Clinton's conundrum

Why picking Palin should make Hillary work harder for Obama -- or not.

Published September 1, 2008 2:42PM (EDT)

Marc Ambinder raises an interesting question: Does the selection of Sarah Palin make Hillary Clinton likely to work harder on behalf of Barack Obama? He thinks so.

But there is a conundrum here. Presuming Hillary’s help matters, if she works harder for Obama and that puts the Illinois senator into the Oval Office, and presuming further that he is still around to run for re-election in 2012, and presuming still further that Joe Biden goes the eight-year distance as Obama’s vice president, that means there still will never be a woman president or vice president by 2016. But can Hillary really run and win eight years from now, at age 68? (Maybe Biden gently steps aside, but he’s not much older than she is, and why wouldn’t he take a run at a legacy term?)

On the other hand, if Hillary eases off the gas and somehow that helps the McCain-Palin ticket win, the New York senator could run for president in 2012 against a White House that presumably still includes a female vice president or, should something happen to McCain, against a woman president.

Ambinder’s “turf” arguments aside, I’m guessing the Palin pick does little to change Hillary’s commitment to Obama this cycle. But it does change her potential influence, especially if Obama asks her to ramp up her presence in exhange for some promise in return.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton Sarah Palin War Room