2008 is shaping up to be an odd election season. For the first time in recent memory, both parties' nominees for President will have secured their nominations without winning an overwhelming majority of their respective parties' votes. Both Barack Obama and John McCain will have a lot of work ahead of them to unite their parties. But they also share another similarity: both of them may need to select a running mate more conservative than they are in order to win the election.
According to National Journal, Barack Obama is the most liberal member of the U. S. Senate. As last week's resounding defeat in the West Virginia primary showed, Obama is weak among values voters and middle-class workers. He's also had trouble winning votes among women. In order to win over the center and right of his party as well as appeal to independents, he would be well advised to select someone more conservative than he is. Obama's inexperience will also be a liability and so he may want to look for someone with more experience. Of course, he can't rule out the possibilty of selecting a woman as his running mate to help his appeal among women.
Meanwhile, John McCain has his own set of problems. Throughout the primaries, more conservative members of the Republican party gravitated towards Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson. McCain has long been perceived as having too much of an independent streak to suit Republicans. His age also becomes an issue. So picking someone who is younger and more conservative would be a wise move for McCain.
While the Vice-Presidential nominee normally doesn't add much to the ticket, 2008 could prove to be an exception to that rule. With both parties' nominees carrying significant weaknesses into the fall campaign, the choice of running mate could be the most critical decision these two candidates make during this election season.