Focus turns to Obama#8217;s running mate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

It was during the heated contest of the Ohio primary where Sen. Hillary Clinton racked up one of her few significant victories that Dr. Kenneth Heineman decided the nomination would go to the other guy.

“That was when I was convinced,” Heineman, an Ohio University professor, said Wednesday, the after Sen. Barack Obama got the last of the 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.

But it was back during the February campaign in Ohio that Heineman already knew.

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“I thought at that point he would get the nomination … the momentum, the eloquent rhetoric, the continued self-destruction of Hillary. She began turning nastier and nastier. The Gov. Strickland turnout (when the Ohio governor went on the Clinton campaign trail) had an air of panic to me. They seemed desperate.”

Tuesday the last primaries in Montana and South Dakota pushed the Illinois senator over the magic number needed to open the convention doors to him. Speculation abounds on whether Hillary will take the second spot on the ticket. Just as intensely is the question will Obama even offer it to her?

Supposedly, she could bring the white working middle class and women who followed her to the polls to the Obama ticket. But Heineman doesn’t see it that way.

“I think she would be a liability to the ticket. It would undermine his message of change,” he said. “It would be a rehash of the Clinton scandals. Obama would have to be looking over his shoulder … that the Billary would be undermining his presidency. I don’t think he would need that.”

However, his political pundit partner, Dr. Michael McTeague, also of OU, sees it differently as far as Clinton and the vice presidency.

“I think she would like to have it offered and then turn it down. I would be surprised if she would become one,” McTeague said. “I see her wanting to have it on her own terms. There are a lot of problems to being a vice president. If you are a strong enough candidate to be selected, are you too strong to be a vice president.”

As far as which will be the battleground states between Obama and Sen. John McCain in the fall, the two professors also don’t see eye-to-eye exactly.

There can be two distinct scenarios, Heineman sees. It depends on whether Ohio will be a state strategists believe is necessary for a November win.

If so, Heineman could see Obama choosing Strickland as a running mate.

“There is a scenario that Obama doesn’t need Ohio, if Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado are in play,” he said. “The Republicans can’t count on New Mexico and Colorado, and Virginia is going to be very close. If Obama writes off the South, which is what some strategists have suggested, you could probably write off Ohio and win. Ohio is a Southern state except for the Lake Erie fringe.”

On the other hand, McTeague sees the battleground states as the ones where Clinton racked up primary wins — Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and New York.

“She will offer some assistance and be asked to secure those states,” he said.

As far as the lame duck in the White House, will President Bush be a millstone dragging down the political ambitions of McCain?

“This could very well be an election in which turnout is very low on both sides,” Heineman said. “White working class Democrats, especially Appalachian white Protestant Democrats, may stay home. Evangelical conservative whites won’t vote for McCain. He has gone out of his way to insult social conservatives.”

McTeague sees the two men dividing their political strategies between their apparent agendas.

“With McCain it will probably be issues he has spoken strongly about: immigration, the war. Obama will move more toward domestic activity,” McTeague said. “McCain will say he is the man if there is a terrorist attack. Obama will say he is the guy to be in charge if you are trying to get social change.”