Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel may be joining Barack Obama on his fact-finding trip to the Mideast next week, but a bipartisan "Obama-Hagel" campaign is likely a "dream ticket" only in a Chuck Hagel nocturne.
"Take a look at the rules," suggested a Senate Democrat with a laugh. "The Party won't allow it."
And sure enough, the rules don't.
Despite the bipartisan ambitions of the candidates and dreams of many pundits, party rules of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees seem to ensure that neither Hagel nor Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman will be nominees for Vice President this year.
Let's start with the Democrats.
"Rule K" of the Democratic National Committee's own "Delegate Selection Rules" clearly states that "all candidates for the Democratic nomination for President or Vice President shall … have demonstrated a commitment to the goals and objectives of the Democratic Party as determined by the National Chair and will participate in the Convention in good faith."
National Chair Howard Dean would be hard-pressed to convince his Party faithful that Hagel, who was a co-chair of McCain's presidential campaign, has demonstrated that required commitment. Though he has sided with Obama on the Iraq War, the senator from Big Red country hasn't exactly turned blue.
Hagel as a Democratic VP candidate "won't fly," said one Democratic senator who asked not to be identified. "He's way too conservative on social issues."
Hagel voted with the Republicans 79.4 percent of the time, according to a Washington Post analysis of 311 votes between January and September of last year. Both Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right to Life Committee rate Hagel with a 94 percent lifetime voting record. The American Conservative Union rates Hagel at 87 percent.
Hagel also took contrary positions to Obama on Supreme Court nominations, voting in favor of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. And he was, according to some speculation in 2000, on George W. Bush's own short list for VP.
As for Hagel himself, a Democratic senator said that one of the most ardent floaters of the notion of Chuck Hagel as a running mate for Obama seems to be Hagel himself.
The Democrat added that Hagel is joining Obama on his upcoming trip to Iraq and Afghanistan because "no other Republican [senator] would go."
On the Republican side, the rules tell a similar — though murkier — story. But the bottom line is that even if John McCain wanted maverick "Independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate — and even if Lieberman wanted the job — GOP state and national rules also would make a "McCain-Lieberman" ticket an even tougher sell than expected.
Here's the procedural problem for a McCain-Lieberman ticket:
First of all, there's "RULE NUMBER 9," which governs delegate selection. It says only people who are eligible Republican voters can be delegates.
A couple paragraphs later, "RULE NUMBER 11," prohibits the Republican National Committee or its members from contributing "money or in-kind aid" to any candidate in a contested race who isn't a Republican Party nominee.
OK, so those rules establish that delegates have to have their Republican Party bona fides, and they prohibit RNC members from donating to Democrats in contested races. But there's another hurdle.
Once those delegates to the GOP convention are chosen, "RULE NUMBER 40," requires the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees to show a majority of delegates from at least five states are on board with their candidate.
So, even if McCain wanted his close friend and most effective surrogate, Lieberman, to join him on the Republican ticket, here's what he would have to do:
Convince Republican Convention delegates from at least five states — delegates, you'll remember, who were elected by Republican voters — to nominate a non-Republican, after they have been prohibited by party rules from even supporting anyone other than Republicans during the long primary campaign.
And that's where procedural hurdles run into political ones. Lieberman has a 100 percent pro-choice rating by the National Abortion Rights Action League and just a rating of 25 percent percent from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, indicating "an anti-business voting record." These might prove insurmountable problems for McCain in trying to assemble a fractious party that's on the defense already.
Then there's the Connecticut senator himself. "As regards the vice presidency," Lieberman told ABC's Ron Claiborne last week, "I really have been there and done that. I am not a candidate. I am not interested in doing it."