Horowitz: Hillary Clinton’s Running-mate

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 

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Now that Hillary Clinton has locked up the nomination, speculation about her Vice-Presidential selection is already at a high pitch. With the Democratic National Convention still 5 weeks away, the wild guesses, rumors of who is really in the running some leaked by the campaign itself to massage specific constituencies and political egos, and weighing of the pluses and minuses of the people deemed to be under serious consideration will only become more fevered. This is all little more than hot air.

Recognizing this fact, of course, is not going to prevent me from providing some of my own. In a year, in which the political environment, strongly favors a candidate who represents ‘change’ Hillary Clinton with a big assist so far from Donald Trump is attempting to move the  decision-making frame of most of the electorate from change versus more of the same to whom has the steadiness, skills and experience to do the job.  Given that 70% of likely voters, don’t believe that Donald Trump has the right temperament to be President and most voters recognize that Hillary Clinton is smart, measured and experienced, this is an argument she wins hands-down.

As a result, the most important strategic imperative for her Vice-Presidential selection is that it amplifies and reinforces this contrast.  This argues for a Vice-Presidential selection that easily passes the Commander-in-Chief  test..  Of the current crop of frequently mentioned names, the two that best do this are Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both of whom are former Governors.

The second most critical strategic consideration is to select someone who will not turn-off independents and moderate Republicans. The fact that more than 1-out-of-3 self identified Republicans currently have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump creates an opening for Hillary Clinton—one that the campaign is currently working hard to exploit.  Someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren ( D-MA), despite her gifts and talents, will likely make the task of attracting these swing voters more difficult.

In an election against a more qualified and popular Republican nominee, such as John Kasich or Marco Rubio, picking the candidate that did the most to mobilize the Obama coalition might well be the way to go. In that scenario, Warren, Julian Castro,the 41 year old Secretary of Housing  and former Mayor of San Antonio or even Bernie Sanders would conceivably be the best options. But against Trump, who so repels Latinos, African-Americans and Millennials that he solves most of the problems with lack of enthusiasm for Hillary, along with providing a big opportunity to persuade voters who under normal circumstances would be highly unlikely to vote for Hillary,  a choice aimed at the center of the electorate makes more strategic sense..

If any one wants to start a betting pool, I am putting a nickel on Tim Kaine. That is my contribution to the hot air supply—not exactly a scarce commodity these days.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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