maxomai: dog (dog)
[personal profile] maxomai
For a long time now, progressive Democrats like me have hoped for a Clinton-Warren ticket to storm its way to the White House in 2016. Unfortunately, Harry Reid has put the kabosh on that. His reasoning is as follows: if the VP is a Senator from a state with a Republican Governor, that Governor is likely to pick a Republican to replace the VP-elect, leaving Democrats at a disadvantage for winning back the Senate, even should they win the White House.

So, with those hard criteria in mind, if Clinton is going to pick a sitting Senator for her VP nominee, who should she pick? The ideal candidate would be a popular progressive from a purple state with a lot of electoral votes, who can also stand up to the pressures of a Presidential campaign. That's quite an ask, but I think we have three good candidates for the job: Mark Warner, Claire McCaskill and Al Franken. Of those, Al Franken would be, by far, the most popular choice, and I think it makes the most sense for Clinton to give him the opportunity.

To understand why this is, we first need to examine the pool of Senators that meet our criteria. There are 18 states with Democratic governors that could appoint a replacement Senator. Of those, all but one (Louisiana) has at least one Democratic Senator. Those states, in order from most to least electoral votes, along with the current Cook Report ratings, are as follows:

California (55) - Solid Blue
New York (29) - Solid Blue
Pennsylvania (20) - Lean Blue
Virginia (13) - Lean Blue
Washington (12) - Solid Blue
Minnesota (10) - Likely Blue
Missouri (10) - Likely Red
Colorado (9) - Lean Blue
Connecticut (7) - Solid Blue
Oregon (7) - Solid Blue
West Virginia (5) - Solid Red
Hawaii (4) - Solid Blue
New Hampshire (4) - Toss Up
Rhode Island (4) - Solid Blue
Delaware (3) - Solid Blue
Montana (3) - Solid Red
Vermont (3) - Solid Blue

Clinton is going to want to favor leaning or toss-up states (where a little help goes a long way) over likely states, and shouldn't even consider a VP from a solid state unless they're a real game-changer. Based on this, the states Clinton would want to focus on the most are, in descending order:


  1. Pennsylvania

  2. Virginia

  3. Colorado

  4. Minnesota

  5. Missouri

  6. New Hampshire



So, in theory, that gives us the following list of Senators:


  • Bob Casey (D-PA) --- Pennsylvania is absolutely critical to Clinton's chances of winning the White House. The Cook Report says that the race to the White House will likely be won in Pennsylvania. Casey is popular with the middle class whites that make up Trump's base, and could help secure Pennsylvania for her. The problem is that Casey is a social conservative, especially on abortion, and that's going to piss off Clinton's base. In particular, women prefer Clinton over Trump by double digits --- in some states by about 20 points --- and picking Casey might shave enough points off of that differential to hurt Clinton elsewhere. If Clinton is paying attention, she'll pass on Casey.

  • Mark Warner (D-VA) --- the former Virginia Governor was thinking about running for President in 2008, which is almost certainly why he was courting Democratic activists in 2006. (I got VERY drunk on his dime at the first Yearly Kos.) He's a relative moderate and his countenance screams "Presidential." The problem is that he's also kinda boring, and doesn't talk the talk or walk the walk on progressive issues. Still, he's not a bad choice.

  • Tim Kaine (D-VA) --- another former Virginia Governor, Kaine ran the DNC after Obama's election, and proceeded to lose both houses of Congress. He isn't particularly appealing to the base and he comes across as odd on camera. Insiders love him for some reason, which makes me afraid that he might get the nod.

  • Michael Bennett (D-CO) --- Colorado is a purple state with a highly motivated pro-gun vote. Clinton could use a boost here. On paper that makes Bennett a good choice. Unfortunately he's not that popular or well-known among the party base, and he's relatively inexperienced. Giving him the nod would be the equivalent of picking Dan Quayle for VP.

  • Claire McCaskill (D-MO) --- McCaskill is in many ways an ideal choice for a VP pick. She's tough, experienced, savvy, and knows how to go on the attack. She was one of Obama's early supporters in 2008 and has been solidly in Clinton's camp in 2016, and has already gone on the attack against Trump. She won her last election handily against social conservative moron Todd Akin, so she knows a thing or two about running against buffoons. Missouri isn't critical to Clinton's chances of winning the White House, but it IS critical to Trump's chances, and that makes this pick strategic as well. The one big downside is that McCaskill is one of the most conservative members of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, and is the second most likely to defect from the party on floor votes. Trump won't think twice of using that against her to drive a wedge through Democratic votes.

  • Al Franken (D-MN) --- Minnesota isn't that vulnerable of a state, and while its ten electoral votes are essential for Clinton, there's not much risk that they'll go away. However, Franken is an attractive choice for VP for three big, important reasons. One, he's well known and well liked among progressives. Two, if you give him a chance, he really grows on you, as demonstrated by the fact that he won re-election in 2014 quite easily. Three, he's a professional comedian with experience deconstructing right-wing talking points, which makes him the absolutely perfect foil for Trump and whatever nitwit he picks for VP.

  • Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) --- New Hampshire doesn't have a lot of electoral votes, but it's symbolically important as a swing state that helps pick the next President. Theoretically picking a VP candidate from New Hampshire would be a smart move. In practice, Shaheen has had to fight like hell for her Senate seat. I'm not that convinced that she'd be that helpful.



So, there you have it. Franken is a Democratic Senator in a state with a Democratic Governor that Clinton could stand to anchor better, and he has the personality to counteract Trump. That adds up to a compelling argument for him to be Clinton's VP.
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