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Democratic VP Buyer’s Guide

Since Barack Obama’s VP selection could be announced at literally any moment now, let’s make one last run through the current prices on Intrade, and I’ll give my instincts on where I think this thing stands.

Biden — 28.0%

Now considered the favorite by both the press and the punters, which seems about right. The campaign is playing into his strengths at the right time, with its aggressive/attacking turn and the increased amount of attention paid to foreign policy as a result of the South Ossetia conflict. With that said, I think the optics/aesthetics of this pick are a little bit of an odd fit. The only recent ticket with a similar age gap between the VP choice and the Presidential nominee was Dukakis-Bentsen, and that looked a little better on paper than it played out in practice. Hold.

Bayh — 25.0%

To the extent that the Obama campaign was sending up a trial balloon about him, it has gone over rather badly, with many on the left making Bayh an example/scapegoat for exactly what they don’t want to see from Obama’s VP pick. I think he’s been singled out unfairly and that people need to do a better job of grading on a curve when it comes to evaluating legislators from Red States. Still, that doesn’t mean the Obama campaign isn’t listening, and something about the timing of a Bayh announcement would seem anticlimactic. I would neither buy nor sell at this price. Hold.

Kaine — 15.0%

He’s come full circle, becoming something of a hot pick again after once being left for dead. But his public vetting did not go much better than Bayh’s, and neither, apparently, did he perform all that well in focus groups. And whereas the Bayh rumors seemed to have been pushed by the Obama folks, it was Kaine’s people who seemed to be babbling to the press about Timmy K., in a way that was inconsistent with Obama’s tightly-run press shop. Hold.

Clark — 15.0%

Way overbought. I don’t necessarily buy that he’s been disinvited from the convention, but there are enough other tea leaves that he isn’t likely to be the pick. A massive head-fake is always possible, and in recent interviews, Clark certainly hasn’t ruled out interest in the position. But whether the interest is mutual is an open question. Sell.

Kerry — 9.5%

God, how gullible are people? Sell.

Gephardt — 8.9%

I’m not a big Dick Gephardt guy — he seems to combine the worst characteristics of Biden (being an old-school Washington insider) and Bayh (being bland). Nor has he been the subject of very much speculation from the cognizenti. I’m not sure why he’s trading at this price. Sell.

Clinton — 8.0%

Boy, would this be dramatic. And perhaps exceptionally smart. I think Obama might get an immediate 10-15 point bounce if he named her. But I don’t know how well she’d hold up after coming under attack in September and October — remember, she hasn’t really been the subject of a negative campaign since late February, when the Obama folks decided they had the nomination locked up and started to play it safe. It’s a crazy scenario, but the whole Obama veepstakes has been crazy enough that I wouldn’t rule it out. Hold.

Daschle — 6.5%

I have friends who are convinced this would be a great pick, but I really worry about the brand of someone who couldn’t hold their own Senate seat. He also issued a quasi Sherman Statement in June. Sell.

Sebelius — 5.2%

Her stock has been beaten up recently for reasons that don’t seem to have much basis in the news. Yes, she’s been given a speaking slot at the convention, but so have folks like Bayh and Biden. And the fact that she was named a co-chairwoman of the Democratic Convention put her name out there for media consumption. This is a good buy opportunity.

Hagel — 5.1%

It’s such a high-risk move to cross parties at a time when the Democratic brand is strong, and the Obama campaign is pretty risk-averse. Nor has Hagel officially endorsed Obama. I think he’s an attractive name to throw out there to the press corps, but I’d be very surprised if he were the pick. Sell.

Gore — 4.9%
Schweitzer — 4.5%
Richardson — 4.5%

Now we get into the wishful thinking department. But Schweitzer — whom we’ve heard that Obama met with in July — and Richardson make enough sense on paper that it’s probably reasonable to hold their stock at this price. The worry with Schweitzer is that his name ID would be exceptionally low for a late roll-out. Still, hold those two, and sell Gore.

C. Kennedy — 4.0%

God, how gullible are people? Sell.

Rendell — 3.6%

Enough stature that he could be rolled out without having had his name floated in advance. But his name really hasn’t been floated at all. In the abstract, I’m not sure why you consider Biden but not Rendell, who would seem to appeal to similar constituencies and who also have somewhat similar faults. Hold.

Nunn — 3.3%
Reed — 3.0%

These are astonishingly low prices for people that have been on campaign-approved short lists for weeks. Buy both, especially Reed.

Napolitano — 3.0%

I don’t know how to put this without seeming horribly politically incorrect, but I don’t know how she’d play on a national stage. Sell.

Warner — 3.0%

The fact that he didn’t want to go through the vetting process intrinsic to a Presidential run and then also withdrew his name from VP consideration makes me think that any kind of an end-around is unlikely. Sell.

McCaskill — 2.5%

She’d make Obama look experienced by comparison. Additionally, in every category except the swinginess of her home state, picking Kathleen Sebelius would be a dominant strategy. Sell.

Dodd — 2.5%

Chris Dodd’s presidential bid was a complete flop — far more so than Biden’s — and he’s got scandal issues and absolutely zero electoral math working for him. He also performed badly in the debates. I think this name is being circulated as a favor and nothing more. Sell.

J. Edwards — 2.2%

Proof that betting markets are dumb. Sell.

Graham — 2.0%

Worth a gamble. Buy.

Zinni — 2.0%
Bloomberg — 1.5%
Brown — 1.5%
Webb — 1.0%
Strickland — 1.0%
Kerrey — 1.0%
C. Edwards — 0.9%

At this point, we’re getting obscure enough that it’s hard to issue a recommendation. I would probably buy Chet Edwards, though.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.