Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Do Montana voters have a sense of humor or what? Bob Kelleher as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate? John Driscoll for Congress? What a slap in the face of the major parties' leading candidates for those offices. Democrat Jim Hunt must hurt terribly that an eccentric former Public Service Commissioner beat him in the Congressional primary without lifting a finger to campaign. And what does political journeyman Bob Kelleher's victory in the Republican Senate opener mean for the state GOP? For one thing, it may lead to deafening silence from Mike Lange. Can you spell "repudiation"? It also may mean that the state party has to start grooming statewide candidates immediately.

Then again, Tuesday's results may only mean that, without overwhelming advertising, Montanans will vote for names they know over names they don't know. Say what you will about Driscoll and Kelleher, but they've on the ballot enough times over the years that voters without other frames of reference will mark the names they recognize.

Now that Barack Obama is headed for coronation at the Democrats' national convention in Denver, who will be his choice for V.P.? And what will that person bring to the ticket? Could Hillary be his choice, with her 18 million voters? (And would she settle for #2?) How about Bill Richardson, who would appeal to the Hispanic voters who turned out for Clinton in droves? Even Brian Schweitzer's name has come up, although I doubt the party would ask him to give up his own race for governor, considering his popularity and his value as the "blue governor in a red state." I think Schweitzer would be more valuable as an Obama campaigner in the midwest and Rocky Mountain states. (I've also talked with fellow observers about Schweitzer getting a Cabinet post in an Obama administration. It sounds plausible on the surface, but would the national party be willing to elevate John Bohlinger to governor? I doubt it.)

It seems to me that Obama's first and biggest task between now and the convention is to reach out to women--a contituency that is hurt, angry and wondering what they have to do to get a female nominee. Naming Clinton as V.P. is not necessarily the answer. While she brings voters, she also brings the family baggage and triggers blind rage in many Republican and independent circles, incuding those who set their political compass by talk radio. Obama doesn't need to wave more red flags in front of those bulls.

What he needs is a woman with national credibility and name recognition who brings something to the electoral map. How about Dianne Feinstein? As senior senator from California and former mayor of San Francisco, she has the pedigree, the legislative experience and could put the ticket over the top in Electoral State #1.

Meanwhile, John McCain also should consider choosing a woman for V.P. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine would be an attractive choice. I've known women (especially minority women) who are smitten with Condoleeza Rice.

Half the country is waiting.

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