Here's a quick rundown of the many advantages the Democrats enjoy at this stage of the 2008 campaign. Voter turnout in most states is running well ahead of that for the GOP. Democratic fund-raising continues to break all recordseven those set previously by Republicans. The Democrats' issues cupboard is fuller than it has been in a decade and a half. And voters have narrowed the field to two wildly popular candidates, either of whom would make history if nominated, much less elected.
Given the embarrassment of riches, it was only a matter of time before Democratic voters looked at the choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and asked the question, Why not both?
That idea had been on some voters' minds even before the dream was made flesh two weeks ago in Los Angeles, where, at the end of the Kodak Theatre debate, Obama and Clinton smiled, embraced each other for more than the usual nanosecond and then seemed to whisper something knowing in each other's ear. After weeks of hand-to-hand combat and rumors of tiffs that may or may not have been real, the Hug rightly or wrongly got even more people thinking about the power of two. Even if their act was dutiful, evanescent and faked for the cameras, party regulars seemed to eat it up. It was all there: the visionary and the technician, the candidate who could inspire the masses and the candidate who could get under the sink and fix the plumbing.
For Clinton, pairing with Obama would repair some of the damage with African Americans brought on by her campaign and, at least in theory, push her husband to the sidelines. Obama, in turn, would get a mechanic to match his magic, someone who could turn his poetry into governing prose.
A new TIME poll reveals that 62% of Democrats want Clinton to put Obama on the ticket; 51% want Obama to return the favor if he is the nominee. The party's right brain and left brain, dancing together at last, right?
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Well, not exactly. It's far too early to know if Obama and Clinton could work together, though there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. While the Clinton camp saw an opportunity in the general longing of the audienceClinton fund raiser Terry McAuliffe said on the morning of Super Tuesday that Obama has generated so much excitement, he would have to be considered for the party's vice-presidential nominationthe Obama people saw a trap. If Obama and his aides lent any credence now to the dangled notion of a partnership, they know that some of his voters might peel off, thinking a vote for Clinton was, in effect, a twofer. And that could drive down Obama's turnout. "We're not running for Vice President," said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
No, and as long as Obama has a real shot at the top spot, there's no need to entertain the Veep talk. As a top Obama aide said, "That's not where this campaign's head is at." Instead, the Obama camp had been expecting the Veep proffer for weeks, just as it had expected the Clinton campaign to play the race card after New Hampshire. Obama headquarters was fully aware that the Clintons had badly overplayed their hand in the days leading up to South Carolinaso badly that Bill or Hillary would have to make some peace offering to Obama's supporters, if not to Obama himself, to heal the breach. But forgiveness, while long a staple of the Clinton narrative, isn't something the Obama team is ready to embrace. An Obama adviser put it this way: "One could argue that the Senator should not even agree to discuss an offer of the vice presidency until Senator Clinton agrees to bar her husband from the West Wing for the duration of the first term. And then once she agrees to that, he should turn it down."