Opinion: Ted Strickland rules himself out as an Obama veep pick


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Potential vice presidential nominees routinely stress that they are happy with the jobs they have, scoff at the mention of their names as possible running mates and insist they have no strong interest in the second spot on their party’s national ticket.

Almost always, such comments are accepted for what they are: required social niceties from ambitious politicians who are quietly angling for the nod and, understandably, would accept the invite in an instant.


Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, however, is breaking the rules. Widely considered a prime contender for a running-mate offer from Barack Obama, Strickland issued a blunt, unequivocal rejection of such a prospect.

In an interview airing this evening on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered,’ journalist Michele Norris asks Strickland -- a staunch Hillary Clinton ally during the Democratic primary -- if the energetic campaigning he has promised on Obama’s behalf would serve as a veep audition for him.

‘Absolutely not,’ Strickland replies. ‘If drafted, I will not run; nominated, I will not accept; and if elected, I will not serve. So, I don’t know how more crystal clear I can be.’

Indeed, to drive his position home, Strickland was ‘Shermanesque’ -- parroting the phrasing coined by Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman when he was in the mix as a Republican presidential candidate in 1884.

Turns out, it’s an old tune for Strickland. A story in the Columbus Dispatch last November on Strickland’s official endorsement of Clinton reported that he repeatedly had said he was not interested ...

... in being part of a ticket she headed, ‘even invoking the famous quote’ from Sherman.

He also said at the time: ‘ ‘I love being the governor of Ohio ... You just can stop any thought of the vice presidency, that’s not something that I’m interested in.’ ‘

So Strickland is being consistent. But perhaps, in the eyes of Obama aides, he also is being a wee bit hyperbolic in his rhetoric, especially at this point in the campaign.

Obama hopes to improve his standing in a state where Clinton, in the March 4 primary, bested him rather easily. At the least, he wants Sen. John McCain to have to work hard to keep Ohio in the GOP presidential column. But better still, an Obama win in Ohio could well ensure him the presidency.


Strickland’s pledge to aggressively hit the trail for Obama no doubt has been warmly welcomed by the candidate. But the language the governor used today -- even if recycled material for him -- could be seen by some Ohioans as indicating an arms-length attitude toward Obama. The ever-vigilant media shop at the Republican National Committee, in fact, wasted little time sending out a mass e-mail consisting of a news story on Strickland’s Shermanesque stance.

His statement, to the Obama camp, must have been seen as impolitic. And that, more than anything, may have accomplished his purpose -- removing his name from the veep list.

Another frequently mentioned Democratic veep contender, meanwhile, received a major press shout-out today.

A column by E.J. Dionne Jr. could hardly have been more effusive in making the case for Obama to pick one of his former rivals in the party’s presidential race, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

Writes Dionne of his fave: ‘Few Democrats know more about foreign policy, and few would so relish the fight against McCain on international affairs. Few are better placed to argue that withdrawal from Iraq will strengthen rather than weaken the U.S.’

The rest of the column can be read here.

We note that nothing remotely Shermanesque was heard from Biden’s office today. Rather, a quote from Dionne’s piece, and a link to it, could be found front and center on his website.

-- Don Frederick