Looking at the possible vice presidential running mates for Barack Obama - chiefly Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, Jack Reed, Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark - it is clear that among those most discussed there are few good choices, which is why the Illinois senator’s No. 2 may be someone else entirely. The crux of Mr. Obama’s problem is Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton was arguably the preferred choice for vice president when it was clear that she could not win. But the negative tone of her campaign alienated Mr. Obama’s supporters, and Mrs. Clinton is still a looming issue when it comes to some of the names being vetted. Mr. Obama’s convention concessions prove he will go to the end of the Earth to please the Clintons.
Geraldine Ferraro said this week that the Obama-Clinton ticket was dead. Along with other supporters of the New York senator, she said that Mr. Obama could not select any woman other than Mrs. Clinton as his running mate. That almost assuredly knocks Mrs. Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, off the list - despite the benefits she would bring Mr. Obama in her traditionally conservative state.
Mrs. Clinton also looms heavily over Indiana’s junior senator, Mr. Bayh, an early and outspoken Clinton supporter and a member of the Democratic Leadership Council, whose regional help Mr. Obama could certainly use. Mr. Bayh, a moderate, may be an excellent choice with good foreign-policy credentials, a proven cross-party vote-getter and a bipartisan professional, but there will always be a question among staff and supporters about whether Mr. Obama can trust him. The same goes for Gen. Clark, an Arkansan and early supporter with deep Clinton ties, but even that doesn’t trump the dislike military rank-and-file have for him or his lack of judgment in criticizing John McCain’s war record last month.
The remaining four have problems uniquely their own.
Although Mr. Obama has marshalled all of his forces toward winning Virginia - he would be the first Democrat to do so since 1964 - Gov. Tim Kaine has shown that he is not ready for national politics on this scale. He said himself that he is not likely to be selected. Mr. Kaine also has had lackluster results in working out party differences on state transportation, taxes and energy. And those latter issues are tops in this election.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico is a nonstarter with women. His exploits with Lt. Gov. Diane Denish - who has said she avoids him at functions because, “He pokes me. He pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg” - would certainly be revisited ad nauseam. The backlash would negate his strong regional presence, his experience as an executive, and as a former energy secretary and U.N. ambassador.
That seemingly leaves only two truly safe choices: Mr. Biden of Delaware and Mr. Reed of Rhode Island. Both men bring strong foreign-policy credentials - which Mr. Obama sorely needs - although Mr. Reed isn’t as well known. Mr. Biden, though, might draw criticism because of his gaffes - whether it is his assertion that, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent,” or that Mr. Obama is “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.”
In the end, none offers Mr. Obama the running mate he really needs - Joe Lieberman.