Political Animal


May 22, 2012 3:11 PM The Switcheroo

By Ed Kilgore

While we’re dealing with silly memes, might as well deal with one that just won’t go away: the idea that Obama’s going to dump Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton, perhaps asking them to exchange jobs. It’s been given fresh life by Obama’s rumored anger at his Veep for forcing his hand on same-sex marriage.

As it happens, I don’t have any inherent problem with Clinton getting a promotion, being a prominent booster of the Obama/Clinton “unity ticket” idea back in 2008. But it ain’t happening unless Biden develops health problems or a highly uncharacteristic desire for less attention. As Jeff Greenfield points out in a very thorough demolition of the meme, making a switch would be an admission of weakness that would be very difficult to publicly explain. It would also be a major distraction at a time when the Obama campaign just doesn’t need one.

As Greenfield also explains, this sort of thing has only happened in recent decades when the sitting vice president represented a major intra-party ideological problem for the president (Garner in 1940, Wallace in 1944, Rockefeller in 1976). Biden poses no such problem, and even if the occasional progressive misgivings about him were taken to be a big deal, Clinton would not scratch that particular itch. I could see the possibility that Clinton might theoretically add a percentage point to the ticket among women or Hispanics, but the time to make that calculation was four years ago.

But I’m sure we’ll keep hearing about the “Biden-Clinton Switch” on slow news days right down to the eve of the Convention.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on May 22, 2012 3:30 PM:

    why would this happen? Biden's been fine and useful. Hillary should have remained a Senator, where she could have helped the Adminstration on a variety of bills, instead of flying back and forth between Korea and Afghanistan accomplishing nothing.

  • rayspace on May 22, 2012 3:36 PM:

    I know it's only a small and possibly insignificant datapoint, but the campaign recently sent out "Obama-Biden" bumper stickers to past supporters. Earlier this year, they were sending stuff that just said "Obama 2012" on it.

    It's not that he couldn't change his mind, but it's going to look even more dramatic if his own campaign was urging supporters to think in terms of Obama-Biden only a few months earlier.

  • c u n d gulag on May 22, 2012 3:39 PM:

    I believe this latest idjiotic rumor started with either an article or an appearance by that always-wrong idjit, Bill Kristol.

    'Nuff said!

    He did the same thing in 2008 - and was - sit down - WRONG!!!
    And he was also the one who recommended Sarah "The Whore of Babblin' On" to McSame - and that was - not wrong, but, LOL, DISASTEROuS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rich on May 22, 2012 3:45 PM:

    the media would rather play "World News Weekly" than do any actual reporting. Actual space alien babies would be more interesting than this kind of stuff.

  • Tom Q on May 22, 2012 4:04 PM:

    The only theoretical advantage Hillary as veep would bring would be to make her the prohibitive next-in-line choice to head the ticket in 2016. But, then, she'd pretty much take that position without being VP (speaking as one who opposed her running in '08, but has been impressed enough with her Secretary of Stare-ship that I'd support her in a minute now).

    The insulting assumption of this argument is that Obama is some sort of weak candidate for re-election, which I simply don't accept. Five months from now, when Obama is cruising to re-election, Democrats and pundits will pretend they never had these doubts.

  • Peter C on May 22, 2012 4:04 PM:

    This is laughable. It is the sort of thing that percolates in Republican minds because they are afraid of Hillary and hate Bill. It's the sort of thinking which concludes that 'McCain should choose Palin' or that 'Newt was a viable candidate'.

    Biden has been fine. Hillary has been a good Secretary of State. No-drama Obama wouldn't touch such a bone-headed idea. It's less likely than Newt's lunar colony.

  • Napoleon on May 22, 2012 4:20 PM:

    You would think the appearance of Obama/Biden 2012 bumperstickers and the fact that the campaign has Biden on the trail pretty much full time at this point would have killed this idea but I guess people in Washington really are as stupid as they appear to be.

  • K Wilson on May 22, 2012 4:20 PM:

    Yeah, right. That's why the campaign has been been printing up all those Obama-Biden 2012 bumper stickers. You can get a free one right here:

  • Hedda Peraz on May 22, 2012 4:42 PM:

    Many of our regulars have already seen thru the 'silly meme'. However, since I have your attention:
    I am going to slaughter a sheep in my backyard. You can all come watch, at a dollar a head.

    If that turns you off, I just wrote a juicy story on my blog (XXX, with snappy pictures!), and I still have some ad space for sale. No pushing and shoving, please.

  • Rip on May 22, 2012 6:11 PM:

    The same thing went on in 2004, with speculation that Bush would dump Cheney. I suspect, then as now, that this will always happen when a President is facing a tight re-election and the sitting VP doesn't appear to be much of a plus to the ticket. I imagine these rumors are fanned by weak kneed beltway insiders and idle speculation by the opposition party (who always tends to see the siting Veep as a bigger hindrance to re-election than they really are). These are the same people that think Rob Portman will be a huge asset to the Romney campaign.

  • Doug on May 22, 2012 8:09 PM:

    The whole idea of this "story" is to try and frame President Obama as being "desperate". So desperate he'll dump Biden, put HRC in as the VP candidate to shore up Mr. Obama's sagging support. To which the correct response should be: WHOSE support is sagging?
    If one is to believe the GOP, this country is being run straight into a socialist, secular swamp by President Obama and the evidence is all around us. Such things as a growing economy, troops out of Iraq and setting up a time-table to leave Afghanistan. DADT is gone and the military hasn't collapsed. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire, Wall Street is getting some, if not enough, much-needed supervision and Bin Laden is dead. The GOP keeps nominating right-wing nut-jobs to run in what WERE safe races, but it's Mr. Obama who's so worried about his re-election he's considering changing VPs!
    Can you say "projection"?
    I knew you could...

  • Matt McIrvin on May 22, 2012 10:22 PM:

    Let me guess, their next prediction is going to be a brokered Democratic Convention.

  • howie on May 23, 2012 7:39 AM:

    I can see the WE STAND WITH JOE banner at the RNC website now!