Dems Need a Nash Equilibrium Solution

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Various delegate count analysts are showing that Obama made some gains in diminishing the gap between himself and delegate leader Hillary Clinton.
Matt Stoller writes that on a net basis, Obama may have added 45 net delegates more than HIllary Clinton did yesterday. Real Clear Politics has Hillary Clinton ahead overall now by just 15 delegates at 1121 over Obama’s 1106.
In the upcoming near term races — Maine (which takes place today), Virgninia, DC, and Maryland — there are 272 delegates up for grabs.
Ben Smith has published an interesting roster showing the Obama campaign’s own predictions on delegate distribution in these upcoming races — and if the facts on the ground remain similar to the Obama campaign’s expectations — Hillary Clinton will pick up 93 delegates. Obama’s crowd expects harvesting 99 in these races, leaving her still a smidgen ahead.
The two teams need to get their head around the fact that both candidates are exciting to huge swaths of the American public. Neither of them is perfect. They both have serious deficits in their portfolios that Republicans could exploit.
Nothing can stop the efforts of both campaigns at this point to try and win it all outright — but reasonable analysis leads one to see that neither will win. And if one or the other wins via a seduction of super delegates, the fissure inside the party will be too big to ignore. They both need to be on the Democratic ticket. As much as neither wants to admit that, that is increasingly the reality of the current political situation.
Dems need to think about a Nash equilibrium solution — and stop going for one or the other exclusively because it will harm the overall chances of surviving in the November general race. The Nash equilibrium in this case is putting both Clinton and Obama on the same ticket — and getting both to stop denigrating the supporters of the other.
What super delegates may do is to tilt towards Clinton or Obama at the head of the ticket — but the price they give for their support needs to be that one or the other will get the VP slot. And both of them should stop pretending that they wouldn’t take it, including Hillary as VP.
A ticket with either Hillary or Barack Obama at the head of the ticket gets a check point in history. A ticket with both of them on it will probably be a record holder for a very long time.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “Dems Need a Nash Equilibrium Solution

  1. WPA says:

    Art, may I call you Art? You sir are far and away more eloquent than POA. Take for example this eloquant:
    “It’s still possible for people to stand back from the abyss of corruption – to stare clear-eyed back over the craters left in the wake of their own hubris and the poisoned ambitions of their sycophants and willful manipulators.”
    Magnifique!!
    Sir, you are in the higher class of writers with the eruditist of them all, Christopher Hitchens, if I may say so myself.
    Good day, sir, and God bless.

    Reply

  2. arthurdecco says:

    “Responsible celebrity has a price, a responsibility to the people. Like it or not, Steve has arrived at a kind of celebrity status. The insider’s insider. I hope I see the day that Steve rises to his station, and recognizes the tremendous role he could play as an advocate for the people. But sadly, as each day passes, my optimism wanes. Power does corrupt.” Posted by PissedOffAmerican
    I couldn’t agree more, POA. It takes a remarkable level of inner moral strength to face down the demons that arrive with celebrity and to stand strong and resolute in the face of the cloying and self-centred star-f_ckers that are always attracted to the blue flame of influence.
    Power corrupts all but the clearest thinking, focused and ethical amongst us.
    It’s a measure of each individual’s native intelligence and the strength of their ethical standards as to how long it takes to break down their personal positives while encouraging their weaknesses when faced with the onslaughts that celebrity brings. Most of us succumb to the destructive attentions of celebrity; some of us futilely resist and a tiny fraction are overwhelmed for a time before waking up to the realization that, “Whoa! Am I losing control over who I want to be and what I represent to others? Am I losing myself?”
    It’s still possible for people to stand back from the abyss of corruption – to stare clear-eyed back over the craters left in the wake of their own hubris and the poisoned ambitions of their sycophants and willful manipulators.
    …If they awaken to the real world in time, that is…
    I believe there’s hope for Steve, POA. I believe you do too, or you wouldn’t still be posting so eloquently here on his blog.

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  3. Ben Brackley says:

    Let’s just this play out and see who has the most pledged delegates at the end of the day. Folks are getting a bit too excited about scenarios that remain fairly remote possibilities. It reminds me a bit of those who said the uncertainty as to the Presidential outcome in 2000 was too crippling for the country and had to be resolved quickly; we know how that turned out.
    The bulk of super delegates will almost certainly get behind that candidate with the most pledged delegates in June (I can’t imagine the majority of the 795 super delegates that have stayed on the sidelines thus far would decide this any differently).
    After Tuesday, Obama will probably have a lead of about 70-75 among pledged delegates. Clinton will have a chance to eliminate or cut that lead a bit in Ohio and Texas on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 21. I’d probably give Obama the slight edge to win the most pledged delegates (North Carolina may be as important as Pennsylvania) so long as his campaign retains its organizational advantages and Obama’s supporters retain their enthusiasm. Still, a lot can change by May (it’s only been 5 weeks of primaries and caucuses up to now) and who knows what will happen.

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  4. FGF says:

    Is everyone comfortable with how the super delegates – who are not pledged delegates and whose votes technically won’t be tallied until the convention – are currently being accounted for given that’s is such a close race? The super delegates may very well need to make a coordinated move to facilitate the nomination, a move which would fundamentally alter current assumed allegiances, and I would prefer to see a pledged delegate tally and a separate super delegate tally until we get this sorted out.

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  5. Sasha says:

    I strongly agree, and I wish I heard this coming from more sources.

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  6. RonK, Seattle says:

    Tech note: Rather than a Nash equilibrium, Steve’s proposal intends a collaborative solution of the sort that often dominates a Nash equilibrium point, offering higher payoffs to both/all parties (as in Prisoners Dilemma).
    I hesitate to press theh G.T. theme further, but the instant case looks like it might be a variant of
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_%28game%29

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  7. Jim says:

    After eight years of the powerful and historically unprecedented Cheney vice-presidency, we need someone in the VP slot who is willing to reliquinish some of the power that has been read into this office. I cannot imagine that Hillary Clinton would be content to act as window-dressing–I expect she would use the existing powers to their fullest extent, and perhaps even expand them. For that reason the prospect of a Clinton vice-presidency troubles me.

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  8. Robert M. says:

    Umm, Steve. That’s NOT the way it works in US politics. If it was, it would have been Bush-McCain in 2000 and David Addington would unlikely have had a sniff of power. Instead, we had the July coup d’etat. Or FDR picking Cactus Jack and then Henry Wallace & then Harry S Truman, etc. Whoever is the presidential nominee gets to choose so as to at least have the possibility of a working relationship. With neither Dem candidate is that a possibility; the Hilary joke I just read being why would she want the veep job AGAIN? And, heck, Al Gore is tanned, rested, and experienced! So who needs Hil/Bill?
    Also, please note that Obama has a lot more steel and savvy than you’ve been giving him credit for. Let it play out as usual (Cheney of course NOT being usual nor normal). Revolutionary Change.

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  9. susan says:

    Dan Kervick, as always, you make a lot of sense.
    Have you noticed that the “dream ticket” advocates seem largely to be Clinton supporters? Here’s a recent example: Dems Need to Unite … Soon” by Anna Quindlen. (In the piece, Quindlen states that she voted for Hillary)
    The Dream Ticket cheerleaders assure us that this solution would be in the “best interests” of the party (kind of like the Supremes needed to decide the 2000 election “for the good of the country”). However, I think they might be a bit disingenuous.
    Perhaps Team Clinton is no longer certain that Hillary will prevail in the primary/caucus races, so pushing for a combined ticket (with her at the top, of course) would be another way to achieve their goal of making her our nominee.
    While I am vehemently anti-war and currently support Obama, ultimately I will vote for either candidate. Nonetheless, I always resented having the pro-war Hillary shoved at me as the presumptive nominee before any votes were cast.
    I think the party is pretty resilient, and, if it were up to me, I would let the democratic process continue and see what happens.

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  10. David says:

    C’mon Steve. You have been pushing Hillary since day one and this is just an effort to save her. The fact is that that Obama has the momentum, is running better against McCain in all polls, has much lower negatives, will not single-handedly galvanize the GOP, and, most importantly, has the capability to bring the country together and lead.
    If he gets the nod, she brings down his candidacy as VP. He needs to shore up his weaknesses with a strong VP and she’s not it. I think much of this push to mash them together is driven by the fact that many of us who support him will go for Bloomberg and possibly McCain in the fall, and that she will no doubt lose to McCain.
    She needs to put aside her ego if she can’t pull it together and put it away.

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  11. dsmooth says:

    “and getting both to stop denigrating the supporters of the other”
    Steve, what are you talking about here? I haven’t seen either campaign denigrating the other’s supporters. What I do see is that nearly 80% of each side’s supporters are perfectly happy supporting the other candidate in the general.
    Superdelegates tipping the scale may fissure the party, but I don’t think these two strong campaigns are hurting the party at all.

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  12. Jason says:

    Hi Steve,
    You’ll either have a stronger argument to make in a month from now, or no argument to make. I’m with Dan K. on this one–a string of Obama victories in February + the way he matches up with McCain may convince enough undecideds + soft Clinton supporters to rally behind Obama and put the writing on the wall for Clinton, or at least give Obama some leverage into asking her to drop out in lieu for another position.
    If that dynamic doesn’t take place and it’s still a tie, I don’t think a Nash equilibrium solution is possible. Let’s say me and you are in a contest to touch a pole for as long as possible. Winner gets $1 mil. We both have the ability to touch the pole for an infinite amount of time, and we both know this information.
    In that case, we can split the money 50/50 after 5 seconds and give up. But you can’t split the presidency in any tangible way to get a similar solution. The best you can offer is a significantly less valuable prize, and the only way the other candidate will accept it would be if the candidate knows s\he is at a disadvantage, (“My arm is tired and I will probably lose anyway”).
    The real Nash equilibrium is with McCain and Huckabee, which is why I think Huckabee will either get the VP slot or another huge concession.
    A side thought: I think there were a lot more game theory thinking in U.S. government, particularly in how we approach solving foreign policy conflicts. The major players in Iraq and Israel\Palestine could benefit from using this type of thinking.

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  13. RonK, Seattle says:

    Got any worse ideas, Steve?
    First, it’s a potential losing ticket. There are voters who won’t vote for a black man. There are voters who won’t vote for a woman. They are legion, and they are not the same voters.
    Second, Obama’s winning message has been a set of “heavy artillery” attacks on both Clintons’ character and politics (affirming decades of rightwing radio talk), in a battle for history itself.
    In this rendering, Hillary isn’t just the status quo equivalent of Bush or McCain. Her people and their ways are an evil of a magnitude equivalent to segregation (or, if you prefer, Demon Rum, or Islamofascism) — the kind of challenge that only a great leader at a defining moment can confront … the kind of stain that only an uncompromisingly righteous social movement can expunge. Obama’s core following buys it, wholesale.
    Neither can take the VP slot, and neither can offer it.
    Third, either player is better poised to exert influence in the Senate, come what may, than as VP (awaiting a death or disability that would open a Pandora’s Box of conspiracy theory and recrimination).
    How does the party unite and heal itself from here? That’s not clear, but this ain’t it.

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  14. Greg P says:

    Steve,
    Very much agree that this thing isn’t over — despite the media narrative about the Obama “sweep…” If Hillary can pull out wins in big states like Texas and Ohio, the momentum could shift back.
    One solid prediction I’ll make though — there will NOT be any back room deals at the convention, and the majority of superdelegates will ultimately side with whoever wins the most pledged delegates. If Hillary comes in with a slight lead of 100 or so, she wins it. If Obama comes in with a slight lead, he wins it.
    The Democratic Party establishment knows quite well how much the party’s presidential candidates live and die by turnout from the African American community. If Obama comes in with a slim lead in pledged delegates, and the superdelegates hand the nomination to Hillary, that’s would decimate black turnout in the general election. Knowing that, thee’s not going to be any back room deals…

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  15. Dan Kervick says:

    The Obama campaign’s leak of the delegate count spreadsheet was both a deft move to manage expectations, and a way of boosting his support among voters and superdelegates by showing that, even given the best case Clinton scenario, Obama has a strategy for victory. The whole point of the leak, in other words, was to shred the last remnants of the Clinton inevitability argument, and to attract supporters whose only psychological barrier to switching to Obama has been their desire to stay with the person they had up to now believed to be the eventual nominee.
    But here’s what the Obama people are too coy to mention in those official projections: The Clinton path to the nomination increasingly appears to require something like a version of the “Giuliani strategy”. A Clinton victory requires her to sweep the late big state primaries following a string of Obama victories in February, and then rake in a substantial majority of the superdelegates. For that to happen, one must imagine that even after a month of losing and bad news, her current supporters in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania – which includes many people who have barely begun to think about their votes – will all stay on board.
    Recall that Giuliani led in Florida polling for many months. But what happened to that support after a few weeks of failure in early primaries and caucuses? It evaporated. Now Obama already has a significant lead in pledged delegates. If Obama does indeed mount the string of February victories that began last night, the bandwagoning effect is going to be too strong for the Clinton campaign, and their big state electoral levee is going to break. Large numbers of voters in those late states will switch to the person who will increasingly appear to be the party’s nominee. These voters are also going to be exposed to a month of media reports that Obama shapes up much better than Clinton in head-to-head matchups with McCain. And finally, pressure is going to begin to mount soon inside the party leadership to settle on a nominee to begin to fight back against a McCain campaign that has already begun, to make sure the nomination is not deferred absurdly until the convention in August, and especially to make sure that superdelegates don’t controversially give the nomination to a candidate who trails in pledged delegates.
    I see little value in the so-called “dream ticket” of Obama and Clinton or Clinton and Obama. Someone is going to win this nomination and someone is going to lose this nomination. If Obama is the nominee, I see no electoral benefit to putting Clinton on the ticket. It might satisfy some Democrats, but does absolutely nothing to help the ticket attract Independents or Republicans. Rather, Clinton’s baggage, high negatives and established polling ceiling among the general public would weaken the nominee, be an anchor that the Democratic ticket has to drag around, and not help in securing the electoral votes of even a single state that the Democrats are not already poised to win.

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  16. JohnH says:

    Kristoff address the “most electable” issue:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/opinion/07kristof.html
    I agree with Jim that Obama’s strength is in reaching out to the public–using the Bully Pulpit to motivate people and creating a groundswell of support for change. Obama would not be suitable as VP, because the position is not conducive to being used as a bully pulpit. Clinton’s alleged strength is in working the bureaucracy, like Cheney does. Both qualities are necessary, but HRC is unlikely to accept #2.

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  17. leo says:

    I haven’t really noticed Clinton and Obama supporters attacking each other, I have seen a variety of complaints about the Clinton campaign’s tactics and this extends to their surrogates.

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  18. Jim says:

    At the risk of sounding like one of those geeky Constitutional fetishists, a commenter at your crosspost at TPMCafé (where I was gonna post this but their new system keeps kicking me out) makes an interesting argument for Obama as President and Hillary as “prime minister”, or, Senate majority leader. Her strengths (wonkish knowledge, party-insiderdom, large and partisan politcal network) are much better suited to that technical legislative role; her weaknesses too. The “Clinton era” boogeymen that keep Old Lady Broder and his ilk from digesting their Ovaltine won’t be so scary to them if HRC is in the Senate, and it’s harder for Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh to raise money and ratings from the title “Senate Majority Leader” than president. Also, quite frankly, her track record on foreign policy is less than inspiring. I realize that it doesn’t have the historical resonance (romanticism) of First Woman President, but she would be much more effective, and better for the country, in the Senate than in the White House. IMHO.
    Obama would be one of the great Bully Pulpit presidents, and (I trust and hope) he has a more innovative and broader-minded approach to foreign policy, while his biggest weakness (in my opinion) is his health care policy. I’d rather see him selling the public on and then signing a program built by Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy than trying to push his own through the Senate.
    Bluntly, I don’t think HRC is ever going to accept the second spot, and why should she? She would be ending her career in limbo.

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  19. DonS says:

    Ah, the famous Clinton negatives. Very real. And all there is to counter them is that segment of the population who will uphold their gender.
    On the other side, there is the unknown of how many [dems] will vote against a black candidate solely for that reason.
    Anyone have and answer?

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  20. FaceOnMars says:

    I would like to see a significant & influential block of super delegates committed to renouncing their vote as a super delagate & attempt to sway the rest of the super delegates to do the same.
    Sure, this may help Obama over Clinton; however, it will solidify the party’s support in the general election vs. having it splintered apart via an internal “2000 election”.
    I’m becoming more and more inclined to vote for a third party or consider the GOP if a super delegate tips the scales one way or the other.
    The king & queen might be long gone, but it is apparent their legacy lives on.

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  21. JohnH says:

    Who should drop out or agree to serve as VP? Answer: the one that is less polarizing, brings more new voters, and matches up best against McCain. It would be interesting to know how much of Obama’s vote is really anti-Hillary. After all, she steadfastly refuses to say anything bad about the Occupation of Iraq, only that it was badly managed. Stiffing the Democratic base on their most passionate issue cannot but hurt her in the general election. And continuing the war will starve the budget of funds needed for other issues that the base feels passionate about–healthcare, economic stimulus, social security, medicare, education…

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  22. Hope says:

    The best path is for Hillary to drop out because her family has had enough suffering and what she has seen so far in the nominating process will only increase by tenfold in the general election and continue all through her presidency, therefore for the sake of her family’s well-being and for the good of the country, she must bid the campaign trail farewell [tears].
    A graceful self serving exit and a true patriot.

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  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing.
    The overriding “issue” has become campaign strategy, rather than policy positions.
    Daily, we see epic issues playing out, that cut to the core of American values and the very heart of what it means to have a “representative government” that sees all men as equal before the rule of law. Mukasey’s recent declaration that he will not enforce contempt of Congress citations against members of Bush’s Administration is one such issue. Wolfowitz’s new posting, and Bush’s intent to propel Turkey into the nuclear community, right on the heels of Sibel Edmonds’ public disclosures, are yet another such issue.
    Yet do we see Steve, or these candidates, addressing these issues as they arise? No. We see more discourse about a percieved slur against Chelsea, or Obama’s possible pot smoking in college, than we see about epic issues that are unfolding behind the concealing curtains of a media blackout and this pathetic circus being advanced as “the democratic process”.
    In California alone, apparently many THOUSANDS of registered Republicans, when arriving at the polls, discovered that their registrations had been listed as DTS, and they were unable to cast a vote. In Kern county, McCain won over Romney, when the exact opposite was the projected outcome. In New Hampshire, the mess STILL has not been sorted out, and the results are still inexplicably different than was projected. Factor in the blatant manipulation and favoritism that has been practiced by the likes of Fox News and the major media monsters by marginalizing candidates, excluding them from the debates, demonizing them, and misrepresenting thier positions, and you have an electoral process that would shame a third world dictatorship.
    And still, the unabashed and self-destructive denial runs rampant, displayed by shameless cheerleading and the purposefully blind eyes turned to unprecedented executive abuses, an economy being laid to ruin, and the rapid diminishment of our rights and freedoms.
    There will come a day in the not too distant future, when I will feel motivated to say to Steve “I told you so”. But when we have arrived at that point, it is doubtful this mode of communication will be available to us. Information is power, and our access to what little power we have left is being dismantled.
    Responsible celebrity has a price, a responsibility to the people. Like it or not, Steve has arrived at a kind of celebrity status. The insider’s insider. I hope I see the day that Steve rises to his station, and recognises the tremendous role he could play as an advocate for the people. But sadly, as each day passes, my optimism wanes. Power does corrupt.

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  24. DonS says:

    Really, the issue is a practical one as Steve points out; neither one is likely to lock up the nomination before the convention. And it will take some mightly work to come up with a unified team regardless of how things pan out under that presumption, and with all the uncertainties of a brokered convention with the super delegates tipping the balance. (should there be some rules in place whereby the superdelegates are not total free agents? or are we back to the back room deals and promised spoils)
    It would be better if Obama or Clinton deep sixed the other before the convention since, I believe, every day of close uncertainty increases the probability of increased acrimony. Let’s face it: the Clintons are not just whimsically interested in this historical opportunity. Nor Obama.
    But I place the Clintons higher on the intensity scale (not to mention establishment dem support), and I can envision Hillary somewhat less likely to accept and arrangement with her in the VP spot. Although, truth be told, why is historically less impressive to be the first woman VP [or] Pres?
    Obama would have another shot at the top eight years hence, perhaps, but not Hillary. But with Obama currently being touted as the voice of change and the charismatic heir of JFK (albeit a lot of this is media hype), there are real problems seeing him, and his supporters, being satisfied with the second spot.
    Either way,one of them, or both, are going to have to dig down pretty deep to find the sense and humility to do what is “right” for the party.
    I see there are flame wars going on all over the blogs between Clinton and Obama surrogates with regard to the Chelsea/CNBC letter flap. I think that’s a pretty good indicator of just how much acrimony is out there. (for the record, and a little OT, there’s not a thing wrong with Chelsea, of course, but that’s hardly the point anymore).
    n.b. – My own feelings about the candidates and the election remains dissapointed; none of them represents a politics that expresses the depth of change required to turn this county around.

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  25. Tom A says:

    I said their votes are hardly binding, but should have said initial indications of how they’d vote obviously are not binding.

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  26. Nobcentral says:

    Not gonna happen. And would be a bad idea anyway. Both are too strong to accept a secondary role and perform it.

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  27. Tom A says:

    Certainly both have appealed to very different constituencies in very different regions to date.
    But I believe those delegate counts you cite include “committed” super delegates, whose votes are hardly binding and will be subject to increasing pressures from various interests depending on the outcome of several of these upcoming primaries.

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  28. Seth says:

    I’m not sure that either will accept. What would be Bill’s role under President Obama? What would VP Obama’s role in a triad with Bill? I think the interpersonal dynamic at play is nearly as decisive as the political one in the likelihood of such a situation. Plus, they both have fulfilling and legitimate routes to power outside of a VP slot:
    What would the VP slot do for Obama other than offer him a minor policy sphere in a contentious presidency that would tarnish his brand and lessen his appeal going forward? His Presidential aspirations would be much better served by taking over from Blagojevich. Hillary would not be able to use the VP as a launchboard for another Presidential run and would be able to accomplish much as a member of the Senate with dramatically increased influence.

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  29. Jim Wilson says:

    Rather than them arguing so much with each other, I’d like to see each of them putting more emphasis on their differences with McCain and/or a generic Republican. It is, after all, what they will have to do in the general election, and it would help us to understand how each will handle their end of the debates and discussions with their “real” opponent.

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