With just three primaries left, it is abundantly clear at this point that Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president, yet Hillary has shown no signs that she plans to leave the race any time soon. On the assumptions that she is aware that the race is effectively over, and that she does, in fact, have some reason for remaining in the race other than spite and/or denial, the question becomes, what is she looking to gain? In the extended entry, I discuss what the competing theories are, and how realistic they seem to be.
Running again in 2012: Not gonna happen. Running again in 2012 is a bigger risk for her than running in 2008 was: she's up for reelection in 2012. Running again means giving up her senate seat, whereas in 2008, she's not out of a job after the Democratic Convention. That said, if she chooses to run again, it may mean running a primary against President Obama, wherein she has no argument against him assuming he's done a decent job. Her best arguments, "He is unelectable" or "I've got more experience" are no longer viable claims. If Obama loses in 2008, she has, at minimum, four major hurdles to overcome:
1) Obama proved that she can be beaten in the Democratic primary. If she runs again, whoever challengers her has a ready-made blueprint for how to win;
2) There would presumably be another front-runner, as whoever Obama chooses as his VP nominee becomes his heir apparent in 2012;
3) With Bill out of office for 12 years, and her defeat in 2008, the "Clinton Machine" is dead. She won't be able to rely on a dream team of top consultants, operatives, and fundraisers (for all the good that did her this time around anyway); and
4) Most importantly, half the party will hold her accountable for Obama's loss. Not only will she need to convince Democrats that she's the best candidate (again), but also to forgive her for bloodying up Obama and clearing the way for President McCain.
There are two factors that make this implausible. First, politically, it's a non-starter. The optics of Obama giving the Clintons tens of millions of dollars to drop out of the race would be disastrous for him. Given that a large part of the
Furthermore, the Obama campaign has prided itself on fundraising from its vaunted small-donor base. These donors, presumably, give in small amounts precisely because they cannot give more, and would be incensed at the notion that the money that they believed was going to help Obama would instead go to someone they have actively opposed for the last several months. As Josh Marshall succinctly argued, "That's not what people gave their money for."
Second, however, is the fact that it is literally not an option. According to federal election law, the Obama campaign would be limited to donating $2,000 to the
If Reid were to step aside for some reason,
Clinton for Cabinet Position in Obama Administration: Of the Big 4 (Defense, Justice, State and Treasury), I have trouble seeing her as being particularly interested in either Secretary of the Treasury, or Attorney General, based on the issues she focused on as both First Lady and as a sitting senator, so I'll assume that she isn't.
She might be interested in Secretary of State or Defense, given her campaign's focus on her foreign policy credentials, and her service on the Senate's Armed Services Committee, yet I don't see these appointments as particularly plausible. Simply put, there is no subject on which she and Obama are more divided than foreign affairs. Most prominently, they've fought over
There is, however, one cabinet position for which
This leaves me with what I think are the most likely, and most interesting, possibilities for Hillary might be hoping for: Vice President, and Supreme Court Justice.
When it comes to choosing a running mate, there is a strong argument to be made against choosing
The conservative white voters that
has amazingly managed to attract could be combined with the massive infusion of new young votes, internet money, and African-American enthusiasm to create a potential tsunami in the election. Instead of having to pick between the first black president and the first woman president, the Democrats could offer voters both: the first black president and first female vice-president. Worries about Obama's relative youth and lack of Clinton Washingtonexperience would be allayed by the presence of the . The toxicity of the Clintons baggage could be balanced by the hope Obama has inspired. Clinton
Clintonscould be deployed to shore up support in some of the Reagan Democrat states, while Obama wins over enough independents to carry the Mountain West and the upper Midwest. California, Ohio, New York, Floridaand could be secured… Pennsylvania
And yet I can also see that the new politics Obama represents has provoked a ferocious backlash from the established political class; and his weakness (as well as his appeal) as a candidate is his reluctance to engage in the kind of street-fighting that politics can sometimes — and must sometimes — become. By picking
as a vice-president, he would be pulling a classic American manoeuvre — getting a surrogate to do the dirty pugilism of the campaign, while using his own extraordinary skills to provide a unifying and uplifting overall theme. Picking Clinton would also defuse genuine concerns among older voters that he is just too green to be entrusted with presidential power just yet… Clinton
There's also a way for Obama to explain this choice in a way that does not violate — and in fact strengthens — his core message. His model in this should be Abraham Lincoln. What
did, as Doris Kearns Goodwin explained in her brilliant book, "Team Of Rivals," was to bring his most bitter opponents into his cabinet in order to maintain national and party unity at a time of crisis. Obama — who is a green legislator from Illinois, just as Lincoln was — could signal to his own supporters in picking Clinton that he isn't capitulating to old politics, he is demonstrating his capacity to reach out and engage and co-opt his rivals and opponents. Done deftly, picking Lincoln could even resonate with Obama's supporters as a statesmanlike gesture, a sign of the kind of reconciliation he wants to achieve at home and abroad and energize his own party for the fall. It is consonant with his core message: that he can unify the country in a way few other politicians can. It would even help heal the gulf that has opened up between the Clintons and black voters in this campaign. It's win-win all round. Clinton
It is the ability of this ticket to reunite the party after the divisive primary that demonstrates how smart a move an Obama/Clinton would be. Given the huge numbers of Clinton supporters who say that they would vote for McCain or stay home rather than support Obama, a number that only went up as the campaign progressed, there are few better ways to ensure that they don’t follow through with their threat of throwing the election to the Republicans. 75% of Clinton supporters, and 60% of Democrats overall want a unity ticket – with numbers like that, it’s hard to deny its appeal. In particular,
Lastly, Supreme Court Justice Clinton: Perhaps the most interesting possibility is for Barack Obama to agree to nominate Hillary to the Supreme Court.
Before stepping on to the national stage in 1992, Hillary had a very successful legal career. After attending
As Jason Miller argued in yesterday’s Washington Post,
Obama and Clinton have wound up agreeing on nearly every major issue during the campaign; at the end of the day, they share many orthodoxies. Unless the Supreme Court were to get mired in minuscule details of what constitutes universal health care, Obama could assume that he'd be pleased with most Clinton votes, certainly on major issues such as abortion.
Obama could also appreciate
If Obama were to promise
Obama could also trust that
arriving at the court. Her tenacity has never been more apparent. President Obama would engender praise (at least from Democrats) at the prospect of Hillary going toe to toe with Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.
For some context, there have been many Supreme Court Justices who did not previously serve as judges. There is also a long list of influential Justices who were nominated for the Court after careers in the legislature, including, most notably, Hugo Black (a former senator representing Alabama); William Henry Moody (a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, who, in only 2 years on the Court, authored 67 opinions); and Chief Justice Fred Vinson (formerly a member of Congress from Kentucky).
There is even precedent for Supreme Court nominations playing a role in presidential politics. In 1860,
Similarly, Earl Warren became Chief Justice only after involvement in two presidential campaigns. As Governor of California,