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Obama VEEPwatch: Who Is Tom Daschle?

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Obviously many of us are hoping Obama will pick someone we know as his #2. Some of our #2’s include Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Joe Biden and even Hillary Clinton. However, there are many unsung heroes who could have run for president but didn’t. Admittedly, I’d be relatively pleased with an Obama-Daschle ticket. In recent months, Daschle has been campaigning for Obama — by appearing at SD events, creating campaign ads and publicly speaking in defense of Obama on TV News shows.

As a national co-chair of Obama’s campaign, some say he’s played a big role in the Illinois Senator’s ascension to top dog. (We’ll see for sure on June 3rd when South Dakotans vote!) Daschle seems to have it all — leadership experience, military experience and a baggage-free career… as well as a focus on critical issues like health care and energy independence. An Obama-Daschle ticket would bring a tremendous synergy of new wave optimism and seasoned experience. It would say, “Let’s work together on a strong Bipartisan agenda that addresses health care, foreign policy and energy independence.”

See why Newsweek called Tom Daschle Obama’s “secret weapon”…

Credentials: South Dakota Senator (1987 – 2005)

Senate Minority Leader (1995 – 2001)

Senate Majority Leader (2001 – 2003)

Military Experience: Intelligence officer in the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (1969 – 1972)

Current Job: Special Policy Advisor at law firm Alston & Bird (where he advises on climate change, energy, health care, trade, financial services, and telecommunications), visiting professor at Georgetown Public Policy Institute, distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Background: Tom Daschle, son of ethnic German immigrants who came over from Russia, comes from a working class Roman Catholic family. He was the first member of his family to graduate college. His embodiment of a self-made man / working class Democrat could help Obama keep in touch with those blue collar voters.

His Agenda: He co-authored a book this year called Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. Since this is an important issue to Americans this election, Daschle’s in-depth research could help formulate that expansive health care plan Obama’s been talking about.

Even though he lost to Bill Frist, Daschle co-chairs the ONE vote ’08 campaign with his ex-opponent, where they work toward addressing health and poverty in the developing world. (There’s a little bit of Edwards-esque charm for you!) Since he helped create the Bipartisan policy center, he shows that he works well with others — something that the Democrats have been accused of NOT doing in recent years.

Foreign Policy Cred: In addition to his military credentials, Daschle works on the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and Council of Foreign Relations.

Star Achievements: He was the first SD Senator to hire a full-time economic development director and was one of the first members of Congress to establish a 1800-hotline that connected directly to his Washington DC office.

Only Lyndon Johnson served fewer years in the senate before advancing to the Senate Democratic Leadership position, and — despite his 2004 loss — Daschle’s still one of the longest serving Senate Democratic Leaders in history (and is the only one to serve as both Minority and Majority Leader). Though he was partisan in his rulings as a leader, he’s willing to cross the line to get results and is well-liked by members of both parties today.

Possible Snafus: Daschle’s wife Linda Hall is a known lobbyist, with clients like American Airlines and L-3 International — companies which, some say, benefited from the 9/11 tragedy. With Obama’s intense focus on being anti-lobbyist, this could be an issue that’d resurface on an Obama-Daschle ticket.

Secondly, some say Obama needs someone with more than just policy expertise — someone who’s a governor or mayor with a high profile. Of course, depending on who McCain chooses, the GOP may not be able to lord that over Obama since McCain is also a senator.

Thirdly, some may say Daschle’s not a tough enough opponent to stomp out a Republican opposition. He can be softspoken at times. In 2004, he lost a hotly contested battle against John Thune for his Senate seat. You could certainly argue that Thune’s campaign broke one of the cardinal rules by having Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist speak for him in South Dakota right before the election, but you could also say Daschle’s defenses weren’t strong enough to withstand (what I would call) fairly weak assaults against him. Obama needs someone who’s one part pitbull, one part Colin Powell-caliber distinguished gentleman.

Daschle Articles:

New Facts on US Health Care

Progressive Solutions to America’s Health Care Crisis

Politics and a Pragmatic Paradigm for Health Care Reform

The Right Trade Deals with Latin America

UN Emissions Program

Energy Security

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