Barack Obama on Tuesday night made history by becoming the first African-American to claim a major party’s presidential nomination. But his moment of triumph was unexpectedly complicated by uncertainty over Hillary Clinton’s plans, and it’s not clear when that uncertainty will be resolved.
The Obama campaign hadn’t anticipated that she would concede the nomination on Tuesday after the Montana and South Dakota primaries. Instead her speech was a chance to celebrate her own accomplishments in a Democratic primary race where, as the first woman with a strong chance of becoming president, she fell just short.
The surprise was rising speculation about whether Mrs. Clinton now wants to be Barack Obama’s running mate, a possibility she discussed herself on a conference call with New York lawmakers.
Some Democratic strategists had earlier speculated that she wouldn’t want the vice presidential slot, since as First Lady during the 1990s she had already been as close to the Oval Office as someone can get without being chief executive.
But two of her associates tell me they believe she does want it. And Former President Clinton has been trying to make that happen. In fact, one aide told me, her recent talk about winning the popular vote in the primaries has been aimed less at persuading super-delegates to back her nomination than to build a case for her inclusion on the Democratic ticket.
That’s a problem for Obama because his campaign has signaled it isn’t enthusiastic about Clinton on the ticket, since she and her husband could muddy his message of change and a new politics.
One Obama adviser expressed the hope this morning that as Clinton focuses more on the post-primary phase, she may conclude that the so-called “Dream Ticket” isn’t in fact what she wants.
But so long as she and her supporters keep that idea alive, Obama will face a challenge in trying to unify the Democratic Party and turn toward the general election battle against John McCain.
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