- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What does Barack Obama need most in a running mate? Contrary to the conventional wisdom that was echoed during the Democratic primary campaign, Mr. Obama does not necessarily need a female running mate, such as his former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates that the majority of Democratic women - and the majority of Mrs. Clinton’s former supporters - will vote for the Illinois senator in his presidential bid in the fall. Even Hispanics, the majority of whom voted for Mrs. Clinton during the primaries and caucuses, now support Mr. Obama by a margin of 62 percent. Hence, Mr. Obama does not need a prominent Hispanic leader on the ticket either. It also appears that the presumptive Democratic nominee has more support among blue-collar voters than does John McCain — 47 percent to 42 percent. Mr. Obama must therefore find a way to garner more support from white males, voters who are 65 and older, whites in general and suburban voters. Who can best attract these in large enough numbers to make a difference?

Mr. Obama must offset his message of change and hope with a reassuring figure who can calm voter fears. The freshman senator is especially weak in foreign policy: He has repeatedly made statements that demonstrate his inexperience and naivete. It does not help that Mrs. Clinton made this a centerpiece of her campaign against him. There are many voters who like Mr. Obama but who fear he is still too green to be the commander-in-chief of the world’s superpower. There are also those - especially Jewish voters - who are apprehensive that he will be a radical in international affairs. (He will therefore be wise to announce both his intended secretary of state and his running mate as soon as possible. This will reassure supporters and start building the momentum he needs well ahead of the Democratic convention in August.)

Al Gore is the ideal running mate. He recently garnered national headlines by endorsing Mr. Obama. Mr. Gore has national stature and instant name recognition. He has vast experience: He served in both the House and the Senate for a total of 16 years and was vice president during Bill Clinton’s presidency. He has already achieved a status among Democrats as a party elder - a figure that is called upon in moments of conflict or strife. Mr. Obama needs a seasoned leader by his side.

Mr. Gore will win the support and enthusiasm of all those who say he was wronged in the 2000 election and should have been president. Mr. Gore did not carry the Southern states in 2000 - and even lost his own state of Tennessee. Therefore, he may not be helpful in Mr. Obama’s campaign strategy to capture more of the Southern states from the Republicans. The Southern states voted for President Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Nonetheless, Mr. Gore will help unify the party. He reinforces Mr. Obama’s good standing among the youth and environmentalists, while also attracting the interest of elder voters. As a 60-year-old man, Mr. Gore will be an asset in addressing the concerns of older Americans. Finally, as the author of “An Inconvenient Truth” and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, he even has international standing.

Would Mr. Gore agree to serve as vice president again? He might be tempted to be part of a historic and ground breaking administration alongside the first African American president in the nation’s history - especially if he is offered a more weighty role than just the ceremonial duties usually assigned to the vice president. This might very well be the kind of grand cause that will inspire Mr. Gore to come out of his self-imposed political retirement.

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