Image: Clinton and Biden
JIM WATSON  /  AFP/Getty Images
Then President-elect Barack Obama nominated his former rival Hillary Clinton to be the next secretary of state on December 1, 2008.
updated 10/6/2010 9:34:03 AM ET 2010-10-06T13:34:03

The White House has emphatically denied any notion that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will replace Joe Biden as President Obama's running mate in 2012.

The latest wave of Hillary buzz was amplified Tuesday night when Bob Woodward, author of the new book "Obama's Wars," told CNN's John King that a possible Obama-Clinton ticket is "on the table." The idea is that Clinton would energize a 2012 campaign — particularly among women. In some scenarios, Biden, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would take over as secretary of state.

But there's a big problem with all of this juicy speculation. The White House has consistently denied any such deal is in the works. "There's absolutely nothing to it," senior aide David Axelrod told the Washington Post late Tuesday. "The president is blessed to have a spectacular vice president and an outstanding secretary of state. They're both doing great work, and he wants them on the job." Another Obama adviser was more blunt, calling the idea "nuts." Longtime Clinton adviser James Carville also chimed in. "I'd be stunned if there's anything to it. Anything is possible in politics. But I don't know of anything beyond speculation, and I really doubt it's anything," he told the Post.

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Many Clinton supporters wanted her on the 2008 ticket after she finished a close second to Obama in the primaries. But she is arguably more valuable to the administration — and the nation — as secretary of state then she would be as vice president, a position with few prescribed official duties.

Live Vote: Clinton for VP in '12?

Swap talk is nothing new. In August, a Time magazine writer suggested Obama should consider dumping Biden as he plans his reelection bid. "Amid two wars, a stubborn unemployment rate ... might the White House need a little star power to jump-start what could be a tougher reelection than expected?" wrote contributor Dan Fastenberg. "As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has been striking the same tone as Team No Drama Obama, as opposed to the human gaffe machine."

Video: Dem chief pooh-poohs Obama-Clinton ticket (on this page)

Earlier that month, former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder wrote in a Politico op-ed piece that Obama should replace Biden with Clinton, in part because she would help win back "middle-class independent voters," who have drifted away from the president. Working-class voters, said Wilder, have always been "more enamored of Clinton." The former governor, who is African American, didn't say it, but "working class" in this context could be code for white voters, a group Hillary ran stronger among than did Obama when they opposed each other — sometimes bitterly — in the 2008 primary campaign. Wilder went on to make a case against Biden, saying his verbal blunders are not only fodder for late-night comedians but have undermined "what little confidence the public may have in him."

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In a piece for the Washington Post website in June, Sally Quinn wrote that Clinton and Biden, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, should switch jobs. She argued that Clinton has done "an incredible job" at State and, even in her late 60s, would be a strong candidate for president in 2016, while Biden, who is older, has no intention of seeking the White House. In the short-term, Obama and Clinton would be a "near-unbeatable team" in 2012, according to Quinn.

A month earlier Politics Daily's Eleanor Clift beat everyone to the punch by suggesting the same thing. She wrote that "Obama's loyalty only goes so far," and if polls show an Obama-Clinton ticket would run stronger in 2012, he "might well have Biden step aside." Besides, Clift argued, Biden "would be a natural at the State Department."

It's been more than three decades since a president has thrown his vice president overboard. A change at the top can be seen as a sign of disarray, panic even. Dan Quayle, regarded by his critics as a lightweight, survived in 1992 but the Bush-Quayle ticket lost to Clinton-Gore. The last president to make a change was Republican Gerald Ford, who replaced Vice President Nelson Rockefeller with Sen. Bob Dole in 1976 and went on to lose to a peanut farmer from Georgia named Jimmy Carter.

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Video: Dem chief pooh-poohs Obama-Clinton ticket

  1. Transcript of: Dem chief pooh-poohs Obama-Clinton ticket

    LAUER: Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee . Governor Kaine , nice to see you as always. Welcome.

    Governor TIM KAINE (Chairman, Democratic National Committee): Matt , good to be back.

    LAUER: Let me start with this rumor that we've been hearing. Bob Woodward dropped this on CNN yesterday, saying basically there is consideration or it's on the table that we might see President Obama running with Hillary Clinton in 2012 . Have you heard talk about it ? Is it something that crossed your desk?

    Mr. KAINE: No. Other than seeing speculation about it in the press. I've -- I talk to the White House and folks there all the time and I've never heard any conversation about it.

    LAUER: As the chairman of the DNC , any reason that would kind of get your juices flowing? You think it might be a good idea?

    Mr. KAINE: My job is pretty focused on November 2 . I don't even know, you know, is there going to be a November 3 ? I'm really focused on the next four weeks and that's way down the line. I think it's kind of like is Randy Moss going to get traded from the Patriots to the Vikings ? It's speculation, but I'm not -- I don't think there's anything to it.

    LAUER: Let's talk about voter turnout . Obviously it's key to you folks in the November midterm elections.

    Mr. KAINE: Absolutely.

    LAUER: The president has said that it would be irresponsible for Democratic voters to stay home at the midterm elections; yet in the latest polling, it seems that even with a high turnout, Republicans hold a 13-point lead over Democrats . If that turnout is low, that lead swells to 18 percentage points. So how do Democrats chip away at those numbers in the next four weeks?

    Mr. KAINE: Well, it's important, Matt. We've got a lot of work to do, but the good news is this. From before Labor Day to October 1 the polls have been moving pretty dramatically in Democrats' favors. Generic poll gaps have narrowed in a number of the polls. They're now even, which they weren't. Enthusiasm gap, which was showing up over the summer, has narrowed. We still have work to do, but both in the generic national polls, but also in race-to-race polls we're seeing out hand improving both because our candidates are out there doing good work...

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. KAINE: ...and the Republicans are nominating folks that I think paint a real stark choice between the two parties.

    LAUER: Let's talk about some themes. Newt Gingrich , the former speaker of the House , wrote a memo to some Republican candidates yesterday saying basically what they should do is they should make Democrats the party of food stamps and the Republicans the party of paychecks. If Republican candidates use that idea out on the campaign trail, how do you suggest that Democrats counter it?

    Mr. KAINE: I think the American public will laugh if Republicans try to be the party of paychecks. They put the economy into a tank, into a lost decade where Americans lost money under Republican leadership. The nation lost jobs and poverty gaps widened. They don't have a credible claim about being the paycheck party . The Democrats , who have turned the economy from shrinking to growing again for the first time in years, will be able to trump them on that.

    LAUER: You know, there is some talk, the president has talked tough as of late saying that it's time for Democrats to buck up.

    Mr. KAINE: Yeah.

    LAUER: The vice president said it's time for Democrats to stop whining. Polling though shows, Governor Kaine , that some Democrats have real differences of opinion with the White House over issues like the economy and health care reform. So when they use talk like that, are you afraid at all that it might backfire, that these Democrats will say, 'Wait a minute. This isn't about whining, it's about real legitimate differences'?

    Mr. KAINE: There are differences, Matt. You know, one of the great things about the Democratic Party is we're a very diverse party regionally, demographically, but that also means we're diverse in ideology. And that swing from the progresses to the blue dogs is a good aspect of our party ; it's also occasionally, you know, maddening. But I think the president and vice president's language here is kind of like the coach giving you, you know, the tough love talk before you go out and start the game. And I 've been traveling around heavily the last couple of weeks as the president and vice president have been saying those things.

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. KAINE: I don't see Democrats , you know, bummed out or mad that those things are being said. We're seeing these enthusiasm gaps in the ballot close because our Democratic voters and others are realizing the stark choice to be made between the party that's doing the heavy lifting and a party that's saying no.

    LAUER: I started with a rumor, let me end in the last 10 seconds. There's been some talk that Robert Gibbs is eying your job and that you may actually move inside the West Wing . What do you want to tell me about that?

    Mr. KAINE: That was also news to me when I read it Saturday. I'm just out, you know, fighting my way...

    LAUER: We're always the last to know , though, aren't we?

    Mr. KAINE: ...through TSA lines doing campaign events. Yeah, you're right. I guess it must be on a need-to-know basis, as they say.


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