Democratic insiders worried about 2012 are discussing a Grand Switch, making Hillary Clinton the vice presidential nominee and Joe Biden the Secretary of State. Nothing is decided, but the talk cannot stay secret for long.
President Obama’s re-election is threatened in the electoral college and by potentially low turnout in key battleground states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. On the face of it, the popular Clinton might help the ticket in several of those states, if only marginally more so than Biden.
But Clinton is seen as bringing a charge to the party’s critical levels of energy, registration and turnout. Enthusiastic support from women alone could make a major difference in an election considered to be dangerously close. It also would boost the 2012 campaign involvement of Bill Clinton, now an elder statesman and a popular campaigner, as well as the significant force of Hillary supporters among women and others seeking to make history. Her presence on the ticket would spare the party a nomination fight in 2016 should she decide to run for president at age 69.
As for Biden, Secretary of State would hardly be a demotion. While Biden has served Obama loyally and effectively, he may want to resume a high profile in foreign policy, his longtime specialty in the US Senate.
During the past decade, Clinton has increased her support among those working class voters, including single women, she won from Obama in the 2008 primaries, and who will be difficult for Obama to reach in places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
She has tended to be more hawkish on military policy, for example supporting generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal against Obama in the key Afghanistan deliberations. According to Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, where Biden led the opposition to a troop escalation in Afghanistan sought by the generals – prolonging failure, he said – Clinton supported Bruce Riedel’s sustained counterinsurgency proposal “lock, stock and barrel.” (p. 103) In supporting McChrystal’s adamant insistence on more troops, “nearly everyone could see... Clinton was joining forces with the uniformed military and the secretary of defense, diminishing the president’s running room. She had reduced his cover for any decision with significantly fewer troops or a softer policy. It was a definitive moment in her relationship to the White House. Could she be trusted? Could she ever truly be on the Obama team? Had she ever been? Even though her electoral future seemed circumscribed, politicians know that anything can happen." (p. 254)