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Hillary-Biden swap talk is nothing new. Is it 'nuts'?

There's a big problem with all of the juicy speculation that Obama could swap Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into the V.P. slot. The White House has consistently denied any such deal is in the works.
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Then President-elect Barack Obama nominated his former rival Hillary Clinton to be the next secretary of state on December 1, 2008.JIM WATSON / AFP/Getty Images
/ Source: Politics Daily

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.

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.

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."

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."

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.