Nunn of ThatBarack Obama has-as has been written here before, a dire need to win over white blue collar voters. If he fails to do so, he will lose the election in the fall. Who could Obama choose that has appeal to the voters that he cannot seem to win, no matter how hard he tries. If David Brooks is to be believed, it could be former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn:
Obama will need a vice president who knows the millions of ways that power
is exercised and subverted in Washington. He’ll need someone who can be a
senior, authoritative presence in a cabinet that may range from Republican
Senator Chuck Hagel to the labor leader Andy Stern. He’ll need someone who can
supervise his young reformers and build transpartisan coalitions more
effectively than Obama has as senator.
Sam Nunn and Tom Daschle seem to fit the bill. Nunn is one of those
senior Democrats (like David Boren and Bob Kerrey) who left the Senate lamenting
the dumbed-down nature of modern politics. Daschle was more partisan as majority
leader, but he is still widely trusted and universally liked. As experienced
legislators, both could take Obama’s lofty hopes and translate them into
Barack Obama has managed to cultivate an image among the non-political and lesser-informed of his supporters (of which there are many, especially among the young college crowd he caters to) that he is the candidate of "change." Since most of his speeches are filled with lofty rhetoric and very little discussion of hard policy, a lot of these folks really have no clue what Obama means-they just know that when he talks it sounds really good, and it makes them feel wonderful, so change is good, right?
Of course, Barack Obama has been rated as the most liberal Senator of 2007 by the non-partisan National Journal. Obama's more political supporters (read: those who have a clue) like my friend Sharon Cobb (active Obama supporter, blogger, and former NBC News correspondent), or Nashville Young Democrat activist Sean Braisted, have a good reason to support Barack Obama-they are as liberal as he is. They support his vision for America, and they are ready to back their man to the hilt-and they know what kind of change Barack Obama means. One really has to give people like Sharon, Sean, and other hard activists on the other side credit because they know what their goals are, and those goals (as much as I detest them politically) are something that they can clearly define. This has not been true of many so-called Obama supporters that I have dealt with. "Change" is something that sounds good to them, but when you start dealing with hard issues and policy, they are lost (in fairness, they display all of the traits of the typical apathetic-until-someone-sounds-good American voter-this isn't a new phenomenon).
Middle America isn't nearly that far to the Left on the political spectrum as Barack Obama or many of his supporters. There are folks in the Obama camp who know this, and are aware that at some point the issue of his extremist liberal voting record will come to the fore and could be used against him to great effect. Obama has a voting record that makes Ted Kennedy look conservative-a look at the stats shows Kennedy ranked far below Obama for liberalism within one's voting pattern. That could explain why Obama started abstaining from more and more Senate votes the closer he got to diving into this campaign.
Knowing that Obama's record is what it is, how can he win over the voters that he must convince in order to be victorious in November? The voters that Obama is losing in the primaries are not exacly people that you can convince to support you by telling them how liberal you are-Tennessee or West Virginia or Idaho are not San Francisco. Obama must neutralize a very powerful argument that he is too extreme for many Americans-Sam Nunn could be the great neutralizer.
Sam Nunn was-and remains-a moderate-to-conservative Democrat of the Southern school. He opposed the Clinton budget and economic plan of 1993 that led to the Republican Congressional landslide of 1994. He voted to over-ride Bill Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and supported the Defense of Marriage Act. In addition, he is one of the few such more conservative Democrats to have endorsed Barack Obama.
Nunn is also one of this country's leading experts on foreign policy, and he has traditionally been seen as a hawk (though he voted against the 1991 Gulf War). He could play a significant role in moderating Barack Obama's tendency to show his inexperience by proposing to negotiate key points with rogue regimes. He could have a tendency to balance out a candidate who may lose without showing any ability to move to the right.