Mar. 10, 2008 — -- While Republican presidential nominee John McCain can take his time in choosing his vice presidential candidate, a tight race on the Democratic side is resulting in some chatter of a fusion ticket between Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
In particular the suggestions keep coming from the Clintons — and it's a notion Obama does not take as a compliment.
Stumping Monday in Mississippi, Obama countered the Clintons with strong language and no uncertain terms.
"With all due respect: I have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton; I have won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton; I have more delegates than Senator Clinton," Obama said. "So I don't know how someone in 2nd place is offering the vice presidency to the person in first place."
Obama also hit the Clintons for calling in to question his experience for the job of commander-in-chief while suggesting him for the #2 spot.
"I don't understand," Obama said. "If I'm not ready how come you think I'd be such a great VP?"
It's become a frequent Clinton talking point: Maybe Democratic voters who are torn don't have to choose after all.
Last Friday in Mississippi, stumping for the Magnolia State's Tuesday primary, Sen. Clinton told voters, "You've got to make a choice. A lot of people wish they didn't have to. A lot of people say 'I wish I could vote for both of you.' Well that might be possible some day. But first I need your help on Tuesday."
This weekend on the trail, Bill Clinton went further, calling a Clinton-Obama ticket an "almost unstoppable force."
"I know that she has always been open to it," the former president said, "Because she believes that if you can unite the energy and the new people that he's brought in and the people in these vast swaths of small town and rural America that she's carried overwhelmingly, if you had those two things together she thinks it'd be hard to beat."
Citing their demographic strengths, Clinton said of Sen. Obama and his wife, "he would win the urban areas and the upscale voters, and she wins the traditional rural areas that we lost when President Reagan was president."
As Al Gore joked on Saturday Night Live years ago, picking a vice president can be like an episode of "The Bachelor."
"I respect all of you. And I wish I could have three running mates, but it's just not constitutionally viable," Gore said, holding up a single long-stemmed rose in a skit where he selected Joe Lieberman over John Kerry and John Edwards. "I've made my decision."
But Obama and his allies feel this is more like an undesired arranged marriage, and a shotgun one at that.
On Sunday's Meet the Press, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who has endorsed Obama's presidential run, called Clinton's floating of Obama as VP a "really a rare occurrence — maybe the first time in history — that the person who is running number two would offer the person who is running number one the number two position."
Plenty of former rivals have reluctantly joined to form a ticket. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960. Or John Kerry and John Edwards in 2004. But Clinton and Obama in 2008?
Dr. James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, called the pairing Bill Clinton's "dream ticket," but said that it was improbable.
Thurber says the demographic advantages of the ticket would work its magic during the general election, but that "it would very difficult for the Clintons to have Obama, a charismatic figure, as the vice president."
Unlike the "marriage of convenience" between Kennedy and Johnson, Thurber says Clinton-Obama "would be very difficult to bring together because there is not a young charismatic figure that would be number two on the ticket. It would have been like Kennedy being vice president and Johnson being the president."
Obama allies also think the Clinton trial balloons on a joint ticket are full of hot air.
This weekend on Face the Nation, Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, chastised the Clintons for using conflicting language. "On the one end, they are saying he's not prepared to be president. On the other hand, they're saying maybe he ought to be vice president."
Of course, the more bitter this fight gets, the less likely reconciliation is likely — especially if the nomination is decided after a brutal fight at the Democratic convention.