July 31st, 2008
08:30 AM ET

In this poker game, McCain should hold

Leslie Sanchez
AC360° Contributor
GOP Strategist

If conventional wisdom is correct and Barack Obama's vice presidential selection is days away, should John McCain pounce with his own Veep announcement? I say no.

For McCain, this game is more like Poker than Quick Draw. He’s got one singular advantage when it comes to the Veepstakes, which is that he can afford to wait and see Obama’s hold card. Once he sees which of two or three strategies Obama has decided to play, he can then decide which of his own cards to play.

Will the Democrats make a choice based on region, or gender? Will Obama play to “new politics”? Either way, expect McCain's choice to counterbalance Obama’s.

While Obama has been playing his cards close to his vest, one thing remains clear: unlike McCain, he has every reason to announce his choice sooner rather than later. With the Olympics beginning on August 8 and continuing through the 24th, followed by the opening of the Democratic National Convention on the very next day (from August 25 to 28), Obama has only a 10-day window to continue his domination of the news cycles that began with his life-or-death battle with Hillary Clinton and continued with his whirlwind snapshot tour of the Middle East and Europe.

What’s more, announcing “the right” choice, and doing it sooner rather than later, could lessen concerns about Obama's own inexperience – just as George W. Bush’s choice of Dick Cheney did for the Republicans in 2000.

McCain, though, can sit back and watch his adversary play the first card.

The Republican Flavors of the Week being floated right now as McCain's best choices include Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the sleeper candidate, former Congressman, former Pennsylvania Governor and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

While there’s been a lot of talk about former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s formidable advantages in fundraising and his solid economic credentials, the truth is that conservatives are beginning to coalesce around McCain (their increasing dislike for Obama is overcoming their ideological push for GOP purity). As the Republican conservative and evangelical base comes home, there’s less reason for McCain to turn to Romney.

Taking a look at the Electoral College map, a McCain-Pawlenty team would make the Midwest more competitive. Hosting the GOP convention in Minnesota gives the Governor somewhat an inside edge, and Pawlenty's reform-minded appeal is compatible with that of McCain. Yet, despite these advantages, Minnesota itself has an upscale, left-of-center orientation that seems to put beyond the reach of Republicans, Pawlenty or no Pawlenty.

Speculation has also surrounded Florida Governor Charlie Crist, though McCain already has a strong following in the state, especially among veterans, Hispanics and older Jewish voters who are suspicious of Obama’s commitment to Israel.

One possibility that’s being mentioned with increasing frequency is former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. For McCain, he’s a fellow Vietnam veteran who led Pennsylvania with an impressive record of tax cuts and budget restraints.

He deserves a second look, especially if Obama taps Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as his number two. An Obama-Kaine duo would almost certainly put Virginia's 13 Electoral College votes even more in play for the first time since 1964, shifting the battleground to Pennsylvania its 21 Electoral votes.

While Governor Ed Rendell's powerful Democratic machine is a threat, Pennsylvania remains predominately conservative, especially outside its urban centers – and remember, Pennsylvania Democrats rejected Obama in the Primary. The Keystone State still primarily consists of rural white, working class voters, the same ones who propelled Ronald Reagan to victory in 1980 and 1984, and freshman Senator Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat, decades later. Ridge, a working class former Congressman from Erie, could be just what the Doctor ordered.

The “X” factor with Ridge is likely to be the reaction of the GOP’s pro-life base: Ridge is famously pro-choice, and his selection would risk upheaval among the Party’s social conservative wing. The question is, will they be satisfied with McCain’s strong career-long commitment to the pro-life cause, and his promise to appoint strict constructionist justices to the Supreme Court?

Ridge’s choice could decide once and for all the significance of single-issue pro-life Republican voters, especially in a weak economy, with the war in Iraq and soaring energy costs much on everyone’s minds.

One thing appears sure: there’s no reason for McCain to tip his hand before Obama plays his card.

Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Leslie Sanchez • Raw Politics
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Barb

    Where's the news on the dual campaigns ads. One attacking Barack for not going to see the troops (which aired) and the one they had in the wings if he did go see the troops. Mac will attack anything. Should start calling him Pitbull

    August 1, 2008 at 8:06 am |
  2. Barb Reynolds

    Where's the report that is on Digg that the McCain camp also had an ad ready to attack Obama if he did go see the troops in Germany. Talk about hypocrisy, but very Republican Karl Rove. Is this the kind of politician who seems to enjoy attacking a person no matter what the circumstances and no matter which outcome happened? Didn't we just have 8 years of that?


    August 1, 2008 at 8:03 am |
  3. Patania, North Carolina

    I am tired of people, talking about Iraq and McCains continuous rhetoric on how successful the surge is in Iraq......My question is Why did we go to Iraq in the first place? I thought is was for weapons of mass destruction. Where are the weapons?????? But we have been successful according to McCain....My question is , successful in what? Oh.....over 4000 soldiers who lost lives for weapons of mass destruction that apparently are not there and don't forget about the thousands who suffered life threatening injuries.....Oh....maybe we we're successful in getting Saddam Hussein......but Osama Bin Laden was the leader of terrorism on that sad day 9/11.......Bin Laden is over in Afghanistan......so why are we in Iraq?

    I'll tell you why, because George Bush in office today wanted to get back at Saddam Hussein for his daddy, because when his daddy was in office he had problems with Saddam Hussein, and that's why George Bush now, rushed to war in Iraq, Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the War on Terrorism, it was Bin Laden and we look right foolish over in Iraq. The Dahli Lama said it himself that US went over to Iraq without all of the facts.........and you call this success? I've never served in the military, and I know nothing about military strategies, but I got good common sense enough to know that the War on Terrorism is not in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and has been sense 9/11.........Good Common Sense, Good Common Sense!

    August 1, 2008 at 2:02 am |
  4. Patania, North Carolina

    I'm up reading the blogs....I have to say this. I don't understand the "arrogance" comments. Why are people saying that Obama is arrogant. The man is just inteligent, articulate, and he walks like a President, looks like a President., acts like a President. He can't help how he looks, and I'm sorry, he looks better than McCain. People who say that his confidence is arrogant are people who have low self esteem within themselves. What do you expect the man to do, walk with his head down and speak only when spoken too with a "yesa massa" response?

    I want somebody in office who looks presidential, it makes the U.S. look good when you have a good looking leader.....that stands out and who is confident.......I have to say this, I watched the coverage when he was overseas and he looked good.....he made America look good while he was over there. And to top it off....he looked like a leader!

    WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?......some folk just don't have good common sense.........

    August 1, 2008 at 1:40 am |
  5. Edward

    No way! McCain is not hitting on all his cylinders, he's got his old guard lambasting him for letting the Bush & Rove people into the campaign, and he has no where to go but down. His best hope is to appoint his VP now. The VP focus by the media allows a few days to orchestrate a break from the "low road" as they quietly move the bad nasties out of the campaign.

    Obama is then left to face the fact that the electorate wants continuation of the Republican policies of Reagan, Gingrich, DeLay, and the two Bush's under the steady hands of McCain-Romney. Obama will be the one who will have to hire the bad nasties to tear down his opponents as he sees his poll numbers plummet into the 20's.

    August 1, 2008 at 1:27 am |
  6. james messina

    We know why 911 took place. Osama Bin Laden was angry that the Saudi’s let United States to help in their affairs. It is a very sensitive thing to allow ourselves to involve in Arab customs. All Arabs, no matter what sect, consider themselves brothers. They like to ground their own coffee from fresh green roasted beans and served in small cups. Usually with no sugar (the tea they like sweet). Their customs go back thousands of years. America is founded on a few centuries from the breading of thousands of cultures. My gut feeling is, before we jump the gun and go into Pakistan/Afghanistan and even Bagdad could take part of a serious talk. This is a religious war. Who wouldn’t kill for God? No matter whose God it is. There is the Muslim radical and the Muslim conservative. Together with the Jewish radical, conservative and none religious Israeli, bring the Catholic, Protestant and an environment geek. A Chinese Buddha specialist, an Indian Guru, the new Russian capitalist, the Iranian president, his adviser and two Iranian common folk. If we leave out Africa they might feel rejected so, one from the south and one from Nigeria. Of course the Egyptian wisdom, especially one from Alexandria where the great library burnt down and a clean-cut clergy from Cairo, we can’t have this meeting too big everyone will start to talk over one another.
    Once everyone is gathered in a huge neutral place, there should be accommodations to all to stay for one week. Get up in the morning and see another nations’ tent. If one knows the harp or the flute he may play and all day long just sit around and eat, drink and talk about Greek philosophy or whatever.
    Okay, if everyone won’t go for the whole week, then at least two days, although if we only do this I’m sure we all could save a huge amount of money, time and lives from military defense.

    August 1, 2008 at 12:29 am |
  7. Patania, North Carolina

    It is sad that people who support Hillary Clinton would rather vote for McCain if she is not on the ticket. It just doesn't make any sense, you would rather continue on the path that we are on than to vote for Obama without Clinton. You'd rather have 4 more years of the same. You think we are in a bad state now,....

    All I have to say that if you do vote for McCain and if he wins, when you lose your house, car, and clothes off your back four years later, think about your vote. When four years later the country is in a worse state than it is now...think about your vote. Because I tell you, if we put another Republican in the White House, there won't be a infomercial about "Feed the Children" it will be "Help Feed America" and we all will be standing in a soup line.

    August 1, 2008 at 12:24 am |
  8. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Doesn't matter who they pick, I've never voted for a president, because of the vice pick. Ithink that's the way most people do, they vote for one, the president. If you like the vice pick that's just a plus, but I'll never vote for a man whose middle name IS HUSSIEN, thinks we have 57 states, has listened to Rev. wright for 20 years, had shady deals with Farrakhan, wont wear a flag pin , has a racist wife, and friends with a man who blew the pentagon,if Obama waits for my vote he's got a long------ wait. hE SCARES ME TO DEATH.

    July 31, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  9. steve p odziemek

    Pity Mr McCain; he can't seem capable of bettering Mr Obama; so as he tries he appears more like the has been popular high school quarterback. Can't get anyone other their loser little minded followers, and the has been populars no longer able enough for monumental tasks to be winners.
    The Republican score is a goose egg for the last eight years and not many are paying to see their game anymore.If he selects a VP it will be someone he talks down to support his ego; his ego is just a yes man selection. A dull perfection is all mccain has to offer,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  10. lampe

    James, exactly when has the media played the race card? If you were to ask alot of people I bet you could find that the only one's playing the race card are Obama and his evil supporters. God if anyone else even whispers that Obama is Black right away they are called racists. I think the media has treated him with kid-gloves. Idon't think he has a single thought of his own and he is just like what he accuses McCain of being the same-ole politician. Lie to get them to vote for you, and then just do whatever the HELL you want.

    July 31, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  11. james messina

    The VP in Obama’s campaign I hope has an apple pie name to get some relief of erroneous innuendos.
    Obama’s name is an asset not obstacle
    If the media insists on using the race card and elaborating on his middle name and somehow insinuate that he is an Arab and will blow up the country, then why not say the opposite? Terrorism is a real thing. The extremists hate America. War should be the last resort. Talking to the Muslim terrorists is a real option. Education is the answer to why they hate us and what we can do to simmer down the fire. What better man that has a Muslim middle name can sit down and talk, not compromise but get to the root of the issues. Why don’t the media ever say something like that?
    Is man contributing to global warming? Just take a look at the city of Beijing

    July 31, 2008 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Annie Kate

    Both candidates should pick their VEEP depending on what they need on their ticket to round it out and not because of what the other guy picked. I think McCain ought to wait until after the Democratic convention to announce his pick so he can blunt some of the momentum from the Democratic convention that Obama will get.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 31, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  13. Torrance, CA

    McCain picks Hillary wins White House as a 'true uniter'

    July 31, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  14. Torrance, CA

    CNN and the pundits mainly due to their failure to run Bill Clinton out of Washington in the 90's, took out their frustration on Hillary. This even though she showed more character, dedication and focus by standing by Bill then by winning in New Hampshire against their calls, and winning out the primary season.

    Game Over – Obama picks anyone but Hillary, so she speaks Tues and Wed night during the convention, and he's assured of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    For all his stardom, travels, millions spent and enough insider support in Washington for just a less than one term Senator, the voting public believes in EXPERIENCE trumping Stardom.

    Pick a VP – with a no brainer vote going to Hillary to truly unite the party, he'll end up picking Kaine just to think he can turn a purple state blue.

    By not choosing Hillary and her 18 million+ supporters – Obama will succeed in turning purple and blue leaning states RED

    July 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  15. BJ Daniel

    Come on, this is not a card game, this is the lives and the future of our country, of our children, of our nation. We need to put the games out of politics and look at todays situation. Country in debt, citizens in debt, Wallstreet failing. Security of our boarders are awful. And you want to talk about a card game among the candidates. Let's get the issues straight. We need change and we need immediate action. We need new ideas!

    Down with the games!

    July 31, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  16. Kanaka Hawaii

    I think if McCain waits until after Obama announces his choice, he won't have a snowball's chance in Waikiki to maintain a winning campaign. He needs an intelligent, coherent ally to stand next to him and save him from his frequent gaffes and lapses of memory right now. If he waits until after the Olympics, and the Democratic Convention he'll be swept under an avalanche fueled by a mighty powerful belief that faith in ones' self and hope in one's future can overcome any obstacle to win.

    July 31, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  17. lampe

    It doesn't matter who Obama picks come Nov. he will be the loser. Why you might ask? We'll I will be more than happy to tell you, this man has said nothing but the word CHANGE. He knows nothing at all about anything. Sen. McCain will not only win, but I really hope he shows just how far across the aisle he's willing to go and picks Sen. Clinton as his V.P. OH YES! there will be dancing in the streets.

    July 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  18. Jim

    If Hillary is not on the ticket I am voting for McCain. Deal with it.

    July 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  19. Amin

    I am Muslim and I am proud that I am exclusively being targeted by the State of Az John McCains home state in not Allowing me to work in my career field. I was railroaded and sent to prison back in 2003 and I appealed the case where onl;y partial victory was achieved. I was released and I have been kept from working because the profession requires a State License. The idea that John McCain is not a racist and a biggot is not apprearant in how the state deals with black people or people who have been abused because they are broke and can't really afford legal counsel. I am not alone and black people better realize that slavery will be reinstituted if John McCain is elected President.

    July 31, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  20. Pat

    If McCain's VP choice is hinging on who Obama selects, there goes his straight talk about chosing someone who shares his vision, values, etc.

    July 31, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  21. Franco = Vienna, Austria

    If Mccain chooses Tom Ridge then all of American will see in living colour THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND.

    July 31, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  22. John from Brooklyn, NY

    Ms Sanchez is only half right.

    1) Obama can play the waiting game to nearly equal (if not better) advantage than McCain. As she points out, unlike other years, this year's nominating conventions are being held on consecutive weeks (Aug 25th and Sept. 1 are their start dates) – with the Dems going first.

    This means is that Obama, in theory, could wait for most of the month of August to publicly announce his running mate – especially since the Olympics will be receiving the dominant media coverage. Keep in mind that many VP running mates have only been announced AT the convention – not before (e.g. Reagan's announcement of Bush in '80). A last-minute, nail-biting, convention announcement by Obama would require McCain to scramble to react with virtually no breathing room, since his convention would be the very next week.

    2) Ms Sanchez also makes the assumption that Obama is under some form of pressure to take advantage of the media attention he currently is receiving before the Olympics start on August 8th.

    According to nearly every recent poll, Obama leads McCain both in national popular vote and prospective electoral college votes. Obama is also dominating the current media coverage. This means that it is McCain, not Obama, who desperately needs the media spotlight to shift to him during these last precious few days before the Olympics begin. Therefore, if McCain wants the media spotlight in this important pre-Olympics window – it is he, not Obama, who is under pressure to do something splashy like announce his running mate now, not later.

    Ms. Sanchez....your insights are correct....but they apply to both campaigns.

    July 31, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  23. Maritza

    Well written analysis, I could care less who Obama picks, from hot head Joe Biden to the mutually incompetent GOv Tim Kaine , the blind leading the blind , just what we need in the powerful seat of the White House, I 'm hoping McCain ,who I support for very practical and sensible reasons chooses Romney together they will be a force that has the experience , skill , and qualifications to put our country on track, our enemies would take a step back before they make any foolish moves, McCains National Security knowledge and military background are what Iraq requires, on the domestic and economic front Romney's experience can't be ignored, together they fit the profile of the leaders our nation needs. thanks for this post Leslie.


    July 31, 2008 at 1:53 pm |
  24. Larry

    It is pointless for McCain to choose a vp; he's gonna lose by a landslide anyway. Obama could select ted kennedy and win going away.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:29 pm |
  25. hannah meadow

    In comparing Obama to a world wide celebrity the more genuine comparison would be to Mandela or Gandhi both leaders of color with less history in politics but genuine leaders in that they galvanized a movement.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:28 pm |
  26. JC- Los Angeles

    Leslie, as a registered, undecided Independent, I find your logic as flawed as the campaign of John McCain.

    This is a street fight and although I don't condone fighting, if one finds himself in a fight, you need to make the first punch count.

    Your suggestion that McCain should wait to select a VP until Obama does is egregious; real leaders make bold choices and don't concern themselves with their competition because they are busy leading.

    McCain has the personality and charisma of drying paint or battery acid; the sooner he surrounds himself with an intelligent, strapping, confident, personable and experienced side kick, he will begin to make inroads.

    Lastly, your suggestion of Tom Ridge is the single most hilarious comment I have heard in ages; all he could add to homeland security was "color codes." Funniest comment in decades.

    This election is all about Michelle Obama and her orchestration of her husband against John McCain; it appears that McCain has some catching up to do.

    July 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm |
  27. Billy O'Rourke

    Brilliant analysis, especially well-written, dead-on!!!

    My chips are on Romney for the Repubs and Hagel for the Dems.

    July 31, 2008 at 11:05 am |
  28. Jason Carter, Crystal Lake, IL

    I'm sorry, Leslie, but despite your credentials as "Republican Strategist", I have to disagree about your assessment of Romney and evangelicals.

    Romney appeals much more to the fiscal conservatives than the evangelical social conservatives. His support among evangelicals was actually quite poor during the primaries.

    The only reason social conservatives are coallescing around McCain is because they are afraid of the Supreme Court justices Obama would appoint. They will come vote for McCain for this reason no matter who he picks as VP, despite the fact that they don't particularly like any of the potential veep picks other than Huckabee.

    July 31, 2008 at 10:51 am |
  29. Jim, Palm Beach, FL

    I was trying so hard to read this article but stark difference in this picture is killing me. I am completely undecided but I can just imagine my children asking me about this election 15 years from now. I can imagine them holding their history books open with such pictures. Leslie, I am also a poker aficionado and you are right on the money! Well-written!

    July 31, 2008 at 10:35 am |
  30. deborah, OH

    Thanks for the post, Leslie.
    I have rarely agreed with, or liked, the VP candidates of the past. And this year, is no exception! But, hey, the candidates aren't doing much for me either. So, 'no win', 'no win' situation.
    But, I agree, McCain should wait–this VP selection is going to be fun to watch.

    July 31, 2008 at 9:23 am |
  31. Cindy

    McCain has no reason what so ever to name his VP right now. He needs to just sit back and relax and let Obama announce his and not even think about doing anything until after that. He should be thinking along the lines of doing it near or even after the Dems. convention. He has nothing to lose by doing that.


    July 31, 2008 at 8:53 am |
  32. Ayse - London

    I think that Obama should reveal his VP when he is ready himself, and not base it on when people think he should reveal it.

    If the best that McCain can do is wait to hear Obama's VP nomination before releasing his own sidekick all I can say is 'poor man'.

    Personally I think that Obama should pick General Petreaus as Vice President – there ain't no way McCain could beat that ticket.

    July 31, 2008 at 8:39 am |