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A Hillary Clinton - Evan Bayh Ticket for 2008?

Sep 26, 2007

Evan Bayh walked into a small ballroom at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill on Monday and faced eight TV cameras.Normally, Bayh would have to promise to set himself on fire to get eight TV cameras to show up, but this time was different. This time, he was accompanied by Hillary Clinton -- and Hillary gets eight TV cameras when she clears her throat.
A Hillary Clinton - Evan Bayh Ticket for 2008?

A Hillary Clinton - Evan Bayh Ticket for 2008?

Bayh, the Democratic senator from Indiana, was endorsing Hillary for president, but it was more than that. Standing there side by side behind the lectern they looked like ... a ticket. Clinton and Bayh. Strength and Experience. Best Friends Forever.

Since we were irresponsibly early a few weeks ago in speculating that Hillary may be well on her way to sewing up the Democratic nomination, let's be equally irresponsible today in speculating on who may be atop her shortlist for running mate. (Tomorrow we will speculate on more names.)

Way back in July, I said that Mark Warner and Evan Bayh were leading choices. Now, Warner, the former governor of Virginia, has removed himself from vice presidential contention by choosing to run for senator from Virginia, instead.

Frankly, that is a surprising choice. If you want to be president -- and I suspect Warner does -- becoming a vice president is a much better way of getting there. Fourteen vice presidents have become president, and only two sitting senators (Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy) have gone directly to the White House.

Hillary Clinton would be the third if she wins both the nomination and the presidency, but because she is a senator, the general thinking is that she will look for a governor as a running mate. Warner would have been a good choice because he was a governor from a Southern state.

Bayh is a rarity, however: Before becoming a senator, he was a two-term governor of Indiana and can therefore claim to have both executive and legislative experience. But what about Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa? Like Bayh, he ended his own run for the presidency and has endorsed Hillary. He is also a national co-chairman of her campaign, reflecting the importance of Iowa in the primary election process.

Vilsack would rank below Bayh on any shortlist for vice president for a number of reasons, however. First, Hillary can probably win Iowa even without Vilsack on the ticket in 2008, but that is not true of Indiana, where she would have virtually no chance without Bayh. Indiana has gone for a Democratic presidential nominee only once since 1936, and that was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Indiana and Ohio are the only two Great Lakes states that did not go Democratic in 2004, and Bayh would be a big help in Indiana and some help in neighboring Ohio. Also, Bayh is, well, a little smoother than Vilsack. Consider both of them on the subject of Rudy Giuliani.

At the beginning of the news conference Monday, Bayh said his wife, Susan, was in the room. "That reduces the risk of disruptive phone calls," Bayh said with a smile. Rudy Giuliani, you see, keeps getting these calls from his wife during his speeches. So it was a (semi-) cute little dig.

Vilsack used a meat ax on Giuliani, however. "I can't even get into the number of marriages and the fact that his children -- the relationship he has with his children," Vilsack told a New York TV station recently. "There are a lot of issues involving Mayor Giuliani. ... He's got a very interesting past."

Uh, yeah. He does. But does the Clinton campaign really want to bring up people's personal pasts? Really? Bayh may also be the only person in politics more telegenic than John Edwards. And Bayh has no known scandals, except for the name thing.

You didn't know about the name thing? Bayh is another politician who has changed his name. Fred Thompson was born Freddie Thompson. John Edwards was born Johnny Edwards (but changed it when he became a lawyer so as not to detract from the dignity of that profession).

And Evan Bayh is really Birch Evans Bayh III. His father is Birch Bayh, whose 1976 campaign for the presidency I actually covered. (I was 4.) Both father and son share a sense of humor. On Monday, Hillary was asked if Evan Bayh was "vice presidential material."

"His record of public service is extraordinary," Hillary said. "Thank you all for coming," Bayh said.

 


 

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