Advancing a Free Society

Cuomo Vadis?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The New York Post is floating a report (actually, it’s a couple of gossipy insiders speculating) that President Obama will dump Joe Biden from the 2012 Democratic ticket, replacing him with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

And why not? Cuomo’s the toast of Democratic governors these days – the anti-Obama in that he promotes fiscal austerity, works with Republicans and is quite popular.

But an actual cabal underway to kick Joe Biden to the curb?

In other New York-related news, Judge Crater’s still missing; the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale . . .

Ok, perhaps there’s a sliver of a chance that Obama could pull the switcheroo. Hillary Clinton could step down as Secretary of State (and she’s been giving signs that she’s outta there after the election), thus giving Biden a soft landing in Foggy Bottom.

But, chess moves asides, would a new running mate really do all that much to improve Obama’s chances next November?

My take: unless Biden’s replacement is someone certain to tilt the odds by delivering a large “purple” state (Ohio, Florida), Biden doesn’t have to worry about hiring movers.

The fact is: substitute running mates aren’t always the elixirs they’re assumed to be. Just ask anyone involved with the effort to replace Nelson Rockefeller with Bob Dole in 1976.

Thirty-six years ago, then-President Gerald Ford had a problem: conservatives despised his veep, the very embodiment of the term“Rockefeller Republican”. Ronald Reagan told Ford that he couldn’t support the fall ticket unless it was altered. Barry Goldwater shared the same sentiment.

Exit “Rocky”, enter Dole . . .

. . . And a new set of headaches, after Dole stumbled through a vice presidential debate during with the Kansas senator reaffirmed his “hatchet man” reputation by talking about 1.6 million American dead and wounded in “Democrat wars in this century”.

But did Dole cost Ford the election? One could argue that other variables mattered more: the nation’s Watergate hangover; the Nixon pardon; and Ford’s own debate gaffe (“no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” during his administration).

The point is: that election was a referendum on two variables beyond the purview of the vice presidential candidate: the mood of the nation; and voters’ feelings toward the incumbent president.

2012 would seem no different (and it’s worth noting, by the way, that two of Biden’s three immediate predecessors – Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle – endured the same “dump” chatter as their bosses faced difficult re-elects). The election is an up-or-down on Obama’s performance, not Biden’s. The 68% of voters who believe the nation is on the wrong track won’t change their minds by swapping five-letter surnames on Obama bumper stickers.

Yes, the President has problems with his liberal base. However, Andrew Cuomo won’t soothe hurt feelings over keeping Guantanamo open and further militarizing Afghanistan. Adding a governor who convinced GOP state senators to sign off on same-sex marriage might bolster Obama’s gay fan base – then again, it appears the President’s not ready to come out of the closet on that particular issue.

As for the symbolism of a running mate who’s accomplished so much at the state level in so little time – well, that sort of plays into the Republican argument that Obama isn’t much of a leader; he failed to make Washington work.

So enjoy the speculation. But odds are: 15 months from now, you’ll still have Joe Biden to kick around.

And Andrew Cuomo? Let the 2016 speculation begin.

(photo credit: saebaryo)