August 1st, 2008
04:16 PM ET

Reviving the Hillary Idea?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/01/art.clintonforobama.jpg caption="Sen. Hillary Clinton at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees convention in San Francisco"]David Gergen
CNN Sr. Political Analyst
AC360° Contributor

By all accounts, Barack Obama has written off Hillary Clinton as a running mate, but after watching the politics of the past few days, it is increasingly clear that he should reconsider.

The major tests for a vice presidential choice are (a) whether the person is qualified to be president; and (b) your running mate will give you a better chance at victory. It is relevant but should not be decisive whether you happen to like the person. History suggests strongly that in 1960, John F. Kennedy did not much like Lyndon Johnson - and Bobby despised him - but Kennedy, locked in a close race, chose Johnson anyway. It was a wise call: LBJ delivered not only Texas but enough southern votes to put JFK over the top by a whisker.

Barack Obama has just come off a couple of the best weeks we have ever seen for a campaigner. What other candidate has walked so safely through the minefields of the Middle East and drawn over 200,000 people in Europe? Given the unpopularity of President Bush and the meandering campaign of John McCain, one would ordinarily expect that Obama would have opened up a lead of 10 points or so. Yet we see just the opposite happening: whatever small bounce he may have gotten overseas is evaporating. This week started with Obama up 9 points in the Gallup tracking poll; that lead has shrunk day by day so that this morning, they are tied at 44-44.

Hillary Clinton predicted early and often that the Republican attack machine would crank up against Obama. Now it has - and it may be working. It is increasingly clear that Obama needs some reinforcements on the battle field so that he doesn't have to carry the fight all by himself. Who is any better at fighting back than Hillary and Bill Clinton? She showed in the Democratic primaries just how tough and resilient she can be - and how well she can frame an argument. If they can patch up their differences, it is hard to imagine that Obama can find anyone who would be stronger at his side during the fall.

The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton would be divisive on the ticket, driving away many voters. No doubt, she will drive away some, but the Obama campaign has to weigh how many others she would help to bring in. Yesterday, Lanny Davis - a long-time supporter of the Clintons - wrote an important article in the Wall Street Journal laying out the case for Hillary. He pointed to a recent Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll (taken July 22-23) showing that in a head-to-head, Obama held a narrow 1-point lead over McCain, 41-40. But when voters in the same sample were asked to choose between Obama-Clinton vs. McCain-Romney, the Democrats gained a net of 8 points, leading 48-39! The big difference was that running alone, Obama got 74% of the Democratic vote, but with Clinton on the ticket, he got 86% - a significant 12% increase. Historically, one of the first rules of a candidate is to unite his party behind him before heading into the fall. Are Democrats really united at this point?

As Lanny Davis argued, there is a strong case that Obama running with virtually any Democrat can indeed win. But there are increasing reasons to believe that with Hillary Clinton at his side, he could have an even stronger prospect. Time for a rethink in Chicago?

Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (388 Responses)
  1. Pricilla Collier

    Mr. Gergen, you are highly respected in your opinions and views, however why should Senator Obama be held hostage to picking Senator Clinton as his VP? Let's face the facts: If Senator Obama was not Black he would not get this much pressure to chose Senator Clinton. As an Black American I am fed up with this race issue, we have voted for non-blacks since we were given the right (not birth right). I am not voting for Senator Obama because he is Black but because after 7 1/2 years of lies, strong-arm policies and a lack of respect for Americans the time has come for change. If the GOP and Senator Clintons "hard working white americans" don't like that a man "yes he is half black" has won his parties nod to run for President then that is their right. Don't try to tell me what he is not because I am voting for what we need as a country "Change".
    Sorry Mr. Gergen but Senator Obama should do what is best for all Americans not just some.

    August 1, 2008 at 7:02 pm |
  2. Num

    I am an independent and strongly agree that, if Obama wants to win, then the only VP slot that gives him is Hillary. He might not like her or his supporters may not like her. But that is the fact.

    He has many problem, if he chose someone else , then he has to introduce the guy which is very ridiculus for him .

    Anyways Good luck for any decision.

    This year is the Dem year, but I don't think so Obama will make it.

    Facts :
    His race, false rumors, inexprience

    August 1, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  3. Retired Veteran from Ney York City

    As a registered Democrat, myself personally I wouldn't want Senator Hillary on the ticket. Given all the facts, Obama will carry out New York anyway and a great majority of Hillary suporters.

    My ideal (1st) choice for the VP would have been: Obama-Hagel, (2nd) Obama-Biden, (3rd) Obama-Clinton. If an Obama-Clinton will assure the Democrat the White House, well by all mean the Democratic voters will accept Clinton. The sour taste that Clinton left in the campaign made a lot of Democrat puzzle about her demeanor.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Nellsen-LA

    Obama has only Hillary to win back the White House. Without Hillary Clinton, it is gonna be a very tough fight with John McCain and even risky. I urge Senator Obama to carefully consider to take Hillary as running mate.

    Obama/Hillary 08.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  5. Dawn Dingee

    Adding Hillary to the ticket would ensure my vote!!! Without Hillary on the ticket, there's no way I am voting for Obama. I will either not vote or vote McCain. I am not in love with McCain's ideas but Obama's scare me more. He's too liberal and too much of a socialist. He's counting on all the Hillary supports to eventually come his way. I know many of them and none of them will vote Obama unless she's on the ticket.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  6. Swaizey

    I've neva commented on this before but this really has prompted me to.I really do think now though that Obama should pick up Clinton as his running mate, they can always work out their difference, its one of those things in life but judging that d repubs definitely with John Sydney McCain included would always go negative, Hillary Clinton would be the BEST ATTACK DOG for him. Besides, her, I think TIM KAINE is too lame form that role, he has been tested on the NAtional scene yet, he needs someone with the feet stamped down like JOE BIDEN. I do not think Evan bayh would be the rite choice, He is too safe a choice WE NEED AN ATTACK DOG, AS FIERCE AS CAN BE, Democrats have been too safe in all from time, it doesnt help, if at all any clinton supporter it shld be CLINTON herself otherwise, JOE BIDEN. SO IN conclusion, FIRST choice OBAMA – CLINTON '08, Second and last choice, OBAMA – JOE BIDEN '08.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  7. DJ

    Is there any doubt it's gotta be Hillary! Do the math: Barack wants someone who shares his vision? Hillary. Someone with independence? Hillary again. Someone who’s "...willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I’m wrong?" Hillary's been doing that for months and she's already more comfortable doing that than anyone (except maybe Bill!) else in the Democratic party. In short, my fellow Democrats, we have a winner: Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oh, and as an added bonus, she lifts his "numbers" immediately. Give her a few short weeks and she'll also have John McCain feeling like her lap dog. "Obama – Clinton '08"

    August 1, 2008 at 6:55 pm |
  8. Josh

    I'm an Obama supporter and not a giant fan of the Clintons. It's not unbridled hatred or anything like that, I just don't care for their sleezy style of politics. Moreover, they've become sloppy and undisciplined. Sleeziness in politics may be a virtue, but sloppiness is not. And when the stakes are this high, you gotta bring your A-game, not this JV crap we've seen in recent months.

    With that said, I just hope Obama makes the most pragmatic choice available to him. Clinton is his worst-case scenario. If he chooses her, it will be out of weakness and will undoubtedly be seen as such by the Republicans, the media, and others in his own party who seek to weaken him (including the Clintons). And if his numbers continue to trend downward, then bargaining with the devil may be his only option, and he should take it. Because as much as the Clintons annoy me and others like me, I'd rather be annoyed than afraid for my future.

    On the other hand, if the latest polls are proven to be mere statistical anomalies and he can maintain at least a 5 point lead going forward, then he should go with his top choice and the Clintonistas will fall in line eventually.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  9. Thanh

    He should pick Hillary. You can't honestly believe that will drive off some of his loyal supporters and turn them over to McCain. It will help reign in the PUMAs and the more conservative Democrats. She also offers a lot of tactical bits against the GOP playbook. The Clintons staved off an impeachment while maintaining a high favorability rating. That's skill.

    She's also perceived stronger as a vice-president than anyone else on the GOP lineup.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:51 pm |
  10. Katie

    You see the light but not many Obamas supporters do – they are just too arrogant – and if Obama falls into that trap – kapoot the Presidency! I happen to think Obama needs to do what he needs to do – if the Democrats want to get back into the white house
    Obama supporter

    August 1, 2008 at 6:51 pm |
  11. ketih gallo

    After hearing you say many times that Hillary is not an option, it is surprising to hear you say this now.

    That said, I am a long time devoted Obama supporter and I think you are 100% correct. Typically, a VP choice doesn’t make a difference, but Hillary would bring the strong, vocal back bone to the Obama campaign that it needs. I like how Barack subtly brushes off McCain's attack ads; however many parts of the country see his response as weak and indecisive. Some people may not feel they know him, but they will listen when he adds the Clinton name to his ticket. Most importantly, it will be seen as his choice and his choice alone rather then be perceived as being forced into this decsion by the effects of the Democratic race for a nominee.

    I am flabergasted that that major portions of the country don’t see the opportunity Barack will give us to repair our reputation in the world, evidensed by his recent speech in Berlin.

    If Hillary gives us that chance, then bring her on the team and make her # 2.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:50 pm |
  12. Ayse-London

    A smart move would be to NOT make Hillary VP, but instead make her the SOS for Health. That way she stays outta the White House, saves arguments between Barack and Michelle over 'that woman', and gives Hillary power to do some good and prove herself.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Patt Cardinal

    I am an independent voter and I believe that HILLARY would help Obama much more than hurt him!!!!! I may not vote if he doesn't put her on the ticket !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sincerely, Patt Cardinal

    August 1, 2008 at 6:48 pm |
  14. ketih gallo

    After hearing you say many times that Hillary is not an option, it is surprising to hear you say this now.

    That said, I am a long time devoted Obama supporter and I think you are 100% correct on this. Typically, a VP choice doesn't make a difference, but Hillary would bring a strong, vocal back bone to the Obama campaign that he needs. I like how Barack brushes off attacks; however I see that many parts of the country see that as weak and indecisive. They may not feel they know him, but they will listen when he adds the name Clinton to his ticket. Most importantly, it will now be his choice and his choice alone to make and he is not forced into this decsion by the Democratic race for a nominee.

    I am flabergasted that that major portions of the country don't see the opportunity Barack will give us to repair our reputation in the world, evidensed by his recent speech in Berlin.

    If Hillary gives us that chance, then bring her on the team!

    August 1, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  15. Andrew, Chicago


    August 1, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  16. no to obama

    NO,NO,NO........obama needs to be Hillary's VP. She is smarter and much better at leading,people love her, she loves this country and she's not a racist like obama and his wife.
    The dnc is so stupid for giving this race to obama.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:42 pm |
  17. Toby Hung

    I think that Sen. Clinton should definitely not agree to become Barack Obama's running mate. Of course, the Democratic Party will be stronger than ever, but this may anger many anti-Obama Clinton supporters, and me being one, I am very against an Obama-Clinton ticket.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm |
  18. David R.

    Mr. Gergen:

    Regarless of the polls, Obama can win without Hillary Clinton.

    Our group of Obama supporters are withholding any and all support until he names a running mate. If that running mate is HRC (or any of her previous surrogates, ie. Strickland, Rendell, Bayh), John Edwards or Al Gore, we shall throw our support to John McCain. Remember, the Vice President is one step away from the Presidency and what if.

    We feel that those candidates who supported Obama from the start deserve the opportunity to serve as Vice President. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel or K. Sebelius would be excellent choices.

    I don't understand your late attitude in favor of Clinton for any reason. The less talk the better as to Clinton having any function in the Obama camp.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Sebastian Santa

    I'm 23 years old and a Hillary supported. I dont think I ever cared for politics until. I agree that Obama and Clinton make a strong ticket. It is tru, you need someone strong to help you win the battle, doesnt necessarily mean someone you like. I agree with that.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:39 pm |
  20. CJ Richards

    where was gergen when the primaries had ust wrapped up and people were trying to make this argument?

    Obama has difficulty picking Hillary because of the media. The Hill-hatred MSNBC and CNN have instilled in young liberals is what will make an Obama Hillary ticket look ackward.

    It is sad to see the way Hillary has been caricatured in the media – one of the most serious formidable politicians of our time.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:36 pm |
  21. Gary Chandler in Canada

    For one thing he should get someone who has dodged real bullets.
    Number 2, a Republican Senator or Congressperson would be a bone in McCain's throat!
    Who can cross party lines?
    It's obvious Obama has to 'announce' first and the McCain camp is probably slavoring at the idea of Clinton and cringing at the thought of Hagel. or Webb

    August 1, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  22. Nyle

    i can't stand Hillary. But i have no problem with her on the ticket. I would have voted for her if Obama didn't take the nomination. I don't need my president and vice president to be BFF's, and i fully believe she's capable of working with Obama. Honestly, they both want the same things for America.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  23. Ben Murphy

    I wish Obama would listen...the smartest guy (David Gergen) just gave excellent advise.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  24. Brittany Parker, CO

    I am a fervent supporter of Senator Obama and I plan to vote for him this fall no matter the running mate he chooses. With that said, I think he would be shooting himself in the foot if he doesn't choose Senator Clinton. It would be a great way to unite the Democratic party and would make one unbeatable ticket.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:31 pm |
  25. Jesse M, California

    i wholeheartedly agree. Obama does not get my vote, and is at the verge of permenantly losing it because I do not think he is qualified to be commander-in-chief. He is too arrogant, and his campaign is using race as an advantage against McCain. I think it is disgusting.

    Should he eat his pride and HUMBLE himself by choosing Hillary as his runningmate, he gets my vote, and 16 other votes from family members who will only vote for him on condition that he choose Hillary. If not, McCain has our votes. Obama, you CAN make a good President, it's just too early, choose Hillary and you will have experience behind you.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:30 pm |
  26. Olga

    Hang it up.
    Nothing against Hillary, but Obama doesn't need Hillary Clinton to win. Obama is set to win by a LOT.
    There's something screwy going on with the polls and the media is reporting on them, picking and choosing polls to suit their bias. For example, no one has written about the new Rasmussen poll that shows the number of people who would vote for a black candidate has risen since February. Sad that there has to be such a poll but still, it's progress. A couple of Gallup's polls countered each other on the very same day. One favored Obama, the other didn't.
    I think the media ought to be looking with a skeptical eye at the polling going on. Assign a reporter to that story - polls and how they influence a campaign because that's all that's going on with polls right now. http://ochairball.blogspot.com

    August 1, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  27. tom carpenter`

    it's the only way this 47 year old lifelong democrat will vote the party ticket this year.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  28. Independent Veteran

    You said 'JFK and RFK did not like LBJ but JFK picked him to be his running mate anyway'. You are correct...but judging by what happened to JFK and what happened to a lot of people who have crossed the Clintons, you can see why BHO would be reluctant to put her on the ticket. I don't think anything is beyond the possibility of the Clintons in their quest to get back to the Oval office.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:27 pm |
  29. Joanne L., Pasadena, Ca.

    After all the garbage and tricks Hill and Bill pulled, it would be difficult for me to rally behind her. When Obama first became our presumtive nominee, I balked when I heard rumors that he was going to ask her to join the ticket; I even called his campagin office to protest. However, Mr. Gergen's point is well-taken and as much as I would rather see Biden or Clarke, we may need Hillary.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  30. JIM....TEXAS

    Gergen and Davis have been in the Clinton back pocket forever so their opinion isn't worth much......just like the FOX poll!

    August 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  31. Hanky

    I absolutely agree with this accessment. Hillary Clinton has a group of people who are Clintonians for life. While I believe she carries divisive baggage, she knows to to hammer at a weakness and if given the chance, she can batter John McCain. There are many tricks in the Clinton bag and HIllary would bring strong nuclear artillery to a barroom brawl.
    Clinton is smart, wise, but has weaknesses that Obama would cover. They would complement each other well and I think is the best ticket to overpower the GOP machine.
    Without Clinton, I think he can win, with Clinton, I think it would be an almost certainty.
    Again, I did not agree with her tactics, she does represent old Washington, but she does understand the game better than most and would supplement Obama well.
    I am Hanky and I approve this message.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  32. mj

    I hope not

    August 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  33. Diane

    Obama, if Hillary is your vp choice, I will get off the fence and you will have my vote and full support.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  34. Susan from Scotts Valley, CA

    I totally agree. I was not a Hillary supporter and I liked her less by the end of the campaign. But I can not bear the thought that McCain will win. If this will do it, then he HAS to do it. While I might really like all the other top VP contenders, none of them are going to add as much and we need everything we can get.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  35. Michele, Oregon

    Obama may very well have to pick Clinton for VP, but not necessarily. We need to see a few debates and I think that Obama will open the gap wider. Time will tell. Unfortunately, I think drilling is part of this equation, but I pray to God that Obama sticks to his guns as we are at a crossroads where we could actually implement change. Why is no one reporting how much McCain is getting from the oil companies now that he has changed his stance on offshore drilling. If the media focused on the myriad of negatives about McCain as consistently as they have on Obama, it would make a difference there as well.

    Hillary on the ticket? Maybe.........But then this is being orchestrated by the media as well by continuing to slant in this direction and not moving on. Whoever Obama picks will be fine with me, but she is not my first choice.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  36. Heather D.

    I've always thought the Obama-Clinton ticket would be a juggernaut for the Democrats. Sure, it would be a little rough explaining that 3 a.m. call. Hillary could always say as VP, she would take the night shift.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:23 pm |
  37. Ray

    I am an independent that is 50/50 between Obama and McCain, with Hillary Clinton being added to the Obama ticket, I vote McCain. No more corruption needed in the oval office, which she would bring with her

    August 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  38. Barbara

    I wonder what the polls will say after McCain's latest ad, with its near blasphemous tenor and tone, against Obama airs for a day or two and voters have the chance to see how low he will go. But to the Hillary for VP matter: I don't know the history on this, but to me, it seems odd that if a person can't win the nomination for president, they would be any more appealing as a VP choice–they lost once, why put a loser on your ticket as your running mate? Still, in this instance, with the PUMA's and VoteBoth groups ramping up attacks, I can see where Senator Obama would have to consider this. Still, I think there are better candidates with less baggage (and no ex-presidents as spouses) to walk into the Oval Office with President Obama next January.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  39. Nick from Syracuse

    Go for it I thought back in June but now it's a little too late and would only end up hurting him. Think about it if he chose her back then it would seem as if he were choosing her because he really wanted her as his VP and that she could contribute greatly. But now all it may do is give Republicans more ammo. If Barrack can't stand on his own two feet without Hillary coming to hold his hand then what kind of president will he be? Guarantee you that that's how it will be twisted and what their new slogan would be.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm |
  40. stacy

    You are totally correct with this article, as you most often are with all
    discussions or topics.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  41. Lacy

    I'd love to see Hillary first, but if Barack is too stubborn to pick her, I hope he goes for Wes Clark

    August 1, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  42. Lifelong Democrat

    If he doesn't choose her, he will lose. The republican attack machine has only just BEGUN. If he doesn't have her in on the ticket, they will eat him alive and we will have four more years of the same. Although, I'm sure people will still find some reason to blame Hillary (i.e. she didn't campaign HARD enough for Obama, etc.). She has already done more than she needs to do and she still has an extensive schedule on Obama's behalf in the coming months. If he loses, it will be because the DNC selected the less qualified, less experienced, less known candidate and not because of anything that Hillary did or didn't do.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:18 pm |
  43. kabalo,kabalo

    It is very important for Obama to let people understand that,"change doesn't mean changing all those people in Washington,but changing the way things are dealt with there" Just for the sake of the effort Hillary put out there during the primary,it will be to his advantage to go along with her to the end.It is not only just about winning,but also about a strong team. She showed that,she can throw some terrible blows and that is what he needs. He needs her to throw the same blows at his opponent . Make no mistake about that, she will get him. GOOD LUCK TO BOTH OF YOU.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  44. matthew sweet

    this would be my dream come true! ignore the haters, hillary is a winner!
    obama = winner
    hillary = winner
    obama + hillary = LANDSLIDE

    August 1, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  45. tigerjcs



    HILLARY 2012. MCCAIN 08!

    August 1, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  46. Mel from Canada

    We all know that for many reasons it's not going to happen so instead of opening the old can or worm again, we can focus the energy and time of people on other realistic possibilities which will not only give Obama the advantage of winning a few new States, but also maintain his grassroot support.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  47. Mari, Salt Lake City

    Well said, David Gergen. You are always brilliant. As an Obama supporter whom he chooses wont matter to me, he has a good selection. However, if he chooses Hillary that would be fine too.

    What was great news to me today, was how Sen. Obama handled his hecklers, this is WHY AMERICA IS GREAT! PEOPLE CAN HECKLE AND THE CANDIDATE CAN LISTEN AND RESPOND, WHICH WAS HOW SEN. OBAMA HANDLED IT.

    If this would have been McCain, his security would have thrown the hecklers out on their ears!

    GOOD NEWS from the Obama campaign: 200 thousand donated to the campaign in the month of July, a 100 thousand alone on 7/31st! And a 1/3 of the donors were first time donors!


    August 1, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  48. AHerbert; San Diego, CA

    Chill please and let Obama pick his own runnign mate... one shouldn't be pushed upon him.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  49. Ryan

    I know I'll only vote for him if Hillary is on the ticket. When you lost with more votes than the other person, you're still relevant. Also instead of hating Hillary Clinton because she had the "audacity" of running against liberal's sweetie pie candidate Obama, his supporters might want to consider not being so arrogant that everyone thinks and feels exactly like them and moved by a few spews of rhetoric.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  50. Roxy

    The Democratic leadership wanted Obama at all cost and that is just what they got! Too bad 'the one' is UNELECTABLE. I would not vote for this man if MOTHER THERESA was his VP! I would not touch this guy with a 10-foot pole if I were Senator Clinton. She needs to stay AWAY from this looser. Let the Dems fall flat on their faces. Senator Clinton owes the Democratic Party nothing after the way they humilliated her?! The nerve!

    August 1, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
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