The conservative white voters that Clinton has amazingly managed to attract could be combined with the massive infusion of new young votes, internet money, and African-American enthusiasm to create a potential tsunami in the election. Instead of having to pick between the first black president and the first woman president, the Democrats could offer voters both: the first black president and first female vice-president. Worries about Obama's relative youth and lack of Washington experience would be allayed by the presence of the Clintons. The toxicity of the Clinton baggage could be balanced by the hope Obama has inspired.
The Clintons could be deployed to shore up support in some of the Reagan Democrat states, while Obama wins over enough independents to carry the Mountain West and the upper Midwest. California, Ohio, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania could be secured. The downside? They hate each other. Over this campaign, Obama's supporters, along with many others, have been taken aback by the raw, unprincipled bare-knuckle politics that the Clintons have unleashed against the greatest talent to emerge in national politics since Bill Clinton himself. Moreover, the core appeal of Obama has been that he isn't a Clinton; he hasn't capitulated to the zero-sum politics of Karl Rove, George W Bush's mastermind. His outreach to new and young and non-Democratic voters has been premised on an end to the kind of politics the Clintons represent. When I raised the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket on my blog last week, Obama-supporting readers were outraged and offended. I can see why. I defer to nobody in my contempt and suspicion of the Clintons.
And yet I can also see that the new politics Obama represents has provoked a ferocious backlash from the established political class; and his weakness (as well as his appeal) as a candidate is his reluctance to engage in the kind of street-fighting that politics can sometimes — and must sometimes — become. By picking Clinton as a vice-president, he would be pulling a classic American manoeuvre — getting a surrogate to do the dirty pugilism of the campaign, while using his own extraordinary skills to provide a unifying and uplifting overall theme. Picking Clinton would also defuse genuine concerns among older voters that he is just too green to be entrusted with presidential power just yet.
Remember Kennedy-Johnson? They too loathed each other and cast extremely different shadows in American public life....