The last few weeks have seen plenty of obsessing over who Barack Obama and John McCain ought to pick to be their running mates. But for all the endless discussion about which candidate might best bolster Obama's message or help McCain carry
And, if we're playing by those ground rules, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is an ideal pick for Obama. Granted, she doesn’t offer many campaign-season advantages. She's a woman, and that's hugely significant in its own right--the prospect of busting through two glass ceilings in November would be remarkable--but early polls don't actually show Sebelius luring any additional female voters to the Democratic side. (In any case, her appeal to women might be counterbalanced by all those hardened Hillary Clinton supporters who are reportedly livid at the thought that Obama would pick a non-Hillary female running mate.) And while Sebelius is a popular governor from a red state, the odds of her delivering
But assuming that Obama's search committee doesn't uncover any major scandals-in-waiting, Sebelius wouldn't drag down the Obama campaign, either. Yes, her State of the Union response this year was a clunker, but Obama is more than rousing enough for two people, and who knows, some voters might actually like what Camille Paglia called Sebelius's "cordial, smoothly reassuring, and blandly generic WASPiness."
That just leaves the big question: Would Sebelius actually make a good vice president (and, for that matter, president)? After six years as governor, she's proven that she knows her stuff when it comes to policy--see, for example, this wonky interview she did a few years ago, covering everything from health care to the economy. She's a deft political operator, as evidenced by her ability to persuade a bunch of Kansas Republicans to switch parties back in 2006. And she knows how to survive, and win, grueling political brawls--as when, this past year, she thrice vetoed plans for new coal-fired plants in
Sebelius's biggest strength is the fact that she's the most competent executive of any of the rumored Democratic veep candidates, save for possibly former
And it's not just Sebelius's experience, but the nature of her experience, that makes her a good fit in an Obama administration in particular. Take her two-term tenure as
Good-government reforms can be dry and unexciting, but Sebelius's track record actually jibes well with Obama's belief that the U.S. government is broken and needs to be retooled before liberal policies can ever have a prayer of working. That vision explains why Obama's website is crammed full of open-government proposals, why he focuses so much of his time on ethics bills, and why his advisers love to tout his vision of an "iPod government" that's sleek, user-friendly, and flexible enough to confront new problems as they arise.
Of course, many liberals would argue that substantive issues like
Bradford Plumer is an assistant editor at The
Click here to read all of TNR's Veep Week Coverage.