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A Northwestern veep?

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Take none of what follows as a prediction, but I will say this: The Northwest is home to the single most logical vice presidential pick in the country, in either party.

I eliminate the Donald Trump-Republican side here, because I have no idea who the most logical vice presidential nominee there might be. (For a host of reasons, not Senator Mike Crapo, who made a list of prospects by columnist Ann Coulter.)

On the Hillary Clinton-Democratic side, the calculus is easier, and by combining assets and liabilities Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley rises toward the top. He is not among the most-mentioned names, but all of those better-knowns come with problems attached. The choice of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren would thrill some people but would stir new controversy (the two-woman ticket) while putting her Senate seat at partisan risk at a time when Democrats have hopes of retaking the Senate. That same Senate problem applies to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who’s close to the Clintons, has financial and other issues and would aggravate the Bernie Sanders contingent. Sanders himself is a non-starter, as Clinton has made clear, not least because he has not worked in the party vineyards. Other prospects have little or no serious experience as a candidate for high office.

Merkley was the only senator to endorse Sanders, which made him beloved within that contingent, but he did that without trashing Clinton, who he has since endorsed. Picking Merkley would be a signal from Clinton that she can overcome her issues of insularity, and expand her enthusiasm quotient on the left. (Of coursse, if she’s as insular as reputed, Merkley’s Sanders link would be a disqualifer.) The risks would be small. Merkley is a loyal Democrat, has run as such since his first election to the Oregon House in 1998, and has helped other Democratic campaigns.

In demeanor, he has a low-key, “aw-shucks” manner (in person he comes across more like Crapo than an of the others in the Idaho delegation) which would neatly balance Clinton’s presentation, but he’s also a skilled speaker and debater. He rose quickly into Oregon House of Representatives leadership, and showed political chops by leading the campaign effort that switched control of the chamber from Republican to Democratic ad made him speaker. Like Oregon’s other senator, Ron Wyden, he’s held town halls in every county in the state each year he’s been in the Senate (he’s now in his second term). His background, as he routinely reminds Oregonians, is as the son of a Myrtle Creek mill worker, and his interest in practical economics grows out of that.

If elected as vice president, Oregonians would choose his replacement in a special election. Given Oregon’s politics, Democrats probably would not have to worry about losing the seat.

His easy manner led many Oregon Democrats to figure him for an unambitious centrist, and he has cooperated with a variety on other senators on sundry issues, including Idaho’s Republicans on regional topics like wildfire prevention. He also, however, has been a liberal activist on economic and other issues (his highest national profile probably has been on the subject of filibuster reform) which is why the Sanders backers would approve of him.

What few Oregonians probably know, and Merkley seldom mentions, is that he has a strong foreign relations and defense background as well. After a stretch in the office of (Republican) Senator Mark Hatfield, Merkley worked for a variety of international non-profit and other organizations around the world, spending time in Ghana, Mexico, Italy, India and elsewhere. After that he became a presidential management fellow at the Department of Defense, working in Caspar Weinberger’s administrative offices on defense process and strategy. And after that, at the Congressional Budget Office as a nuclear arms analyst. He discusses defense and foreign relations policy with ease.

Merkley’s name, as a veep prospect, has come up so far only on the periphery, and to reiterate, I make no predictions here. But the case for hism is strong enough that you shouldn’t be shocked if you hear it again.

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