Obama drops a veep hint -- maybe

Barack Obama refers to his vice president as "he," spurring speculation about the pick to dizzying new heights.


Mike Madden
August 20, 2008 7:34PM (UTC)

Figuring out which vice-presidential contender Barack Obama will show up with in Springfield, Ill., on Saturday is about the only thing on the minds of most people in Washington these days. So it's no surprise that we're now at the level of scrutinizing pronouns for clues.

Marc Ambinder and Jake Tapper (a former Salon reporter) both saw a hint in Obama's use of "he" to describe his running mate at a town hall in Raleigh, N.C., late Tuesday. Let's go to the videotape (or, well, the quoted remarks):

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Let me tell you first what I won't do. I won't hand over my energy policy to my vice president, without knowing necessarily what he's doing ... My vice president also will be a member of the executive branch, he won't be one of these fourth branches of government where he thinks he's above the law.

Up till now, Obama has been careful to use gender-neutral language or to say "he or she" when talking about who will join him on the ticket. This could, theoretically, also be bad news for Kathleen Sebelius, Hillary Clinton and any other potential vice president who answers to "her." But sometimes a pronoun is just a pronoun. It's possible -- likely, even -- that this was just a slip-up by a candidate who's battling a cold.

One thing's for sure -- the way things are going, if Obama doesn't announce his pick soon, the media will start looking to see if the first letters of each paragraph in his remarks spell out anyone's name.

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Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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