Why Obama-Clinton 2012 Almost Makes Sense

Making Hillary Clinton vice president would help President Obama -- but it wouldn't do much for her.

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President Barack Obama with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Beijing, China,
November 2009. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

When former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder first pitched the idea of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden swapping jobs in 2012, it sounded like a ridiculous stunt. It still sounds like a stunt, but it's starting to sound a bit less ridiculous.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward upped the ante this week when he reported that the idea is "on the table." And there's speculation that Clinton's core supporters are floating the idea to see if it catches on, encouraging commentators who pine for another Clinton presidency, like The Daily Beast's Tunku Varadarajan, who writes of a "growing sense that Hillary would have made a much, much better president than Obama."

But if people think that a billion Muslims worldwide would be more receptive to drone strikes raining down on Pakistan if we had a president not named "Hussein," or that a President Clinton -- or even a President John McCain -- would have let the American auto industry and worldwide banking go down the drain just because bailouts are unpopular with the voters, they should think again.

Where Clinton loyalists are right is that Clinton has traction with the (ahem) "hard-working Americans" whom Barack Obama struggled to attract in 2008 and needs for re-election. While this week's Gallup numbers show that Clinton can't challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012 -- no Democrat can win without the support of the 91 percent of African Americans who still give Obama a favorable job rating -- she'll eventually have to decide whether it's better for her 2016 prospects to join forces with her current boss or distance herself from him.

The Woodward theory is already being dismissed as an unsubstantiated distraction for the White House, but so what? It adds a wrinkle to a 2012 landscape that's quickly becoming pre-baked as a boring matchup between a politically tattered Obama and a bunch of lackluster Republican contenders.

If the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket picks up steam, the calculations for each of the players are intriguing:

Joe Biden

There's no brass ring in this deal for Biden, but there's really no lump of coal, either.

Biden's only must-do task -- not saying anything sexist or condescending to Sarah Palin in their vice-presidential debate -- was checked off on his win column back in 2008. He's rounded out a nice 35-year Senate career, including five years as Foreign Relations Committee chair, with his current stint as Obama's No. 2, and his résumé would be rounded out even more with a last lap as secretary of state. He could look at it as a demotion, or he could look at it as taking over a job originally held by no less a figure than Thomas Jefferson.

Barack Obama