John McCain used to say that he had no interest in being vice president because it would be like being a POW again—you’d be constantly in the dark and fed scraps, and you’d have nothing to do.
Nevertheless, it is still the No. 2 job in politics, and it is a position that few have or would turn down if offered. And while 29 percent of voters don’t even know that Joe Biden is vice president, it’s a pretty great gig if politics is your ambition.
Picking a vice-presidential partner is one of just four occasions during a campaign when a presidential candidate has an opportunity to substantially affect perception and polling. (The others are the announcement speech, the nomination speech, and debates.)
But I am amused by the ritual predictions and recommendations by know-it-alls who say that because an incumbent president’s reelection is not a slam dunk, he (or she, someday) should dump the vice president for some new blood. The idea is that a new vice-presidential running mate would excite voters and enhance the incumbent’s reelection prospects.
And so we read the breathless headline in Tuesday’s New York Post: “Obama to ask Cuomo to be 2012 running mate: sources.”
Sources. Bwahahaha. These “insiders” with special knowledge and insight are an interesting pair: a former head of the New York GOP William Powers, who was reportedly “effusive” in his praise of Cuomo, his state’s leader of the opposing party; and the never headline-shy former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
I have no special insight into the Obama inner-circle strategy, but I remember when the same rumors circulated about Vice President Dick Cheney, and I can confidently predict that Joe Biden ain’t going nowhere. Here are six reasons why:
1. If Obama replaced Biden, it would send two very clear signals: weakness and panic.
2. Biden has lower unfavorables than Obama. So it would make more sense to replace Obama than Biden.
3. No matter your politics, if you take an objective view, Biden has been a pretty good vice president. First, he’s been loyal, which is job No. 1. He plays the No. 2 role well, never seeming to overshadow the boss or scheme to take his job. In addition to being the administration’s liaison with the House and Senate, Biden has taken leadership roles in negotiating internally and externally on the Iraq drawdown, the debt ceiling, and the START nuclear-nonproliferation treaty. Whether the money has been spent to good effect or not, he also is charged with accounting for stimulus spending.
4. Biden is hugely popular with labor. Obama, not so much.
5. Biden has the common-man, blue-collar appeal. Obama does not.
6. Biden is a decent political surrogate and represented Obama at more than 150 fundraisers during just the first two years of the administration.
The only president in the last century to replace his vice president and win reelection was FDR.
While it may make for provocative headlines, hell, no, Joe won’t go—unless Obama loses.