Obama's Courtesy for Dodd

chris dodd v Obama's Courtesy for DoddChris Dodd says that he’s being vetted by the Obama campaign, supposedly a sign that he’s progressed to a more serious level of vice presidential consideration. But is that really what’s going on?

Dodd endorsed Obama soon after ending his own presidential bid in January and served as a loyal and aggressive surrogate during Obama’s protracted nomination fight with Hillary Clinton. When Obama emerged as the winner, Dodd began making it clear that he wanted to be considered for the VP slot.

But he’s not exactly ideal running-mate material. A liberal from Connecticut, he’d do little to expand the Democratic ticket’s geographic or ideological appeal, and—despite his considerable Washington experience—his credentials wouldn’t necessarily provide the instant reassurance on national security issues that Obama would presumably want in a gray-haired running-mate. Then there’s the preferential treatment Dodd received from Countrywide Financial—a guaranteed headache if he were to be added to the national ticket.

In years past, it would have been easy for Obama to accommodate Dodd’s desire for VP consideration, and he could have simply leaked his name—and the names of other loyal-but-illogical-for-VP loyalists—as part of a long list of prospective running mates. But the press is far savvier nowadays and applies microscopic attention to the process. A new test of a would-be VP’s seriousness has been established: Has he or she been asked to submit to a rigorous screening process by the presidential nominee’s campaign? Reporters now regularly ask prospective VP’s whether they are being vetted.

Vetting a candidate can be a cumbersome process. Dodd’s case raises two possibilities. For one, Obama might be seriously interested in adding him to the ticket. Or, the Obama campaign, realizing how helpful Dodd was in the primaries and how badly he wants to be seen as a VP contender, might simply be doing him a favor, thus allowing him to pass the new test of seriousness that the media has created. And if they are doing this for Dodd, then the question becomes: Who else?