Less Than 12 Weeks to Election Day; Next 3 Weeks Are Critical

It’s hard to believe that we are now less than 12 weeks away from a presidential election with momentous implications for America’s future. 

Hanging in the balance, for starters, are America’s entire national security strategy and potentially the seats of several Supreme Court justices (in a Court that is ideologically split 5-4) as well as numerous other lifetime judicial appointments to federal courts.

Dan Balz points out at The Trail that the next three weeks are critical:

In the modern era, there has never been quite as concentrated a dose of potentially campaign-altering events as the coming three weeks could produce. By the end of that period, Obama and McCain will have announced their vice presidential running mates, staged four-day infomercials for their candidacies and delivered what are likely to be the single most important speeches of the general election.

For those who revel in the unpredictability of politics, this calendar is ready-made for enjoyment. The cascading events will heighten the cost of mistakes, affect the post-convention bounce for Obama and perhaps McCain, supercharge the traditional Labor Day opening of the fall campaign and raise the stakes on the two presidential nominees not to misuse their conventions, as John Kerry did four years ago.

Normally these events have stretched over six weeks or more and generally have taken place much earlier in the summer. Voters have had time to fully digest each one before the next has occurred. That changed this year because the Democratic and Republican parties decided to hold their conventions back-to-back, and later than ever before. It also changed because, despite much speculation to the contrary, Obama and McCain have waited until just before the conventions to name their vice presidents.

The competitiveness of the Obama-McCain contest now argues for safe vice presidential choices. Neither is in a position to risk — nor does either need — a running mate whose selection dramatically changes perceptions of their candidacies.

The choice of V.P. has to be especially agonizing for Obama.  There are so many things that can go wrong.

First of all, Obama’s appeal is based on looking and sounding good, and on being something new and different — a black man running for the presidency.  Whoever Obama picks for V.P., they will not be another Obama.  They will dilute his brand; bring it back down earth.  "Ah — we have two humans here, not The One."

Needless to say, the option of picking Hillary Clinton as V.P. is dead on arrival — unless, as others have put it, Obama wants to spend his entire candidacy and hoped-for presidency with his head on a swivel.  I mean, get real:  Would YOU want Hillary as your V.P.?  Her ambition is too palpable.  How well would you sleep at night with Hillary as your second fiddle?

Another problem is that Obama has to find a V.P. who doesn’t overshadow him.  With Obama’s limited total time in national politics and his total absence of military and foreign policy experience, it has to be a real challenge to find a  V.P. with any experience at all whose credentials don’t outweigh those of Obama himself.  And while our current president was wise enough to choose a V.P. (Dick Cheney) with three decades of political experience under his belt, I’m not sure if Obama wants a more experienced V.P. standing by his side.  Will practicality win over hubris?

This week’s rumor is that John F. Kerry is under consideration as Obama’s veep.  Let’s consider this purely on a superficial level, because that’s where Obama is coming from:  (a) On the plus side, Kerry spent four months in Vietnam, which is more military experience than Obama has, but (b) on the negative side, Kerry is about three inches taller.  Will it do for the Messiah to be shorter than his sidekick?

McCain doesn’t have the same problem.  He can pick his V.P. from any number of candidates without being concerned that he will look weak or inexperienced by comparison.  In picking a V.P., McCain does have to walk a tightrope to try to avoid alienating either his moderate base or the conservatives he needs to win.  But that’s a challenge he has thus far, somehow, survived.

In any event, all will be revealed, and soon. Buckle up!

Cross-posted at GINA COBB

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