WASHINGTON -- With the Democratic nominee for president at last decided upon, another guessing game can begin: whom Barack Obama will pick for his veep. Hillary Clinton clearly wants to end that game early, with her as the answer.
There are theoretical arguments why having his former rival at his side could strengthen the Illinois senator's candidacy, but there are many more reasons why he shouldn't, and probably won't choose her. I think she lost her chance -- if she had any -- with her tacky primary night speech on Tuesday that was all about me, myself and I: the 18 million voters who supported her, the states she won, the legions of voters who cheered her on, and of course her superior agenda, which she recited yet again. She could have given a gracious, classy speech that acknowledged Obama had won the nomination. She could have embraced the inarguable results of the primary race by fully declaring her intention to do everything in her power to elect the nominee of her party.
Instead, she played it coy, demanded "respect" for her supporters, and said she was not going to make any decision that night about what she planned to do next. But the decision had been made for her by the voters. She had lost and he had won, but she had a lot of trouble accepting that. It seemed she wanted the campaign to go on, and she asked her supporters to send suggestions to her campaign Web site, hoping to show Obama that she was still a force to be reckoned with. Anyone in the Obama campaign who watched Hillary's self-absorbed performance Tuesday night would have to question how loyal she would be as a running mate, let alone vice president.
Then there were all those disturbing signals from her advisers that she wanted certain things in return for her support, like the central speaking spot at the convention and the vice presidential nod. She told supporters in a conference call on Tuesday that she was "open" to the idea of being on the ticket, a calculated but presumptuous admission because no one on Obama's team had given the slightest hint that she would even be asked.
There was a time when a running mate was chosen because he or she could deliver something to the ticket, a major state, a key constituency, or maybe (in Obama's case) some experience the presidential nominee did not possess.
But what would Hillary bring to the ticket?
New York's electoral votes? Obama is going to carry the Empire State anyway. If he doesn't, he's in worse shape than we thought. Besides, recent vice presidential nominees have a poor track record of carrying their states. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was unable to deliver Texas for Michael Dukakis. John Edwards couldn't carry North Carolina for John Kerry. Geraldine Ferraro didn't help Walter Mondale who won only one state, his own.
The women's vote? White working class voters who flocked to Hillary's candidacy, dissing Obama in embarrassingly large numbers? Hispanic voters who do not like Obama but liked Hillary? Ferraro proved that many women do not vote on the basis of gender, otherwise she would now be known as a former vice president. And, let's face it, few if any voters vote for vice president anyway.
As for reaching out to Hispanics, Obama would do better picking Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the former congressman, United Nations ambassador and Secretary of Energy, who happens to be Hispanic and has the most experienced resume in the party.
But there is an even deeper reason why the freshman senator from Illinois would not want to put Clinton on the ticket -- her husband. Read the Vanity Fair article about Bill's notorious escapades with a nefarious bunch of wealthy jet setters, and you quickly understand why this guy will always be at the center of controversy and scandal.
The last thing Obama wants is a vice presidential running mate whose spouse is an irresponsible loose cannon with the potential to embarrass his wife and the Obama administration to boot. Then there is Hillary's reputation as a polarizing figure with the highest negatives in the Democratic Party. Placing her on the ticket guarantees that John McCain wins an added 2 to 3 points, and in a close race that would be enough to beat the Democrats.
Obama needs a loyal running mate who offers him the experience he lacks in governing and national security issues and who can strengthen the ticket in a pivotal swing state in the Midwest, South or the West.
Obama shouldn't kid himself. A vice presidential candidate in most cases won't win the election for him, but the wrong nominee could ensure that he loses. Hillary would be that candidate.