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If Not Biden, Who?

Will it be Obama-Cuomo in 2012?

11:12 AM, Jul 4, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Will President Obama replace Joe Biden as his running mate in 2012? I've always thought it’s a real possibility. Biden was perhaps useful in bringing experience to the ticket of challenger Obama in 2008, but he does nothing for incumbent Obama in 2012, whereas a fresher and younger face might add some zip and energy to the reelection effort.

Biden Obama

Now I worked for a vice president, Dan Quayle, in 1992, when some in the White House and the party wanted to remove him from the ticket, and I can report that it's harder to pull that off in practice than in theory—if the vice president wants to stay on the ticket. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement a while ago that she would leave at the end of 2012 gives Obama an opening. As he removes Biden from the ticket, Obama could announce that he'd nominate Biden to succeed Clinton as secretary of state in his second term. This would give Biden a place to land gracefully, and would make it harder for him and his allies to fight behind the scenes to stay on the ticket. He might even prefer to be secretary of state, given his interest in foreign policy and since it can be a more powerful office in a second term than being a lame duck vice president (cf. Condi Rice vs. Dick Cheney).

So who might replace Biden? Fred Dicker speculates in the New York Post that it could be New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and he quotes former New York GOP chairman Bill Powers and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown making the case. Here's Powers: "Andrew had a fabulous session. It was fabulous. A property-tax cap, ethics reform and, for Democrats, gay marriage. I don't think there's any doubt Obama is going to pick him as his running mate. The president is in trouble and [Vice President Joseph] Biden doesn't bring anything to his ticket." And Brown: "He's a big name, a big-state governor, and a Democrat who is taking on the issue of public-employee salaries and pensions. Plus, he looks good."

The case for Cuomo, a reform-minded governor who's (apparently) governing successfully, isn't a bad one. And making him the heir presumptive would also, presumably, make it harder for his fellow New Yorker, Hillary Clinton, to run in 2016—something that wouldn't disturb team Obama.

On the other hand, picking an heir to a political-dynasty with a very dubious record as HUD secretary under Bill Clinton probably wouldn't do that much to revitalize the Obama ticket, and an urban New Yorker probably wouldn't help much with swing voters in key states in the Midwest, the Southwest, or Florida.

Is there a better pick than Cuomo? There aren't a lot of obvious possibilities. But here's one, who 1) could presumably help in all-important Florida, 2) is young and has a sympathetic personal story, 3) is a proven aggressive and (perhaps) effective attacker of Republicans, which would then allow Obama to appear presidential and a bit above the fray, and 4) could bolster Obama's support among women against a Republican ticket that could include one, or could mobilize women against a GOP ticket that lacked one. Isn't Debbie Wasserman Schultz a more logical VP choice than either Joe Biden or Andrew Cuomo?

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