive her crazy!

  2. Yeah, that’s what I have on my mind too.

  3. It is unlikely that Mrs. Clinton would accept the Vice-Presidential role for any President after spending eight years witnessing Al Gore’s plight. Also, Mr. Obama would probably not be able to endure eight years of being Vice-President to the Co-Presidency of Bill and Hillary Clinton. By the way, does a co-presidency even have or acknowledge a vice-president?

    OBAMA-HAGEL ‘08


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