Does Picking a Woman for VP Imply a Dead Presidential Bid?

This is something I’ve been wondering the past couple of weeks.

It’s not like I’m about to vote for McCain/Palin at the election booth. She has a typically Republican record in both the Mayor and Governor’s seats (spend now, leave the bill for the coming (Democratic) officeholder; give the punters what they want to hear; and treat the office as your personal piss pot) and her views skew further to the right than I’m willing to countenance.

However, I wonder if picking a woman as your VP candidate is an admission that you’re not going to be elected.

I remember what happened back in 1984, when Mondale was the preemptive selection for President by the Democratic Party. It seemed more like he was running because he had to (someone had to take the fall as the Democratic candidate) and once he chose Geraldine Ferraro for his candidate many people just wrote him off.

Of course, it didn’t help that he didn’t seem to want to run for the office. After getting the nod as the Democratic candidate he disappeared for a few weeks, fishing in Minnesota. Meanwhile the Republicans went on to a Reagan/Bush coronation (their second term).

Mondale could put forth some sharp jabs when he was moved to do so (the first debate, a commercial on WW3 that ran late in the evening late in the presidential campaign), but he didn’t seem willing to do that much and when Reagan revived a 1980 comment on old people being leaders in a joke manner even he was ready to let things go on as they were. Geraldine Ferraro was left to flap in the breeze, and the nation had to deal with eight more years of Republican Presidents.

Now…move up twenty-four years (Almost exactly as long as a fundamentalist friend of mine stated that the Democratic butchering at the Presidential level put women back for that office). After a presidential try by Hillary Clinton that had to be taken seriously (if nothing else because of her husband), John McCain decides to pick Sarah Palin as his VP candidate. A move that seems to be turning against him as she tries to both pump up the Republican base and make her own stamp on things.

Admittedly I liked her selection. I liked that McCain was willing to gamble and try to get at different voters via his choice. I liked that she was definitely a babe (And for the record, I would definitely like to be imPalin Sarah some night. Absolutely no chance; but I can fantasize…). And I liked that McCain was willing to look beyond the tried-and-true. At least that’s how I saw it.

But now I wonder if she was the only person he could come up with that would run alongside him.

One thing to understand about the VP office: It’s a place to stick someone for looks or something, but not necessarily a spot for someone who’d do better than you at the office you’re in. Sure it’s a single missed heartbeat from the Presidency, but that’s a double edged sword. Does anyone think that Quayle was picked because he was ready for the Presidency, or because no one would be stupid enough to shoot Bush Sr.?

As such, people tend to take care to choose their VP. While the mythology of geographical balance seems to have gone by the wayside (thank goodness), there’s still the issue of why choose the VP. This time around it seems the two VPs were picked to cover where the other side saw weaknesses in their own portfolios (Biden for Obama’s Foreign Policy Weakness, Palin for McCain’s right-wing weakness) as well as an attempt to woo women (if Democratic Men can’t handle powerful women, the Republican men can).

However, in McCain’s case it seems a bit of overreach. Palin seems to have morphed from a benefit to a burden on the McCain camp, and a loose cannon besides. At the very least, McCain seems a bit mad over her choice of actions.

But…more to the point: Both times a woman has been chosen for a VP slot, it seems to have eventually been viewed as partly a desperation move. McCain was so far behind in the polls at the time that it was posited his campaign was already over; then Palin was chosen and his campaign was alive again. Now it seems (key word, see end of this article) his campaign is again falling into problems as states that once were safely Republican (Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Nevada) have become frontline states while states like Michigan (borderline Democrat in 2000 and 2004) are now being treated by everyone (except Palin) as safely Democrat. Strange that the states that change are bordering Democratic states/areas, but that’s a definite change over the past two elections.

In short, one can doubt that Palin would have been chosen if there was a GOOD chance that the Republican candidate could have won the election. Same as Ferraro would have likely not been chosen had Mondale been ready for a strong, good run at the election in 1984.

Question is, will it take a successful Woman’s president run to make women VPs acceptable as anything but a sign of weakness?

(of course, it may not matter. I have my fears, I’ll post them before Election day.)

One thought on “Does Picking a Woman for VP Imply a Dead Presidential Bid?

  1. Good points all around, though I’d like to interject a couple more into the discussion here. I do think that McCain was playing to win by making a transformational pick that would shake up the race, and goose up the base (the anti-Ramones saying, “Gabba, gabba, not one of us, not one of us”). Presumably, he was also looking for someone who hadn’t left a paper trail –the obvious parallel between Ferraro and Palin being, who were best-known in their own bailiwicks, but not nationally.

    Unfortunately, I think that McCain plunged so enthusiastically into his gamble that he forgot the implications of taking his biggest argument off the table — how could he call Obama out for lack of mileage, when his running mate had arguably as little (or less)? Strike one. The dash back to Washington to score points with his colleagues on the bailout? Strike two. An ever-changing series of economic plans? Strike three.

    In fairness, it’s not like McCain had an endless list of options. Mitt Romney? Uber-right and rich — not a good fit amid the jibes directed at McCain for forgetting how many houses he owned. (No such angst for Mitt — being a button-down New Englander, he’d have had them itemized, down to the last tax break!) Joe Lieberman? The press stories claimed that McCain really wanted him, but even a nominal Democrat’s presence on the ticket would have caused a meltdown within the base. Tom Ridge? Solid, not flashy, yet some of his positions would have disqualified him, too.

    Let’s see, who else was mentioned…Charlie Crist? Florida would have been a tossup with or without his presence. Tim Pawlenty? Unknown outside of Minnesota, and could envision his name on a bumper sticker, exactly? Mike Huckabee? Would have been the best fit, in terms of rallying the evangelicals, but his eagerness for side action — recall his abrupt departure from the primary campaign to give a paid speech in the Grand Cayman Islands — probably killed his chances (for breaking the unspoken commandment given to all Number Twos: “Thou shalt not freelance”).

    Given all those handicaps, I can see where McCain was going — but Palin’s less-than-stellar performances and his recent admissions that he didn’t know her that well before making the choice only deepened whatever apparent damage has been done. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Palin, either — she seems determined to parlay this experience into something bigger and better. I suspect that she’s eyeing an intermediate opportunity to burnish her resume (the forthcoming unholy scramble for Ted Stevens’ likely soon-to-be-vacated seat being just one obvious example). Once that happens, look out: you’ll have Sarahcuda running for President!

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