Senate Politics Thwart Clinton Veeps

Cloud of doubt surrounds two of Hillary's possible running mates

As Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton feels an increasing “Bern” from divisions within her party, the speculation surrounding progressive possible veep picks to win over Sanders supporters in the general election has reached fever pitch.

But the speculation has raised a cloud of doubt over Democratic favorite son Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Castro has come under fire from a coalition of liberal activist organizations, all alleging that the HUD secretary has allowed Wall Street far too much leeway to gobble up mortgages. The sudden onslaught from the left has left Castro scrambling to reform HUD’s policies to appear less lenient on big banks — and that’s given a crop of other potential Clinton picks for vice president fresh attention.

It would be a cruel irony for Clinton to have handed a sword to kill a Democratic majority to Gov. Chris Christie or Gov. John Kasich.

Enter the alternatives — the fresh-faced, social media-savvy New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and longtime, ironclad liberal Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Brown in particular has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks. The senator hails from a critical swing state and has a history of backing many of the same liberal positions fueling Sanders’ popularity with the far left elements of the Democratic base. And Vice President Joe Biden stood shoulder to shoulder with him on Wednesday when he announced a new overtime edict.

Brown has been an ally of Sanders in the Senate, calling for the dissolution of big banks. Should Clinton pick Brown, it would send a powerful message to Sanders supporters that cracking down on Wall Street is not only rhetoric for her to get through the primary, but a real, actionable priority. Brown, who as a congressman voted against the war in Iraq, could also fire up the pacifist crowd of the Democratic Party reluctant to pull the lever for hawkish Hillary.

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New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is a far less Sanders-esque olive branch on the policy front. Booker defended GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s private equity record in 2012, but could bridge the charisma gap that plagues Clinton. At 47, Booker is, like Castro, young for a potential running mate and has proven a popular surrogate for Clinton on the campaign trail.

To pick either of these possible candidates would be a risky gambit for the post-election political landscape a new President Clinton would face. Both Booker and Brown hail from states with where vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointments — and both states have Republican governors. Should Clinton win the general election, the partisan control of the Senate could very well come down to a single seat.

If the partisan control of the Senate did come down to a single seat, it would be a cruel irony for Clinton to have handed a sword  to kill a Democratic majority to Gov. Chris Christie or Gov. John Kasich.

There is another senatorial pick garnering some speculation as a possible Clinton veep who hails from far more favorable circumstances.

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Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia has a track record of winning tough races in the purple state Democrats won in 2008 and 2012 and would like to more permanently move into the blue column. As mayor of Richmond and governor of Virginia, Kaine pioneered radical gun control measures, a key tenet of Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Most importantly for Hillary’s prospects of dealing with a friendly Senate, the incumbent governor of Kaine’s state is longtime Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe.

McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Clinton’s various projects and allies. There is no governor in the country Clinton would likely rather have picking a new ally to back her priorities in the Senate than McAuliffe.

Clinton may choose Kaine; she may still elect to tap Castro, another less talked-about option, or even her presidential spouse. But the one thing that’s for sure is that she would be rolling the Senate dice to select Sherrod Brown or Cory Booker.

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