Friday, June 20, 2008


As the general election period begins in earnest and speculation about the biggest pre-election decision the candidates will make, picking a vice presidential candidate, a number of intriguing match ups have been suggested. One of the most intriguing is a McCain-Lieberman ticket.

Over the past couple of years, McCain and Lieberman have been bosom buddies, especially with regard to their support of the war in Iraq. So much so that Lieberman has endorsed McCain for president, and actively campaigns for him, and is heading a new group to attract Democrats and Independents to McCain. This has caused some friction with his Democrat colleagues in the senate (where he helps them maintain a slim 51-49 majority, by caucusing with them). Most threatening has been Lieberman’s role as an attack dog (a role played by vice presidential candidates) for McCain, to the point that a few weeks ago, Obama confronted him in the senate regarding his schilling for McCain.

A McCain-Lieberman ticket would work on a number of levels, the two get along well and agree on a number of critical national security issues. Moreover, it would take some of the change initiative away from Obama. There is nothing more post-partisan than a post-partisan ticket. Moreover, Lieberman would help (as he did in 2000) with the Jewish vote in Florida, and this could put McCain over in that state. He would also help bring in disaffected Democrats (Reagan Democrats as they are referred to), and attract a lot of independent voters, whom McCain is banking on to take him to the White House.

However, a McCain-Lieberman ticket would do nothing to assuage the social and economic conservative base, groups that are already lukewarm about McCain. Picking Lieberman (a social liberal/moderate) would be another poke in the eye and could have the unintended consequence of suppressing Republican votes, which McCain also needs to win. Whereas the ticket would be seen as post-partisan, it would not help to have two of the most senor members of the U.S. senate (age and experience wise) on the same ticket, the democrats can continually harp on the “generational change” offered by Obama, and emphasize the McCain/Lieberman ticket as a relic of old Washington, dressed up in a convenient façade of bi-partisanship.

On the whole, McCain it would be best for McCain to steer clear away from picking Lieberman. It is more effective to have him a surrogate, where he can focus on national security matters, without having to explain away differences in economic/social issues. Moreover, judging from Obama’s and the democrats’ reaction to Lieberman’s role in the McCain campaign, it is more effective to have him as an attack dog. A bi-partisan attack dog, who - unlike Zell Miller in 2004 - is a credible, level headed advocate.


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