Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama Chooses Senator Joseph Biden to be his Running Mate

The VP speculation game is now at an end. Barack Obama announced that his running mate will be Joseph Biden. It was not that big of a surprise as he was in most annalist's top three along with Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton. Biden is a relatively safe choice with good foreign policy experience, but he does have his problems. In his past campaign, Biden never got any real traction, and it is not clear that he has a large contingent that he is bringing to Obama. He does not seem to do much for party unity either. Joseph Biden would also seem to represent a "Washington Insider" which Obama has been campaigning against. The apparent contradiction may present some problems.

Had he chosen Hillary Clinton, Obama may more effectively have courted the disenfranchised voters who supported her. At the same time, her choice would likely have alienated a significant portion of others who do not like her. This is not to say only with in the Democratic Party, but in a general elections as her negatives are relatively high. If Bill Richardson had been chosen it is likely that Obama would have secured most of the Latino vote, but it could present to much of a minority ticket to some. Joseph Biden seems to be the more middle line choice. He does not bring a large group of people with him, but he also is not likely to alienate a large group against the campaign.

A bigger question to pose is if the VP choice even matters. To some extent it does. The right choice can give a boost to the campaign, and the wrong choice can hurt it. Most of the time however, it really does not make much of a difference. Examples of the potential effects can be found in the paragraph above, but the effects may be over blown.

Can you imagine Barack Obama saying, "Well...I don't have much foreign policy experience, but not to worry because my running mate does!"? He would never say such a thing with any degree of seriousness, nor likely float it as a joke for fear of its use in political ads. If Obama wins then the foreign policy decisions fall to him, not to his VP. You can (and should) surround yourself with many smart people, but at the end of the day it is the person on top that has to make the final call. In this sense, Biden's foreign policy experience does not do much to bluster the Obama campaign. Instead, it may serve to highlight just how little experience Obama has.

Some people are trying to make the comparison between President George Bush and Dick Cheney in terms of the foreign policy discrepancy between the two as an example of why what Obama is doing is not bad. No judgment is being made here and now at the Berman Post, just observations. It is up to you to determine the good or bad. The first observation is the slight humor from Obama supporters using President Bush as an example of something good which they are copying, when they have spent the majority of references to Bush as someone who has done nothing right. The second and more important observation is the geopolitical climate. Most people did not put foreign policy concerns as high in 2000 as they do now. President Bush's first election happened before 9/11 when the country woke up to and realized the world is a dangerous and some people will stop at nothing to destroy us. Today, that notion is entrenched firmly in most voters consciousness.

The reality is that this pick, minus any serious revelations or gafts, will have little effect on the outcome of the race. The choice was essentially a wash and keeps the pressure to win for the Democrats firmly planted on Obama's shoulders, right where it has been.

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