Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Houston We Have a Problem

Regardless of how Texas comes out tonight, the Democratic Party has a huge problem on its hands.

The Republicans have already chosen their nominee. He's really old, a little crazy, and not that popular with his base -- but you can't spot him a 7 week (or even a 5 month) advantage in the Presidential race. The Democrats have two extraordinary candidates who appeal to very different groups within the party. Roughly speaking, Clinton does well amongst traditional Democrats, older voters (particularly older women), many Latinos, and people without a college degree. Obama does well with younger voters, independents and Republicans, people with a college degree, African Americans, progressive bloggers, and the media.

Obama has gotten the votes of just over half of Democratic primary voters. Clinton has gotten the votes of just under half of Democratic primary voters. You can make a powerful case that Obama deserves to be the nominee based on the popular vote count and the delegate count. But, Obama has won big in states like Utah and Idaho that are not going to go Democratic in November. So you can also make a powerful case that Clinton deserves to be the nominee because she is popular in the states that are key to winning in November (said differently, it would be odd to let Red State voters pick the Democratic nominee when they can't carry their state for the Party in November). All the Democratic nominee has to do to win the Presidency is win all of the states that John Kerry won plus Ohio or Florida (states where Clinton is popular).

The reality is that we need both of them on the ticket in order to unite the party and win in November. Clinton needs Obama's grace and huge appeal to independents and cross-over Republicans. And Obama needs Clinton's grit and knack for policy details. But neither one of these candidates is willing to be the VP for the other. They both have better day jobs (as Senators) that they can go back to that are better than the VP slot. The VP slot does not set either one up very well to run in 8 years (sitting on your ass for 8 years is not a resume builder -- isn't that right Al Gore?). And they don't seem to like each other very well (and their supporters definitely don't like the supporters from the other camp).

I believe Democratic Party officials need to broker a deal. I have a proposal.

Senior Democratic Party officials need to set up a meeting. I figure at a minimum, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton need to be there. And the message needs to be this: "friends we need to broker a deal and we need a nominee now, not in July." And the deal is this -- one candidate gets to be the nominee for President and the other one is named Senate Majority Leader. For the good of the Party, Harry Reid would agree to step down immediately and give the job to Obama or Clinton in return for that person stepping out of the Presidential race. Whoever accepts the Senate Majority Leader job could begin to implement her/his vision immediately and would agree to facilitate the President's agenda should a Democrat be elected in November. In return for his leadership, Harry Reid would be the VP nominee for the Party.

So, Senator Reid, for the good of the party -- will you give up your seat as Senate Majority Leader and run for VP instead? It could unite the party, propel Democrats to victory in November, and potentially lead to decades of Democratic political dominance.

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