Susan Estrich voiced what many pundits suspect will be the resolution to the Democratic primary: a ticket that combines Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Some have called this the “dream ticket”, allowing for a reconciliation between two factions in the party that have increasingly become embittered in this race. Rather than combining strengths, though, the combination could just as easily compound the negatives and give John McCain even easier targets to hit in the general election:
Obama ahead but not by enough. Money not making the difference some thought it would. Superdelegates trickling in one direction or another. And then? And then there will be not the first in the nation but the last in the nation primary. And then Puerto Rico will finally decide, and the Michigan-Florida endgame will reignite, and maybe, if we’re lucky, one or the other candidate will be able to produce a list that says, here are the 2024 bodies/slots/people who will be voting for me at the Democratic convention.
But of this I’m sure. The longer this thing goes, the more likely it is that these two — as much as they may be coming to dislike each other, much as their supporters (at least at the top levels) may be coming to distrust each other, much as professional Democrats may be wondering out loud if once again we are about to steal defeat from the jaws of victory and do for McCain what he couldn’t do for himself — are going to end up running together.
There comes a point where the only way to put the party together is literally to put the two halves together. What remains unclear, still, is which half ends up on top.
The bigger question is why either of them would agree to the VP slot. Obama would get eaten alive by his party constituencies if he surrendered to Hillary after leading in pledged delegates as a sell-out. Hillary has no particular reason to move from the Senate to a do-nothing role in an Obama administration and have to wait until she’s close to McCain’s age to run for the presidency herself. Nor would it make much sense for either to take the other as a running mate. Obama would be allowing the Clintons to run his administration behind his back, which they surely would do, and Hillary would be saddled with someone much more popular than herself as a subordinate.
They could overcome these motivations to combine forces in Denver, though. Would it help? Perhaps it would in Denver, but it hardly helps either in a general election. Despite the hyperbole in the primary about experience, the truth is that neither of them have track records as executives, nor do either of them have impressive legislative careers. McCain beats them combined in the latter, especially when it comes to forging bipartisan coalitions and sponsoring high-profile legislation. He also has his military career to vouch for his executive abilities, and neither Hillary nor Obama can offer anything to match it. Both Democrats need running mates who can at least provide balance in those areas, like a governor or even someone with long experience on Capitol Hill.
But the worst part of the “dream ticket” comes from a combination of their worst traits. Instead of just offering someone who lies to assume experience she doesn’t have or a hard-Left cipher who hangs out with unrepentant domestic terrorists, the Democrats would offer both at the same time. Their combined negatives would present the Republicans with almost unlimited grounds to paint the Democrats as out of touch, condescending, untruthful nanny-staters who can’t relate to middle America. Instead of giving centrists and independents a reason to vote Democratic, they’ll double the reasons to support John McCain.
The so-called dream ticket is anything but. It just looks like the most convenient way for Democrats to awaken from the nightmare of this primary race.