Carney: No, no one took a VP change seriously in 2012

posted at 10:41 am on November 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Normally I’d chalk nearly anything Jay Carney says as spin, but on this point I think he’s telling the truth. A new book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann reports that Barack Obama chief of staff William Daley wanted to push Joe Biden off the ticket in favor of Hillary Clinton, but Carney dismisses this as low-level chatter rather than serious strategy debate:

The New York Times reported the story last night:

President Obama’s top aides secretly considered replacing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 2012 ticket, undertaking extensive focus-group sessions and polling in late 2011 when Mr. Obama’s re-election outlook appeared uncertain.

The aides concluded that despite Mrs. Clinton’s popularity, the move would not offer a significant enough political boost to Mr. Obama to justify such a radical move, according to a newly published account of the 2012 race.

The idea of replacing Mr. Biden with Mrs. Clinton had long been rumored, but the journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, in their new book, “Double Down,” provide a detailed description of the effort inside the senior circle of Obama advisers. It was pushed by the chief of staff at the time, William M. Daley, despite the close personal rapport Mr. Daley had developed with Mr. Biden, a fellow Irish Catholic and veteran of Washington politics.

“When the research came back near the end of the year, it suggested that adding Clinton to the ticket wouldn’t materially improve Obama’s odds,” the authors write in their sequel to “Game Change,” which chronicled the 2008 campaign. “Biden had dodged a bullet he never saw coming — and never would know anything about, if the Obamans could keep a secret.”

Daley says the idea came up because Obama was in “awful shape” in the fall of 2011, which … is true, when looking at the Gallup daily averages.  In the September-October 2011 period, Obama flirted with below-40 ratings before picking back up toward the end of October.  That’s hardly re-elect territory for any incumbent, let alone a President who had just taken a shellacking in the midterms less than a year earlier.

However, a couple of points strike me on this tale.  First, Bill Daley wasn’t a big campaign mover and shaker; he was running the West Wing, while Obama’s political team ran the campaign.  Even if Daley passionately believed in making a change (which the Times’ reporting doesn’t really support), how much draw would Daley have had with David Plouffe, Jim Messina, and David Axelrod?  Second, Carney’s right that modern campaigns test everything, no matter how minor, and testing something doesn’t mean it’s under serious consideration. It could be used to shut up an annoying aide insisting on a strategy no one likes, for instance.

Third, though, does anyone think Obama would fire Biden? Heck, he’s got plenty of reasons for firing Kathleen Sebelius on both politics and competence in her work, and she’d doing a lot more damage to Obama than Biden ever did.  She’s still around, mainly because Obama doesn’t want to explain his mistakes.  Had he dropped Biden, there would have been no end to demands for explanations, especially since Biden still inexplicably has ambitions of his own.

I’m not buying it, and as it turns out, Daley wasn’t trying to sell it, either:

CBS News contributor Bill Daley was the president’s chief of staff at that time. He said he did ask aides to look into the idea of replacing Biden with Clinton but called it all an “over-hype” on the issue that has come with the book’s release.

“CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose pointed out this quote from the book, which pertains to Daley: “The top echelon of Obamaworld had, in fact, been discussing the wisdom of replacing Biden with Hillary, that, more than discussing it, they had been exploring it furtively and obliquely in the campaign’s polling and focus groups and that Daley himself had been the most vocal proponent of looking into the merits of the idea.”

Responding to that passage, Daley said, “One of the jobs of chief of staff is to recommend lots of things outside the box and to look at things, but not for a moment was there a serious discussion or a belief that Joe Biden should be replaced, period.[“]

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I hate to say this, but I believe the Obama administration on this one.

That may be the first time I have typed that. Ever.

Chris of Rights on November 1, 2013 at 10:45 AM

The coauthors forfeited whatever credibility they had by allowing their previous work to be turned into a movie that was little more than a personal vendetta.

cbenoistd on November 1, 2013 at 10:48 AM

who cares?

gracie on November 1, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Biden 2016

“You can’t fix stupid.”

Fallon on November 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM

What difference at this point does it make?

RDH on November 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Carney: No, no one took a VP change seriously in 2012

Nor the economy, nor unemployment, nor protecting embassy, and obviously the didn’t take seriously ObamaCare…

right2bright on November 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Much ado about a nothing (Biden.)

rbj on November 1, 2013 at 10:52 AM

CNN and the Times are doing Carney a solid, trying to move the discussion from Obamacare to frankly irrelevant topics.

Jeff Weimer on November 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM

I don’t buy it. It’s ALWAYS about King Barack, ALL THE TIME. If they’d needed more traction by dumping Biden, he’d have been GONE.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, time to placate Joey and keep him dumb and happy for three more years.

Or does Joey ‘The Mouth’ actually believe that King Barack will back him an election bid in 2016?

Exit question: Who in the DNC is sanctioning MSM hits on Hillary!? Since when has “60 Minutes” decided to go rogue on a dearly beloved Democrat?

GarandFan on November 1, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Jay Carney Worker wouldn’t know a serious strategy discussion if it fell out of the sky and smashed his podium.

Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea for curing his boring spin cycle performances.

platypus on November 1, 2013 at 10:57 AM

First of all, Daley was a Clinton operative before being a DNC wheeler-dealer. So acting as the Hildebeast’s drum-beater might come as second nature to him, but The One’s faithful (notably Jarrett) knew where he was coming from.

Second, and more importantly, The One is an over-educated idiot, but even he isn’t a big enough damned fool to climb in bed with Lady MacBeth. You don’t put temptation in the way of somebody like that. Period.

They probably won’t even try to resist it.

clear ether


eon on November 1, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Meh, they’re all Communists anyway. No matter how the day ended, the ticket would still have been:

President: Communist
Vice President: Communist

I suspect every ticket up for reelection is reviewed and possibilities tossed around. That’s part of any planning; you run different scenarios. If O thought it would help, he’d have stand-up-chucked Biden under the bus.


mankai on November 1, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Jay Carney personally knows 3 Joe Bidens.

ToddPA on November 1, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Stand up Jay.

docflash on November 1, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Sorry, but I don’t really care if it is true or not.
“At this point what difference does it make”!?

It’s to the point now where every time I see any of these government types, I just assume it is a lie, or a part of a lie, or cover up, or distraction from the truth, or just blatantly a lie and they don’t care…

Typically the higher up the chain, the bigger the deceit… and no one is really doing anything about it, so what the hell, just say whatever benefits the agenda – even if it is totally bat crap crazy.

PermanentWaves on November 1, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Big time inside baseball. Biden. Clinton. Who cares?

NavyMustang on November 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Barack Obama and Joe Biden – hand in glove through history, forever…

Khun Joe on November 1, 2013 at 11:16 AM

One thing is for sure.

You’ll never see this movie on HBO.

Moesart on November 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM

gracie on November 1, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Beat me to it.

RDH on November 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Said it even better.

I’m usually the last to question the choice of articles HA deems comment-worthy, but right now – this is sooooooo totally meaningless. Obama would have won either way, and the administration would have done nothing differently. And Hillary’s chances in 2016 would be identical to what they are now.

There are things going on that actually matter. A lot. This isn’t one of them.

notropis on November 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

President 6 wouldn’t want Bill hanging around the WH.

Tater Salad on November 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM

who cares?

gracie on November 1, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Exactly. This is high school cheerleader gossip intended to help two liberal turds sell a book. It just so happens it provides today’s “Squirrels” moment, allowing the media to report on something other than Obamacarefail.

BuckeyeSam on November 1, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I think it would have been more likely for Hillary to replace Obama on the top of the ticket.

Hillary wouldn’t have gone for a #2 spot.

weaselyone on November 1, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Well technically, -Joke Biden was looking into making a change to the top of the ticket, but he didn’t get far enough out of his ‘undisclosed location’ to get anywhere with it.

slickwillie2001 on November 1, 2013 at 11:50 AM

It’s simple: Obama’s default position (unless he’s dealing with Conservatives — he’ll fire military people in a heartbeat) is always to go big. To “lean into it” as I believe he once put it. He picked the buffoon Biden, so he’s going to continue with that choice if it kills him. If Conservatives had this instinct they’d be winning. Obama is evil without doubt. But you’ve got to give it to him – he’s got balls. Nobody but Ted Cruz and Rand Paul come close on the other side.

WhatSlushfund on November 1, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Remember good ole days when Carney could claim any negative/controversial statement was a lie? Even something written by a loyal Liberal hack. And the media would sigh and never follow-up/ask again. I finally have something to like about Obamacare

drivingtheview on November 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Joe Biden is the greatest life insurance policy that Obama can ever have. Knowing that Biden will become President if anything happens to Obama is incentive enough to protect Obama.

DAT60A3 on November 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Joe Biden is the greatest life insurance policy that Obama can ever have. Knowing that Biden will become President if anything happens to Obama is incentive enough to protect Obama.

DAT60A3 on November 1, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Only for the Democratics. I’d take him over the REB in a heartbeat.

slickwillie2001 on November 1, 2013 at 2:26 PM