In August 2010, here in POLITICO, I proposed that President Barack Obama replace Vice President Joe Biden on the 2012 Democratic ticket with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I still think it is the wisest course of action.
And what about the GOP’s vice presidential intentions?
First the Democrats. Obama would need a little more of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s chutzpah to dump Biden. After watching Biden’s performance the past few years, Johnson would not have had difficulty moving him out and bringing in a stronger teammate — largely because it would be right for the Democratic Party and the country.
Consider LBJ’s maneuvering to appoint Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice on the Supreme Court. There was not a vacancy on the court — and none on the horizon. That was of no moment to Johnson. He took care of that minor complication in short order.
A master of political maneuvering, Johnson created this vacancy out of whole cloth by appointing young Ramsey Clark as U.S. attorney general and convincing his father, Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, to resign. If Clark had stayed on the court, he would have had to recuse himself from every case his son, the new Justice Department head, was involved in. Tom Clark left, and Marshall made history — again.
But the Democrats will have an Obama-Biden ticket in 2012.
Now, what about the other side of the ballot?
It looks increasingly likely that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. Seeing how he’s evolved ideologically during his political career, Romney must be careful when choosing his VP. The GOP base will see it as a signal of which Romney will lead the party during the general election.
Frankly, Romney needs a Southerner. It is the modern GOP’s base — and that base has yet to develop any real connection with Romney. He will need his candidate to bridge that gap, and Romney has little to no choice on this.
The most obvious running mates are Florida freshman Sen. Marco Rubio and the governor of my own commonwealth, Bob McDonnell.
First, Romney should take Rubio at his word that he doesn’t want to be on the ticket. Rubio’s instincts are right. It is too soon for him.
McDonnell, though, has the profile that conventional wisdom would say Romney needs. McDonnell is Southern, conservative, politically savvy, popular and suburban friendly in a must-win state. No one could blame Romney for making this sound electoral choice — which addresses every political calculus important this November.
I would not be surprised to see Romney’s people start spending time in Richmond, to check up on McDonnell.
Yet, I’m not sure this is a time that calls for the conventional.
What if Romney did in 2012 what Sen. John McCain tried to do in 2008? McCain, frankly, failed to reshape the mold. Romney, though, can succeed.
The answer to Romney’s search may well be sitting in Palo Alto, Calif., at Stanford University.
His success could come in the form of a petite, whip-smart, iron-willed woman who knows the world and America’s place in it better than most: Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.
As political maneuvering goes, Johnson would let out a belly laugh at the political skill of a Romney-Rice pairing.
Rice was a darling of the Bush administration, one of the few who suffered minimal public scars and escaped minus the political revulsion some of her former colleagues still evoke. She knows foreign policy, which Romney does not. She understands the workings of Washington, also not Romney’s forte.
Rice, though, is not a Beltway captive, having spent most of her life outside the nation’s capital. She is of the West, having lived many years in California. Yet she also is a woman of the South, having come of age in Birmingham, Ala. — the daughter of a teacher and minister — during a time of segregation when that city earned the terrible nickname, Bombingham. She survived a tumultuous time in this nation’s history, facing violence and the loss of friends with grace and hope.
Rice is an American example.
She would break barriers. She would also bring national and international gravitas to the 2012 political discussion, which is desperately needed.
Obama-Biden versus Romney-Rice. What a campaign that would be!
The piece originally appeared in Politico on January 17, 2011: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71537.html