Politics, like baseball, is a game of numbers. Our daughter has enjoyed watching her son play baseball since she learned that there is an official limit to the number of pitches a boy can throw in a game. Now, she can relax, count his pitches and know that when he goes to the bench even though he is doing great, he is at his limit of pitches per game. Political enthusiasts must keep track of a lot of numbers before they can relax. Some political operatives calculate how many votes a potential vice presidential choice can bring to the ticket. Others declare that the vice presidential choice is not important because the public votes for the top of the ticket. Still others argue that the VP is really just there to attack the opponent so that the presidential candidate can appear to be above the fray (think Richard Nixon for Dwight Eisenhower).
One of the better maxims offered by veteran political types is that to get enough votes to win an election candidates must find a way to appeal to their base — be it conservative or liberal — and to the middle, consisting of independents, moderates, and those who are undecided. Thus, we expect candidates in the primaries to make a highly partisan pitch to the true believers of their party and tack to the middle during the general election to broaden their appeal and garner the votes needed for a winning margin.
The party faithful are supposed to accept this tactic on the grounds of political necessity and be assured that the candidate will staff their administration and govern as a true believer. Sometimes, though, the “faithful” are bitterly disappointed when their candidate wins but fails to deliver on the implicit bargain, as has been the case to some degree with Evangelicals and the Bush administration.
In addition to the usual speculations about Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden as VP for the Democratic ticket are questions about the implications of his bypassing Hillary and what clues the choice offers us about Obama’s perceptions, assessments, instincts, and future decision making. In short, what does the choice of Biden reveal about Obama?