Sometime last week, i scribbled a note saying that presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama would tap Nebraska’s nominally Republican senior Senator, Chuck Hagel as his running mate.Â This thought first came to me when I read that next Wednesday night’s theme at the Democratic National Convention, when the party’s vice presidential nominee speaks, will be national security.
To be sure, I’m not the first to speculate that Obama would pick Hagel.Â That very article listed the Nebraska Republican along with “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del . . . Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island . . .Â and Sam Nunn, former Georgia senator and one-time Armed Services Committee chairman.”
Given Obama’s thin record on bipartisanship, it might help burnish his self-touted credentials as a new kind of politician if he reached across the aisle for a running mate.Â And while Hagel has often parted company with his party, particularly in media appearances, he remains a Republican.
Yet, my prediction notwithstanding, speculation runs rampant that Obama will tap Biden as his running mate. Â While some find Biden a “smart, articulate, and is a bona fide expert on foreign policy,” as asset to the Illinois Senator lacking more depth in foreign affairs (as in so many other things), I’ve never been particularly impressed with his intelligence. Â (I’ve met the man, nice guy, dim bulb.)
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, Biden did a good job of reading statements and questions prepared by his staff, but seemed out of his league when attempting to respond to points from the nominees or his fellow committee members.Â He frequently shows a similar incoherence in media interviews, fine when he’s on message, repeating talking points, but rambling and self-congratulating when he has not been properly briefed on a given issue.
Those sources touting Biden (e.g., this one) are certainly far better connected to Obama and the Democrats than I, so my gut sense about Obama tapping Hagel may be just that.Â Personally, I think Biden would be more of a liability to Obama than an asset while Hagel could really help the presumptive Democratic nominee. Â
Only Republicans in Nebraska and those who follow politics closely are aware how often Hagel has parted company from his party. Â His contrarian record is not widely known, thus the pick would help Obama (at least when he announces) look like a unifying national figure by tapping a member of the opposing part for his ticket.
Had I written this post yesterday, I might have bet on Hagel, but given what I’ve been reading this morning, I’d cancel those bets.Â Still, from a Democratic perspective, having Obama tap the nominally Republican Nebraska Senator could help his floundering campaign.
UP-UPDATE: Maybe I shouldn’t cancel my bets, just hedge them. I’m now wondering if the Biden story is a head fake, getting everyone buzzing about the choice so the real choice will be more newsworthy.
Let me repeat, Nebraska’s senior Senator would add more to the Democratic ticket than would his Delaware counterpart.