Bye-Bye Biden? Obama to Call on Cuomo?

I’ve been wondering when people would start talking about this possibility:

President Obama is reportedly considering tapping New York governor Andrew Cuomo to take the place of Vice President Joe Biden in the upcoming 2012 presidential election, a move that could add a fresh face to the Obama administration.

There are many reasons why this might make sense.  Among them:

  1. Senator Biden was once considered, even by people who had met him before, a serious thinker on questions of international affairs, and his presence on the ticket was meant to reassure Americans concerned by Obama’s inexperience that there was a steady hand at the wheel of American foreign policy.  Yet (i) this is one area where the Obama administration generally receives high marks, especially following the killing of Osama bin Laden; (ii) no one can credibly claim anymore that Obama has no experience in foreign policy matters; and (iii) Biden has not exactly taken a leading role on foreign policy in any case.  Hillary Clinton has, and it sounds as though President Obama has frequently gone directly against the Veep’s wishes in major foreign policy decisions.  Finally, (iv) the 2012 election is not going to be about foreign policy, but about jobs and economic growth.  Cuomo can credibly claim some expertise in both, given his experience with HUD and now some experience as the chief executive of America’s third-largest state.
  2. A massive part of Obama’s appeal in 2008 was simply that he was new and different, a substantial change from what had gone before.  Now, Obama is the status quo, and no one screams “establishment” louder than Joe Biden.  Cuomo, due to his victory in the fight for the legalization of gay marriage, now has a kind of outsider, insurgent, rising-star feel.
  3. While Obama hardly needs help winning New York State, bringing Cuomo on the ticket could help Obama fundraise from wealthy (especially gay) New Yorkers, could help deliver New Jersey (which is likely in Obama’s camp anyway, but not a given), and will certainly please the base.  The hard-core Democratic activists, especially gay-rights activists, have been pretty displeased with the President they helped to elect.  Obama has shown little courage on cultural issues.  To be sure, the Democratic party will do its best to portray the GOP candidate as the very incarnation of Hate, so much of the base would vote against the GOP candidate and in support of Obama.  But their enthusiasm, their involvement, their funds, would be far lesser than they were in 2008.  Cuomo could move the needle on all those issues.
  4. When people speak of the “enthusiasm gap,” they’re typically referring to the voters.  But don’t underestimate the importance of media enthusiasm.  The press are not as enthralled with Obama as they once were.  This makes them more likely to criticize, to investigate, to — you know — do their jobs as opposed to cheerleading.  Yet the media are deeply enthralled with Cuomo right now, and the selection of Cuomo would give them reason to love Obama all over again.  We would be treated to all sorts of articles and reports on what a wise and visionary decision Obama had made.
  5. Finally, Joe Biden is not going to be the heir to the Obama legacy.  He can’t be.  He’s too old.  Even if Obama/Biden won in 2012, Democrats in 2016 would be in the position Republicans were after Bush: with a two-term President on the way out with no clear successor in place.  On the other hand, Obama could bring in Cuomo, set up Cuomo as the heir apparent for 2016, and if Cuomo were reelected in 2016 then he would be a validation of, and bring continuity from, the Obama administration.

In the right venues, the Obama/Cuomo campaign would play up the possibility that Cuomo could accomplish on a national level what he did on a state level, making gay marriage legal.  You don’t think that would bring in a tremendous amount of money from wealthy gays in New York and California, and a tremendous amount of support from the media, entertainment, and academic sectors?

Are there any reasons not to do it?  Let me know if you think of others, but here are the ones that come to mind for me:

  1. It would be seen as an act of desperation.  Love him or hate him, Obama’s confidence, his cerebral and unrattled demeanor, are a part of his public persona.  The incumbent President is supposed to seem all but invincible, his reelection all but inevitable.  Beginning the campaign with a tacit admission that you are thoroughly scared of losing with your current lineup does not help the cause.  That said, remember how quickly and completely Obama reversed many of his far-liberal positions when he transitioned from the primary to the general election in 2008?  He may decide it’s better just to get the negative part over-with at the start, and build from there.  The ‘desperation’ storyline would pass.
  2. The same person who helps you get elected may not help you govern well, and vice versa.  Although Bush could have dumped Cheney in 2004 in favor of others who would have been more beneficial for his reelection, he kept Cheney because Bush was loyal to a fault and Cheney helped him govern.  Obama is famously ruthless in his personal relationships, so Biden may not be able to count on personal loyalty; but if Biden actually helps Obama, you know, be a good President, then Obama may wish to keep him around.
  3. Biden is popular with party insiders and theoretically he helps deliver the administration’s agenda to the Congress.  That hasn’t worked out so well in the debt-ceiling impasse, but it may work in other cases.  Plus, his popularity with the party establishment would make it tough to turn him out on the streets.  If the President could arrange a cozy appointment for Biden (ambassador to China, Secretary of State…?) and Biden could take the move graciously, it might work.  But that liberal beltway establishment, which has never been entirely warm to Obama, might not take it well if it came across as a betrayal of Biden.
  4. Cuomo may make less sense for reelection than it first appears.  What really matters are the swing states like Florida and Ohio.  While he helps Obama fundraise in New York and California, he does not help Obama win those electoral college votes, which he will win regardless.  But would the great champion of same-sex marriage, a New Yorker with some questionable accomplishments and associations, really help Obama’s cause in the swing states?  Actually, having the champion of gay marriage on the ballot might rally social conservatives to the polls in a powerful way.
  5. In his tenure as HUD Secretary, Cuomo was a major part of the push to deliver loans to low-income minorities, partly by putting in place the policies that encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase the home loans for individuals meeting lower and lower standards.  Edward J. Pinto, former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae, said “Cuomo was pushing mortgage bankers to make loans and basically saying you have to offer a loan to everybody.”  This opens up a Republican line of attack that Obama’s bringing on board one of the major actors in causing the subprime mortgage meltdown, when Obama would much rather blame the meltdown on deregulation and rich Republican greed.
  6. It’s not at all clear whether Cuomo would accept the invitation.  He has only been in office as the Governor of New York for about seven months now.  He may wish to build his executive bonafides with a successful term as governor before running for the big office in 2016.  Also, he deferred to Hillary Clinton when Hillary wanted to run for the Senate, and Hillary might well feel that if anyone should be invited onto the ticket, it should be her.  (And she would have a point.)
  7. Finally, some would suggest that President Obama is not eager to share the spotlight, and Cuomo is not eager to be out of it.  As Toby Harnden writes (I find much of his other analysis unpersuasive), “Would Obama choose a running mate whose leadership is held in higher esteem than his by Democrats?”  Either Obama or his advisors may wish to keep the attention where it properly belongs, at the top.  This is the Obama show; it is ultimately Obama himself the voters must trust.

What do you think?

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  • Other than these two rather tenuous links; one to the New York Post and and the other to a site I’ve never even heard of before, this is the first I’ve heard of this idea. I like Cuomo myself, but a random comment from Willie Brown and the former head of the NY GOP does not a “reportedly considering” make. It’s just more silly speculation and nothing else.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      It’s getting a fair amount of press, John. You can Google it for yourself. The guy who wrote about it for the New York Post is respected and known for being well connected, and the possibility has been raised before this. I think the same-sex marriage victory brought it back to the forefront, and gave the option more upside for Obama. As I said in response to another comment, I don’t consider it likely, but I also wouldn’t be terribly surprised.

    • please do New Yorkers a favor, and make Cuomo Obama’s running mate for 2012. I know the Dems around the nation, are drinking the Obama Kool-Aid and have lost their minds. Does anyone really think Obama can win another four years. Drink the Kool-Aid guys, you’re living in a delusional world. Everyone’s talking about same-sex marriage passing in New York. Carl Marx could be voted for Gov. of New York, they’re nothing but socialists and communists. The rest of the country have normal thinking people, who don’t want to let these pedophiles into their school system. One out of 15 in the gay movement belong to men/boy love Association. One out of 15, now we can have him in our New York school system, handed out their homosexual flyers. I live in New York, and I know how corrupt cuomo will and the Republican senators really are. It’s the best thing that could happen to the New York Christian churches. I have never seen so much unity, nationwide money is pouring in all over the country, for the conservative party of New York. The Christians in New York were sleep, but now they’re wide-awake and United. watch what happens next year, to the senators who voted yes to let pedophiles enter public school system. I I am the owner of the Christian social network Bible study space network. My membership is up 300%, because of what happened in New York. The line has been drawn in the sand, and my site has never been busier. Watch and learn with the power of God can do, when everyone is united.

  • The pundits always like to talk up the possibility of switching up Veeps, but is is pretty unlikely.

    The biggest reason is that he is, at the national level, an unknown quantity. They can properly vet him to ascertain whether he has this or that skeleton, but they don’t know how they’ll play. He divorced a Kennedy. There has to be something weird.

    Biden is easy to manage. The WH has a nice arrangement with the press where they don’t cover his gaffes, and new revelations are highly unlikely. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    If Obama is sweating New Jersey, he’s cooked.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    To some extent, yes, it’s a nice parlor game for pundits. Of course, the possibility does not come along very often. It was discussed with Bush/Cheney, but Bush shut that conversation down pretty quickly. I don’t remember it being discussed with Clinton/Gore. Perhaps Bush I. I don’t remember it being discussed with Reagan, either. But I agree with the general point, that pundits enjoy talking about these sorts of things.

    Still, the question is whether it makes sense. In this case, the rumor comes from a couple insiders. They may be putting out rumors for their own purposes, of course. But, again, if it makes sense, it makes sense. And while the relationship between Biden and the press may not be broke, the ticket itself may be broke. (I’m not convinced it is; I actually think Obama is highly likely to be reelected, but I don’t have the kind of polling data they do.) There’s not a lot of upside to keeping Biden right now, either for electing or for governing purposes.

    Anyway, I’m not the only one to find the scenario plausible: . I also don’t know if I’d say that he’s an unknown quantity. He’s been around for an awful long time, and running for Governor of New York, with the New York press, is no small feat. Skeletons would likely have come out, then.

    I doubt that the President will push Biden aside for Cuomo. I’d give it a 10% probability. But it’s an interesting possibility, and 10% ain’t nothing.

    • Sure. From Obama’s perspective, I would question the wisdom of cutting loose a notorious motor mouth in the midst of a campaign.

      I’d put Obama’s re-election chances around 55-60%. If that’s where his advisers feel he is sitting, they’ll play it safe. I think it would take an instigating event to force a switch.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Points 4 (does he help in swing states?) and 6 (half-term governor- I somehow don’t like the ring of that) are the biggest reasons I’d be ambivalent about the switch.

    I’d much rather someone with mid-west, working class bonfides, maybe Russ Feingold or one of the other 2010 losers from Wisconsin/Ohio/Michigan whose stock has risen with the buyer’s remorse those states have had toward their new elected officials.

  • Jack von Bauer

    Obama threw his granny under the bus to get elected. So the no-brainer Biden is also no-brainer.