WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama thought seriously about picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate but thought Bill Clinton would be "too big a complication," according to a new book by former campaign manager David Plouffe.
"What surprised me at [our first meeting to discuss the vice presidency] was that Obama was clearly thinking more seriously about picking Hillary Clinton than Ax (David Axelrod) and I had realized," Plouffe writes in the new book, "The Audacity to Win," according to excerpts obtained by Time magazine.
He said if his central criterion measured who could be the best VP, she had to be included in that list. She was competent, could help in Congress, would have international bona fides and had been through this before, albeit in a different role. He wanted to continue discussing her as we moved forward.
We met again a couple of weeks later in mid-June and winnowed the list down to about 10 names. At our next meeting, we narrowed the list down to six. Barack continued to be intrigued by Hillary. `I still think Hillary has a lot of what I am looking for in a VP, he said to us. `Smarts, discipline, steadfastness. I think Bill may be too big a complication. If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship."
Plouffe writes that neither he nor Axelrod liked the idea of picking Clinton, I large oart of what he called complications in the campaigning together and governing should they win.
We had initially received a lot of advice from many of her supporters to pick her, though this advice was perhaps more accurately described as subtle pressure. Their fervor was abating a bit every day, though, helped by Hillary's comments that this was Obama's decision and that he should be left to make it.
Plouffe says that Clinton was not on the final list when Obama narrowed his choices in early August to three: Sen Joe Biden of Delaware, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Hillary did not make the last cut. At the end of the day, Obama decided that there were just too many complications outweighing the potential strengths. But I gave him a lot of credit for so seriously thinking about his fierce former rival. Some in the Clinton orbit thought we gave Hillary short shrift. My view is that any serious consideration was somewhat surprising given all the complications and the toxicity during the primary campaign.
As Obama headed to Hawaii for a vacation, Plouffe and Axelrod met with the three finalists. Biden, he writes, launched a 20-minute dialogue, about why he wouldnt want to be No. 2 and why he would be great at it.
Ax and I couldn't get a word in edgewise, Plouffe writes. It confirmed what we suspected: this dog could not be taught new tricks. But the conversation also confirmed our positive assumptions: his firm grasp of issues, his blue collar sensibilities and the fact that while he would readily accept the VP slot if offered, he was not pining for it.
Bayh, they concluded, had a short range from his top to bottom. Kaine had no experience outside Virginia. There was no great way to explain putting someone with no foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Talking by phone to Obama that night, the candidate said, Well, it sounds like you both are for Biden, but barely," he said. "I really haven't settled this yet in my own mind. It's a coin toss now between Bayh and Biden.
On Aug 17, Obama decided and phoned both Axelrod and Plouffe. Its Biden, he said.