Obama Should Select Hillary Clinton as Vice President for Election 2012

President Barack Obama should select Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his running mate for the 2012 election. Not only is Clinton the most popular national political figure in the U.S. with a favorability rating at an all-time high, but according to Gallup, she has also been the most admired living woman in the world for the past 10 years. Her selection would guarantee her position as the first female vice president, and very likely also the first female president of the United States.

Clinton supporters have been making noise about Obama putting Clinton on the ticket for some time. And it seems very likely that she is interested. Many of Clinton’s supporters had even hoped that he would select her as his running mate in 2008. More recently, some high profile pundits such as Bill Keller from the New York Times and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich have also pushed the idea. Keller had called it “just a fantasy,” but it does not have to be. 

Obama-Hillary 2012 would not only be unstoppable, but also truly historic in many ways. The first African-American president selecting the woman he beat in the primary as his vice-president in his second term, helping catapulting her to the presidency four years later. It cannot get better than that.

Sure, there is some reason to believe that if Clinton were actually running for office, her popularity might suffer. Remember, Citizens United went to the Supreme Court because conservative groups wanted to air a movie arguing that Clinton was unfit to be president. As Rebecca Traister argued in the New York Times, if Clinton had won the Democratic nomination in 2008 or the presidency, the characterizations of her as cravenly ambitious and corrupt would have only become uglier.

The historic arguments and Clinton’s popularity notwithstanding, there is a bigger reason Obama should select Clinton as his running mate –  the courts. Presuming Obama’s re-election with Clinton on the ticket, and her election in 2016, the two of them would have the opportunity to profoundly shape the federal courts for decades to come. There will be a vacancy in the Supreme Court in the next six to eight years, with three of the current justices aged 75 or older.  Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, a liberal, is the oldest. Her retirement and replacement by a future Democratic president would simply maintain the status quo. To have a lasting impact on the Supreme Court, Justices Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy, both aged 75, would have to retire and be replaced by a Democratic president. That is unlikely to happen in the next four years. Presidents Obama and Clinton would also have the opportunity to rebalance the Courts of Appeals.

None of this is to suggest that Clinton could not win in 2016 unless she is on the ticket in 2012. She could: Polling shows she would defeat Mitt Romney 55% to 38%. Some might even argue that the vice presidency could hurt her chances for 2016, as George H. W. Bush is the only modern vice president to have been elected to the presidency as a sitting vice president. What her selection would do, however, is close the enthusiasm gap that exists between Democrats and Republicans. Right now, the Republicans seem to have a leg up. But with Clinton on the ticket with Obama, and her supporters coming out passionately for her, the two of them would be unstoppable.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Zaid A. Zaid

Zaid A. Zaid is lawyer in Washington, DC. Zaid was formerly a political officer in the Foreign Service, serving in Iraq, Egypt, and Tunisia, as well as the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. He is a member of the American Constitution Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project.

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