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They’re all in the running

Joe Biden was drafted in 2008 to add gravitas to a ticket headlined by a first-term Illinois Senator. That was like adding Kim Karda-shian to a reality show to give it intellectual heft. Anirudh Bhattacharyya writes.

india Updated: May 04, 2012 20:23 IST

‘You all look dull as hell,’ American Vice-President Joe Biden recently chided Turkish and Azerbaijani origin Democratic Party donors at a fund-raiser for US President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. “The dullest audience I have ever spoken to. Just sitting there, staring at me,” he remarked. And finally, in a burst of desperation: “Pretend you like me!”


As the dull days of late spring are upon us, and Mitt Romney is, almost surely, the Republican candidate to face off against Obama come November, the American media has turned to speculation over his running mate. They’ll have plenty of time since the actual announcement is unlikely to come closer to the Republican National Convention in August.

At least on the Democratic side, Biden brings humour to the job, mostly unintended. For instance, during the 2008 campaign, when he said that the “number-one job facing the middle class” happened to be “as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S.”

At the recent White House Corres-pondents Dinner, also attended by Obama, host Jimmy Kimmel riffed on Biden’s ability to make people laugh: “It’s kind of hard to be funny with the president of the United States sitting right next to you looking at you. And yet somehow day in and day out, Joe Biden manages to do it.” Biden is often credited with influencing the Obama administration’s Af-Pak policy, one of his poorer jokes.

Senate veteran Biden was drafted in 2008 to add gravitas to a ticket headlined by a first-term Senator from Illinois. That was like adding Kim Kardashian to a reality show to give it intellectual heft.

At least Biden isn’t John Edwards, the “workingman’s candidate” with the $1,250 haircut, who was actually John Kerry’s pick in 2004, and on Obama’s radar. Edwards is currently on trial for breaking campaign finance laws when he ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2008, while cheating with an aide as his wife was dying of cancer. The entire American press corps missed — or ignored — that affair, and the baby bump that led to Edwards’ only success during that cycle.

If the race between Obama and Romney narrows this year, liberals may seek to dump Joe and draft Hillary Clinton as Obama’s running mate. Clinton has nixed the idea, but in politics denial is the river to reversals.

Meanwhile, Romney has some picking of his own to do. Among his options is to stick to an expert on the economy, from a swing state, like representative Paul Ryan, senator Rob Portman or Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, making for a double vanilla ticket. Or one that can be described as dull and duller.

Or he could play the minority card, going for the Hispanic votes. That could mean Florida senator Marco Rubio or New Mexico governor Susana Martinez. Rubio, of Cuban descent, is considered the favourite since he’s also Tea Party darling, as is another possible, New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Two Indian-Americans will also figure in those deliberations, two who have already shown their willingness by publicly refusing to be considered for that job. First, there’s South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is already on a suspiciously timed national tour promoting her autobiography Can’t Is Not An Option. Haley’s had a tough year in her home state with dipping popularity but she has raised her national profile, appearing everywhere including in a Vogue feature. Her publicists have been inboxing journalists with every detail of her activities, from giving the keynote speech at the 28th Annual Tire Industry Conference to honoring South Carolina’s Mother of the Year.

The other, of course, is another naysayer, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who was also seriously considered by John McCain’s campaign in 2008 but luckily (for Jindal) overlooked in favour of Sarah Palin.

Romney has also set up a vice president search committee, chaired by Beth Myers, his former gubernatorial chief of staff. Given the Republican Party’s recent history, that may be a name to remember. After all, Dick Cheney headed George W Bush’s vice-presidential search team in 2000.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years

The views expressed by the author are personal