It appears as though the Internet is (rightly) abuzz with what was a little bit of news. I reported on it a few hours after the speculation broke, but now, in true political style, it has exponentiated to a point where even Time magazine is writing about it, as well as gracing the main player of the article on their cover.
The story: Will Al Gore still be part of the Democratic primary race?
Ever since Congressman Tim Mahoney (which I just remembered is my dentist’s name) said:
If it (the nomination process) goes into the convention, don’t be surprised if someone different is at the top of the ticket.
Quickly followed by a suggestion that it could be Gore, things have gone crazy. The blogs were ablaze, news reports started picking up on it, then started really talking about it, and now, the print media has taken up the question.
Time magazine has an article up by Joe Klein, headed ‘Is Al Gore the Answer?’ in which he accepts that it is a very long shot (as does everyone who’s thinking about this) but there is a scenario in which Gore could be nominated, alongside Barack Obama for V.P., and head into the general election as the Democratic candidate. The crux of the argument is this:
Pish-tosh, you say, and you’re probably right. But let’s play a little. Let’s say the elders of the Democratic Party decide, when the primaries end, that neither Obama nor Clinton is viable. Let’s also assume—and this may be a real stretch—that such elders are strong and smart enough to act. All they’d have to do would be to convince a significant fraction of their superdelegate friends, maybe fewer than 100, to announce that they were taking a pass on the first ballot at the Denver convention, which would deny the 2,025 votes necessary to Obama or Clinton. What if they then approached Gore and asked him to be the nominee, for the good of the party—and suggested that he take Obama as his running mate? Of course, Obama would have to be a party to the deal and bring his 1,900 or so delegates along.
Let’s face it, while having Gore nominated on the floor and then watching him get the majority of the delegates is a long shot, Obama and Hillary Clinton leaving the Democratic primary race in pretty bad shape isn’t so hard to imagine. If the attacks get any worse than they are now (Wright, Lewinsky, race, sex – where else is there to go?), then we begin to get into an area where the attacks do damage to both candidates that can’t be mended.
It’s on the verge of happening, this unrepairable damage. John McCain, who was traveling around the world for ‘diplomatic reasons’, managed to bring the last few week’s rounds of polls onto level peggings. Without so much as being in the country, he was scoring ties and sub-5% wins over Obama in national polling. Of course, he was still convincingly beating Clinton by 5% or more, but this was the first time that he had a few weeks where Obama didn’t come out still the favourite. He’s (Obama) come back now to a better position with this week’s polling mind you.
I’m going to look at the prospect of the Gore/Obama ticket a little more, assuming that the scenario Klein puts out there occurs, and Gore wins the nomination.The first thing that hits me is you now have a Southern candidate heading the ticket. This is an important step to the Democrats gaining their victory. They need to poach a couple of swing states that are in the Republican ‘areas’. Here’s a map of the U.S. with state predictions – it’s from Wikipedia. There’s a couple there that I don’t consider swing states (Oregon, Minnesota, and New Mexico I believe will go Democrat), but for the most, let’s take the purple group as what’s up for grabs. Instantly, Tennessee is Democrat favourable – a ‘local boy’ is heading the ticket. Arkansas and North Carolina both become a lot closer having Gore on the ticket, and combined with Obama’s presence on the ticket, South Carolina and Louisiana aren’t exactly Republican locks anymore. Kentucky and Virginia, while more ‘North’ than the traditional ‘South’, also become more competitive. Now, I’m not saying that by having Gore leading the ticket then the Democrats automatically win these states – the Democrats just have a better chance in them.
Note: From here, down some way, I got a little distracted and talked excessively about one possible scenario and path to Democratic victory. While there’s talking points about why Gore would be better, it’s more hypothetical college maths, rather than talk about why Gore should be on the Democratic ticket. Look for a note like this to see where I resumed the post further down.
Looking at the 2000 election which Gore won/lost, he won Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (which are considered a swing state for this race). Again, there’s no guarantee that he will carry them in this race should he run with Obama (actually, we’d rather Gore didn’t exactly follow his state-carrying from 2000 – other than New Mexico, he didn’t win a state South of Illinois and East of California). Assuming that the Democrats win, from the Wiki map, what they are favoured to win plus Oregon, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Tennessee, Gore and Obama find themselves on 233 electoral college votes. They are trying to get 216, so they only need 64 more.
For the Republicans, I agree with the Wiki map plus one. New Hampshire will go to the Republicans. The state loves John McCain. So that brings his electoral vote count up to 153.
233 vs. 153. I’d say the Democrats are in a good position here. So we look at the states Gore carried in 2000 – Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. If the ticket carried all 4 of them, that would bring the tally to 271 – and that’s the election. It wouldn’t matter where the other states fell, the Democrats have won. However, that’s a big task. Winning Pennsylvania and Michigan is going to be one heck of a fight for any candidate – and mark it down, the candidate to win will need to win them both. Both states have various reasons to not vote for either party, but Michigan has a really big one. It has been excluded from the Democrat’s primary. If the party can’t rally the troops back together in the state, there’s a chance they will just stay home. I’m of two mind about it personally (why would you stay home if you could vote your party in anyway? What sort of party freezes you out of its process?).
Colorado is up for grabs, and the Democratic National Convention is being held in Denver in an attempt to sway over the state to their side. It borders with New Mexico, and the chances of winning the state have been on the up for Democrats. Let’s say they win it, and don’t win Michigan. 254 plays 179, Democrat’s way. They need just 16 more. North Carolina is worth 15, Arkansas is worth 6, Louisiana worth 9, South Carolina 8, Kentucky is 8, Virginia is 13, Missouri 11, Nevada worth 5 – nearly any two-combination of these will win the election for the Democrats too. For now, we’ll run with the scenario that the Republicans win Louisiana and South Carolina. It still leaves quite a few options, as we will see.
And then we have some big guns: Florida and its 27 votes; Ohio and its 20. Just one of them tips the balance to the Democrats. Florida is on Michigan’s side of the pool – it was ‘shunned’ by the Democrats in the primary process. Will this have an effect? It could, just as it could in Michigan. If it does, and it goes Republican, then the race gets pretty tight. 254 plays 206, the Democrat’s way. And it’s a fight for all those states listed in the previous paragraph for the win.
Now, if we get to this point – 254 vs. 206, with only North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, and Ohio in the race, we have 14 available paths to victory for the Democrats, and only 5 for the Republicans all of which dictate they must win Ohio and North Carolina. Now here is where we come (in a roundabout way) to where this post started: Which two politicians would you want on the ticket to exact one of these 14 different victories? What are the 14 options?
Ohio by itself; North Carolina and any other state; Virginia and any other state; Missouri and any other state; or Kentucky, Arkansas, and Nevada.
Barack Obama will win big in North Carolina come the primary. I would put him as a favourite to with North Carolina in the general election over Clinton. If the Democrats win North Carolina in this scenario, it takes them to269 electoral college votes – and the maximum number of college votes that the Republicans can then get is … 269! It would be a tie. That would be insane, but that would be the result. There are, then, no winning combinations for the Republicans, and the Democrats just need one more state. Missouri, Arkansas, and Nevada are looking pretty good then.
Note: The post really resumes here.
And I seem to have got a little distracted there. Anyway, all of that really says that having a Southern candidate with a Northern candidate brings Southern states into play.
There’s a whole lot of theorising about having a white man and a black man on the ticket, but I’m not getting into that mess. Some will say having a black man gets more Republicans out, some say it won’t matter. Inevitably, someone is going to say ‘gradual exposure’ – that having Obama as V.P. ‘desensitises’ people to the idea of having a black man in charge.
Gore has no problem rallying the Democratic party base. No problem at all. That’s why every candidate is clambering for his endorsement. It’s why everyone wants him at fundraising events, to appear at rallies, and to show up in advertisements. He’s the prize endorsement right now – the #1. He has been since the campaign started. Put this with Obama. While Clinton draws heavily on the traditional Democrat voters for support, Obama appeals to the often-Democrats, the centrists, and then nibbles into the fringe Republicans. Gore gets support from all of Clinton’s supporters. Plus, he brings in ‘green’ votes – and while the Green party might not be political power in the U.S. as here in Australia, you’re not likely to turn away votes, are you?
In terms of what to expect in attacks from the Republican party, they will go crazy on his apparent ‘lack’ of experience. Having Gore at the top of the ticket does two things. One, it takes Obama away from those attacks, and positions Gore as the primary concern for experience (and boy does he have some). Second, it gives Obama experience when he becomes V.P., and in 8 years time, not only is he the most qualified candidate from the Democrats, but he’s the most qualified candidate of either party. You’re not seriously going to tell me that McCain will last that time? Or Mike Huckabee will find a political job while he waits? Or the Republicans will find their own Obama (albeit with one big difference). And the voters won’t want to turn down another 8 years of Obama, now will they?
Some critics of the Gore-led ticket have pointed out that he hasn’t been through the hard slog and vetting process of this primary campaign. I don’t necessarily see this as a completely negative thing. For one, Gore being the nominee is a huge curveball – there aren’t going to be any prepared campaigns against him, because we know the R.N.C. has already prepared the next 8 months of work against either Obama or Clinton. It will catch the Republicans off-guard. Also, his image hasn’t been tarnished by months of attacks from the opposition. Obama is still clean, but he isn’t squeaky clean. Clinton is as dirty and dirt – there’s no recovering her image. But Gore hasn’t been subjected to all that character assassination that’s been going on.
This curveball, too, would create a monster media circus. As was discussed with St. Ives the other day, it would be at least 2 continuous weeks of Gore/Obama coverage. The convention would get prime time coverage. The news stations would be going crazy. By the end of it, you’d forget that there was another election, or even another party. It would just be wall-to-wall Democrats, Gore, and Obama. Which is good – free coverage, free media.
There are pitfalls to this idea. One big one is that no one has voted on Gore. Leading up to the primaries, he was positioned better than Obama before Obama got his surge and Gore missed his opportunity. I think that if it had been a Gore/Obama/Clinton primary, Obama would have fared a little worse, Gore would have knocked Clinton out long ago, and Obama and Gore would have figured something out by now. We wouldn’t have this mess, suffice to say. But the voters didn’t get to decide this.
Another is that it would take some serious backroom wheeling and dealing by the party ‘elders’ who would first have to get enough superdelegates to abstain from voting to send it to a second round, to get Gore to agree to the prospect, to get Obama to agree to the deal and bring his 1,900 delegates to the party, and then enough superdelegates to push this ticket over the line. All the while, keeping Clinton in the dark, but not her big supporters, so as to not put their nose out of joint. It would be a politicking feat of and unprecedented level. I would love to be a fly on the wall for all of that. I’d pay a lot to be privy to the conversations and handshaking.
So is it going to happen? It is a long shot, this actually occurring, but the scenario that sees it happening is a significant prospect. Not a prospect I look forward to (unless Gore gets involved), but it’s a chance of happening. So as wild an idea as it might seem, maybe, just maybe, it stands a little bit more of a chance it is being given credit. We will see Gore at the convention either way – if not under these circumstances, then as the man giving the speech that brings all the superdelegates over to Obama. Heck, he might even be the guy to nominate Obama. Maybe even keynote address? Either way, Gore will be involved, it just depends how …